Warakurna Artists, WA
Winner of the 2008 National Indigenous Governance Award.
About Warakurna Artists
Established in 2004 in Warakurna, a tiny community in the remote Ngaanyatjarra lands of Western Australia, Warakurna Artists is a locally owned and managed Indigenous arts enterprise that supports the production and marketing of diverse, colourful, culturally intense and artistically rich works of art. The organisation, which also serves the nearby community of Wanarn, returns a broad range of benefits to the artists and residents of the region by providing access to independent income, sharing small business experience and facilitating equitable engagement with mainstream markets.
Warakurna Artists supports first time, mid-career and established artists to access the art market while contributing to important community outcomes. One of Warakurna’s core aims is to use painting as a vehicle for the sharing and transmission of culture in the community between individuals, families and generations. Warakurna also supports and engages the elderly, pre-school and school children. The business provides opportunities for employment and development through the production and sale of artworks.
One of the building blocks of Warakurna Artists is their long-term emphasis on governance training and highly participatory governance processes. Each year the artists and executive committee participate in the Ngaanyatjarra Arts Governance Training program; an experience cultivating skills, confidence and other professional development opportunities. It gives Warakurna Artists high quality, culturally appropriate, fully translated governance training and information and has created strong regional relationships and role models. The training has helped build confident executive committees across the region, ensuring better management of their enterprises and increased participation of all members in the management of their organisations.
Warakurna Artists is a very impressive operation. It is run by the artists who are the main beneficiaries for the services it offers, and there is only one full time staff member and two to four part-time staff periodically.
The artists are well trained in governance and that is a great strength of the organisation. They represent an expanding opportunity for artists in remote communities to enhance their economic development and to deliver benefits to all members of their community. Throughout the organisation they have a sustained commitment to leadership and governance excellence – from the governing committee, the artists and the staff.
The considerable strength of the organisation is revealed in the courageous stance taken in relation to ethical dealing in Indigenous art. The Board, through its leadership, plays an important role in helping to resist the predatory purchase practices allegedly engaged in by some merchants.
Warakurna Artists is having a positive impact on the community as a whole with increased school attendance and better health outcomes. This is because the organisation provides meaning (and meaningful engagement) as well as income. The organisation helps to keep culture strong in a contemporary way and is making a positive contribution to the overall strength of its community.
The organisation has a credible business plan with a long term vision – a clear commitment to look beyond short-term (bottom line) issues in favour of adopting long-term goals.
Warakurna Artists is a leading best practice organisation that is founded on good governance.
Some Key Factors Of Success
- The organisation is owned and operated by the artists.
- Sustained commitment to good governance and governance training.
- The standard of administration is ethical and highly transparent.
- Management is competent, skilled and capable.
- Culture and Country are successfully integrated into the business, with paintings contributing to the maintenance and transmission of culture.
- The involvement of young people with clear policies and practices directed towards the engagement of the next generation via painting.
- Impacts beyond the WA arts community.