In 2009, the National Gallery of Australia and Wesfarmers Limited established the Wesfarmers Arts Indigenous Fellowship program to address the relatively small percentage of Indigenous professionals participating in the visual arts sector.
The partnership represents two iconic Australian organisations committed to the long-term development, training and mentorship of Indigenous people and will present a high-quality professional development opportunity for the visual and Indigenous arts sectors.
The Wesfarmers Arts Indigenous Fellowship focuses on the professional development of Indigenous people in roles supporting the visual arts, such as curating, marketing, exhibition management, art handling, registration, publishing, photography and fundraising.
The program aims to foster and encourage Indigenous leadership and professional development in the visual arts.
The National Gallery of Australia is very fortunate to be in partnership with Wesfarmers Limited through Wesfarmers Arts, which has made the Wesfarmers Arts Indigenous Fellowship program possible.
The Indigenous arts industry is recognised as one of the Australia’s most dynamic and successful contributions to the international stage—culturally and economically. However, the number of Indigenous Australians currently employed in the arts is small. According to the 2006 census, approximately 2538 Indigenous Australians work in cultural industries as their main area of employment—representing about 2.1% of all employed Indigenous Australians. Of these, 182 work in the creative arts as practitioners and 652 work as visual arts and craft professionals. In an industry where Australian Indigenous art and culture contributes over $400 million to the Australian economy, these statistics show significant imbalances, which can be addressed by increasing career opportunities and retention for Indigenous Australians in the sector.
Both Wesfarmers and the National Gallery of Australia recognise the importance and value of creating an opportunity through the Fellowship program that encourages mutual respect and knowledge exchange between individuals and communities. We are fully committed to this project and investing holistically in the future of the visual arts in Australia and, in particular, in contemporary Indigenous visual arts and the professionals working in or considering a career in it.
The first phase of the project was an extensive national consultation process, completed in February this year. Over 220 visual arts professionals (Indigenous and non-Indigenous), community members, government departments, organisations, artists, arts centre workers and others from across Australia contributed their views, advice, evaluation and experience towards refining the goals and structure of the Fellowship program to meet the needs of the contemporary Indigenous visual arts sector.
Managing Director, Wesfarmers
Ron Radford AM
Director, National Gallery of Australia
The second phase was the development of the Wesfarmers Arts Indigenous Fellowship program, which has been shaped in response to recommendations from the consultation process. It consists of two parallel programs:
Advisory Committee: professionals from the wider Indigenous visual arts community from areas around Australia (to ensure national representation). Members of the committee provide strategic advice to the Gallery to implement and develop the Fellowship program, and they are part of the national Wesfarmers Arts Indigenous Fellowship network.
Project Committee: a small, operational group of staff from the National Gallery of Australia and Wesfarmers. Members of the committee are responsible for the strategy, policy and implementation of the Wesfarmers Arts Indigenous Fellowship program.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art department: