There’s a lot to be proud of when it comes to regional Australia.

Recent research has demonstrated that a creativity is thriving in regional Australia. These have blossomed into creative ‘hot spots’ throughout the country, and this cultural growth is not only beneficial to the quality of life in a community, it is also serving to deliver increased opportunities for employment. Research conducted by the Regional Australia Institute, lead by Hayley Achurch, has revealed which regional areas are showing a high proportion of creative jobs (compared to the national average across Australia), and highlight which segments are particularly flourishing.

Is your city on the list?

Wollongong - Rocking Software and Digital Content

In recent years, Wollongong has shown itself to be a hub in the software and digital content space. In fact, it’s been dubbed ‘the Silicon Valley of Australia’ both due to its active software industry and its location relative to Sydney (similar to Silicon Valley’s proximity to San Francisco, California).

Regional Australia Creative Employment

A lot of the growth in the digital arena can be attributed to the University of Wollongong---especially it’s iAccelerate building at the Wollongong Innovation Campus. This ‘incubator’ was the first of its kind in Australia, and since 2016, has attracted a larger number of successful startups and contributed to the overall entrepreneurial spirit of the city. Many interesting and unique businesses have come out of this incubator, including Binary Beer, which has developed sensors for beer kegs that report on freshness, location, temperature, and fullness, part of the growing Internet of Things movement (IoT). Binary Beer is just one example, but is a testament to the tremendous creativity that is currently coursing through the veins of Wollongong.

At the moment, Google is in the midst of plans to implement an Australian headquarters. Wollongong’s tech crowd certainly believes their city would be a prime location for Google to set up residence, but the other states and territories are definitely keen as well.

Byron - A Major Creative Hub in Regional Australia

Byron ranked #1 for all creative industry segments in the research. This may come as no surprise as Byron maintains a reputation as a haven for artists and creative people. Byron boasts the highest concentration of music and performing arts jobs in regional Australia. Byron Bay, in particular, is an area where public art is a common occurrence, such as wall murals and similar paint-based works. New measures to support local artists in implementing a variety of public art mediums may be underway in 2018. Byron is undoubtedly an area where the spirit of creativity can be explored.

Regional Australia Creative Employment

Residents of Byron Bay often move to the region not only for the opportunities, but for an enviable work-life balance and often, a more affordable lifestyle. Not only that, but Byron is a nonstop centre of exciting activities and events such as the Byron Writers Festival and Byron Food and Beverage Festival. There’s always something happening in Byron; it’s no wonder it’s both a great place to live in regional Australia, and a popular tourist destination.

One of Byron’s creative fields of particular note is in the Architecture, Design, and Visual Arts segment. A great example of the innovation that is making waves in Byron is the new solar-powered train (the world’s first). This locomotive, powered entirely by the energy of the sun, will run a dozen or so daily round trips, bringing passengers to the centre of town from a resort area 3 miles away. With unique design and an innovative approach, the train is under consideration for one of the Good Design Awards.

Mareeba - Where Performing Arts and Music Thrive

Located in Far North Queensland, Mareeba is another regional Australian town that is a creative employment hotspot. And statistics show that jobs are growing well in the economy of the Tropical North. Mareeba has an especially high concentration of Performing Arts and Music-related jobs according to the research. If you’re looking for an eclectic and historic town not far from Cairns, Mareeba is the place to be.

There is an abundance of performing arts venues, a theatre company, and more in Mareeba. For a town of approximately 11,000 residents, a high proportion of art and culture is to be found.

At the end of 2017, approval was granted for a $100 million solar farm to be built in the region. This will be the third of its kind, and the move represents Mareeba’s embrace of sustainability and renewable energy. Known as a place with ‘300 days of sun’ per year, it also makes sense for Mareeba to take advantage of all that sunlight! This is a welcome initiative and a point of pride for Mareeba, proving that even a small city can do big things.

Western Australia - 2 Notable Towns

Regional areas of Western Australia are making their creative mark, too. Tucked up in the Pilbara region of WA, the Shire of Ashburton ranks above the national average for the concentration of jobs in Architecture, Design, and Visual Arts. The region boasts acclaimed arts centres, and it’s no wonder that artists are inspired here. The Pilbara is home to beautiful natural scenery, including the rugged Karijini National Park. It just might be that some of Australia’s most gorgeous landscapes, as opposed to its urban centres, are most likely to give rise to thriving arts communities.

Narrogin, WA also stands out for strength in the Publishing segment. A post in The Cordite Poetry Review reveals insight into the burgeoning writing culture in Narrogin. Writer Barbara Temperton shares a bi-monthly Poet’s Cafe, as well as an active library hosting events and workshops. The Narrogin Arts Council also promotes other artistic endeavours in the community. For a small, rural centre of some 5,000, it’s exciting to see that the fields of writing and publishing can be so especially vibrant.

Coomalie - A Paradise of Publishing

Speaking of publishing, there’s another creative employment hotspot in regional Australia, in the Northern Territory. Coomalie Shire actually ranks #1 in this segment of Regional Australia Institute's research, with a score high above the national average. This is due to a high proportion of librarian jobs in the local economy, although the total number of jobs is low, due to the small population size here.

Anangu Pitjantjatjara - Power in Visual Arts and Architecture

Anangu Pitjantjatjara was top of the list in Architecture, Design, and Visual Arts. This is definitely one of the most fascinating statistics discovered by the study. With one of the smaller populations on the list, Anangu Pitjantjatjara is an Aboriginal community in the far northwest corner of South Australia. The significant proportion of Visual Arts jobs may be related to the rich cultural and artistic history of the Anangu. Supporting this notion, the job category with the highest employment numbers in Anangu Pitjantjatjara is “visual arts and crafts professional.”

Surf Coast - All Around Creative Hub

Looking to relocate? For those seeking a hotspot for creative employment, the Surf Coast might be your best bet. Ranking high in all creative industry segments, the Surf Coast scored high for other specific fields, too: Advertising and Marketing, and Architecture, Design, and Visual Arts.

With its burgeoning entrepreneurial scene, many professionals are making the move from urban Melbourne to the nearby Surf Coast of Victoria. It has a reputation as a good place to raise a family, and it offers plenty of great opportunities both professional and personal. As a further testament to the area’s expansion, the city of Geelong is now boasting the fastest growing housing market in regional Australia. Clearly, there’s a lot going on in that part of the world.

Regional Australia Creative Employment

There are a number of success stories showcasing the Surf Coast’s creative and entrepreneurial ventures. Many businesses have grown and evolved out of a love for the region’s most popular sport: surfing. According to entrepreneur Jack Perry, “Everybody here is always happy to help others. We're a tight community.” There’s no doubt this plays a role in boosting the creative economy of the coast.

There are more ways in which the influence and strength of the creative are apparent: In Geelong, two urban renewal projects are going to receive a total of $250,000 in state government funding in order to revolutionise some of the city’s currently vacant spaces. The projects to be funded include Creative Geelong and their Makers Hub. The hub will be a space that incorporates co-working, workshop, makerspace and studio facilities to be used by creative practitioners and community groups. The second project, through Renew Australia, involves a new initiative designed to provide rent-free space for short-term use for both independent local businesses and creative enterprises. Both these moves are expected to provide an even greater boost of art and culture to the Surf Coast.

The Impact of Creativity on the Community

Why does creativity matter?

According to the job-related research, it’s important for creative professionals to know where their industries are most in-demand. This can offer guidance as to where job growth is happening or where cutting-edge work is being done. Creative industries are so unique, which may be why they blossom in sometimes the unlikeliest of places.

Perhaps most importantly, this research helps to show how imagination and innovation are not found only in major cities like Melbourne and Sydney, but is in full force throughout the whole of Australia. If tiny communities can support a strong arts industry, it proves just how special regional Australia is.

Economies can grow when arts and culture are supported. One researcher writes that “arts and cultural employment is one of three key drivers of urban economies.” Although one might think that other fields are more lucrative, it appears that, in fact, it’s the creative industries which contribute to driving growth.

Furthermore, cities and towns that have active arts cultures and creative entrepreneurship tend to display an overall higher quality of life. This could indicate that area’s with thriving creative industries are home to happier, more satisfied individuals. At the same time, it has been said that creativity helps cities to grow and prosper. The existence of art and innovation may not just be a symptom of a flourishing community, it may, in fact, contribute to it.

The European Commission developed a tool known as The Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor. Results from this have shown the ways in which “successful European cities ...have found their own ways of using the potential of culture and creativity to drive development, innovation and job creation and [to] improve quality of life for citizens.”

Essentially, the research has substantiated claims that culture and creativity are good for cities. It reveals that these contribute to the higher economic growth rate (and thus are important for low-income cities). The research demonstrates as well that size doesn’t matter, and capital status isn’t crucial. Those cities which performed well did so regardless of their size, and many non-capital cities far outshone their capital counterparts.

With the many create hotspots emerging down under, regional Australia can serve as a fresh example of these culturally-rich, creatively-inspired communities....thriving despite (or perhaps because of) their size or location.

Do you know of a creative hotspot in regional Australia? Tell us about it!

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