By Adam Coleman
Projects focused on aboriginal cultural development, local festivals and cultural plans have dominated the Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW – Local Government Cultural Awards.
The awards featured 64 nominated projects from 45 councils around NSW.
“Councils are reaching beyond traditional methods of encouraging cultural development and the arts within their communities, and this was evident in the range of projects that were showcased," said president of the Local Government Association of NSW, Cr Genia McCaffery.
Regional councils were well represented at the awards said president of the Shires Association, Cr Col Sullivan.
“26 non-metropolitan councils were in the running for awards, and nine were successful, which is a great result,” Cr Sullivan said.
“All of these projects help to ‘tell our story’ – an essential and defining human characteristic,” says Cr Sullivan and Cr McCaffery on the awards site.
“In a climate of expanding global homogeneity, the power of local representation is becoming increasingly recognised and important.”
Sutherland Shire Council manager – cultural planning and events, Tim Fong won the Brendan Hartnett Award, which recognises council staff for their commitment to cultural development.
“It’s a huge recognition for us at the Sutherland Shire because I suppose when I started back in 1989 the idea then was to put a lot of focus on culture,” Mr Fong told governmentnews.com.au.
“This cultural award is recognition of the very many years of putting it together. Slotting it all in and going through the very many changes of local government as well,” he said.
According to Mr Fong the cultural activity of Sutherland Shire Council has provided significant economic benmefits.
“There is a huge economic benefit there for projects like Australia Day and the spring festivals, Jazz and Shiraz – they bring in lots of people. A lot of them are admittedly from the Shire itself but it brings people to celebrate one aspect of our culture down here and once they are there, there is a tendency to go to the restaurants there, to go to the hotel there as well and stay there overnight before the event.
“To me there is a whole lot of economic and social benefits just getting a whole lot of people together in itself is a benefit.”
Mr Fong says councils considering developing cultural inatitives should “not being afraid to go close to the boundaries, to initiate and at least put down in writing what the vision is and to have a vision”.
He says consultation is very important and councils should be careful to not jump too quickly into it.
“Not rushing into it I think is a big thing. I notice a lot of other councils that might go straight into a three day event when really a one day event would suffice at that stage.
“We do surveys now and to read over those and work out what the community wants and whether we are heading in the right direction, the checks and balances,” he said.
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