The Merrigong Theatre Company in Wollongong is the most active in regional Australia

The Merrigong Theatre Company in Wollongong is the most active in regional Australia

The future of creative arts in the Illawarra is looking brighter, following the announcement of the Creative Australia Policy by the Federal Government last week.

The initiative, which aims to secure the future of Australia through the promoting of economic diversity, is set to boost the creative industry sector and culture in the region.

“The government is looking to create a creative and innovative economy and culture. The services industry, which includes the creative industries, is the fastest growing sector in the country,” says University of Wollongong Associate Dean of Creative Arts Professor Sarah Miller.

The Australian Council of the Arts was granted $75.3 million as part of the groundbreaking move to support the creative industries across the nation.

Professor Miller is excited by the opportunities that the funding will provide.

“I’d really like to see a dedicated youth arts organisation [within the Illawarra],” she says.

“I think Wollongong itself hasn’t seen arts as a priority, especially cultural infrastructure. It would be valuable in this city and definitely something to invest in.”

Wollongong City Gallery’s Program Director, John Monteleone, hopes future funding opportunities, as a result of the Creative Australia Policy, will boost the Gallery’s popular education program and safe house the extensive collection.

“One of the strongest things at the Wollongong City Gallery is our education program. We’re almost at capacity now on both a staffing and physical level. If there was funding available, there might be an opportunity to develop the infrastructure for the gallery.”

“We apply to the Australia Council for project funding – once we have funding, we know projects can go ahead.”

“We could even have an app developed for people to see the collection online.”

“I think it’s a pretty exciting time in the city,” says Monteleone, “We have a great arts community here [the] issue is that it’s very fragmented. If we can tap into this new policy it will be fascinating and exciting.”

Wollongong’s Merrigong Theatre Company, was originally started on the back of funding by the Australian Council and is now one of the most active companies in regional Australia.

Despite hopes that the Illawarra will benefit from the new Federal initiative, Professor Miller remains grounded about whether the region will be at the forefront of future grants.

“I doubt the Illawarra is a priority,” she says, “But there’s always a range of things in the mix and one must always be optimistic.”

The Federal government move replaces the previous policy, established by then Prime Minister Paul Keating in 1994.


The Eaton Gorge Theatre Company are a small self funded theatre company. They put on a performance of the Merry Wives of Windsor in the Wollongong Botanic Garden as part of Seniors Week. Kristy O’Donnell reveals how small theatre companies will likely miss out on new funding opportunities supplied by the Creative Australia Policy.


Michele Kenworthy discusses how the recently announced Creative Australia Policy creates a cultural shift and could give art and performance students more career opportunities. Julian Keith investigates student attitudes to the policy

Words: AMELIA LINDSAY
Pictures: KRISTY O’DONNELL
Video: JULIAN KEITH

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