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Creative Industry Future Proofing Regions

The role of creative skills in the evolution of our future economy needs to become mainstream knowledge. Creative skills are some of the least likely to be supplanted by automation and they have been integral to fast-growing industries over the last decade.” Stuart Cunningham, Professor, Faculty of Art and Design, University of Canberra.

Sanctuary East Gippsland Inc. co-design lab is advocating for a regional mind-shift, one that recognizes the potential of the Creative Industry to play a powerful and strategic role in transitioning Gippsland (our region) into the 21st century digital age.

Our vision is one that integrates creativity with connectivity for industry development. It builds on and value adds to Gippsland’s strengths and explores global opportunities.  We envisage a range of industry development initiatives - cross-industry clustering, support for the Gunaikurnai to build capacity and drive their cultural enterprises, Creative Industry education and training programs, digitization of rich historical archives and collections, investment in sensitive cultural and heritage tourism development, coordinated built and virtual infrastructure and the linking of creative industry hubs and communities.

Is the Creative Economy of Value to Regions?


The creative economy includes sectors and occupations that have potential for wealth and job creation through the exploitation of intellectual property. It encompasses business-to-business in the professional creative services sectors, such as advertising and marketing, architecture and design (including fashion, product and landscape design), software and digital content sectors; and the mostly business-to-consumer cultural production sectors; film, TV and radio, music and performing arts, publishing and visual arts.[i]

In an opinion piece published by the Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) [ii], Professor Cunningham asks,“What part of the (Australian) economy employs more people than the mining and agriculture sectors combined? And contributes to Gross Value Added as much as the employment and training sector and almost twice that of the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector? It is the creative economy.”

According to Cunningham “the most recent accounting from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports cultural and creative activity plays an important role in Australia’s economy, growing to $115.8 billion in 2018–19, a 27.4 per cent increase over the last 10 years, and contributing a six per cent share of GDP.”

In addition, he quotes from the government’s Bureau of Communications, Arts and Regional Research “that 9.5 per cent of those employed in 2016 – around a million workers – held a creative qualification as their highest level of qualification.”

If Gippsland’s Creative Industry is to play a role in transitioning into a new era, there is a need for data; for research to scope, audit, map and measure the impact and value-adding of the industry. By exploring the opportunities and producing the cost benefit analysis we are confident that Gippsland’s Creative Industry will emerge as a strategic driver in the regional economic mix. It can boost recovery, resilience and contribute to overcoming the disadvantage that persists in remote communities, for unemployed youth, for women and for First Nations communities across the region.

Will Creativity Improve Future Job Prospects?

The rapid adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is predicted to reduce project management tasks such as data collection, tracking and reporting by 80% by 2030[i]. It begs the question that puzzles students, parents and teachers, STEM or STEAM?

STEM, the curricula that focuses on skills and knowledge across the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math, as well as, subspecialties such as statistics, biology, psychology, economics, agriculture etc, are where career opportunities are rapidly increasing[ii]

In STEAM curricula, however, the study of the humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design, new media etc, students are equipped with both hard and soft skills to solve problems.

“In the age of AI, as projects become more complex and technology continues to transform the nature of jobs, training for soft skills is increasingly a priority.”[iii]

There is growing consensus that demand for creativity, communication and collaboration skills that machines cannot learn, automate or take over from humans, is on the increase.[iv]

“Programmers and engineers are increasingly teamed up with artists to co-develop software, products, renderings and more. Proficiency in the arts will be particularly important to engineers and computer scientists in emerging industries, such as themed experiences, gaming, simulation and training.Ali Gordon, Associate Professor Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering,Florida Central University, USA.

At this critical time of transitioning from 20th century extraction industries into the 21st century digital age,it might be wise to open as many opportunities as possible for those who will seek roles across a range of industries and who will no longer be required to be urban based. Workers already have the option to choose a life of connectivity, collaboration and creativity in a rural setting, taking advantage of a "Close to Nature" lifestyle and all the benefits that it offers.


Can Creativity Improve Disaster Management?

Artist: Dore Stockhausen ‘Hell Fire 2’ 2020 from her series documenting East Gippsland bushfires

Following the 2011 floods, the Queensland based Creative Recovery Network, a not-for-profit organisation, brought artists together with the impacted regional communities through arts-based programs to develop and embed the vital role of culture, creativity and the arts in Australia’s disaster management systems. Today they are a national body dedicated to providing resources, training and a community of practice for those wanting to utilise arts-based programs within disaster preparedness, response and recovery. Their model of creative hands-on programs not only address safety, recovery and care but brings creative perspectives to problem solving and future thinking. 

BOHO Interactive Festival Planning Game

One member of the network, Boho Interactive, is a collective of Australian artists and game designers who create interactive performances and games exploring concepts from systems science, complexity theory, resilience thinking, game theory and network theory.

"Billed as ‘part-theatre show, performance lecture and board game’, this immersive experience is a dynamic exercise in confronting the ecological impact of collective decision-making."— Realtime Arts

Their Best Festival Ever - How to Manage a Disaster, is an interactive performance that enhances teamwork and communication, building skills in understanding and managing complex systems. Using hands-on board game mechanisms, participants plan and manage a music festival. Working together, the audience take control all the way from programming the bands to producing the final concert.

Developed with research scientists from University College London, the Stockholm Resilience Centre and CSIRO, the show explores concepts from Systems Science and Resilience Thinking.

Can Coal Mining Convert into Creative Industry?

Zollverein mine and coking plant at Essen in the Ruhr, Germany, was the largest in Europe. More than 25 years after its closure, it is a centre of Creative Industry. It combines culture, retail and fine dining, design and architecture, handicrafts and art and production studios. 1.5 million visitors come year after year. Preserved through highly creative architectural innovation and industry enterprise development, this conversion now offers experiences that combine history, culture, creativity, entertainment, gastronomy, and recreation.

Zollverein mine is now a sanctuary of industrial architecture. In 2001 UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site. The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) was hired to develop the masterplan to give the complex a contemporary use. The largest of the buildings that used to be a coal-washing plant was converted into a visitors’ centre and the new Ruhr Museum. The project was undertaken as a simple reorganization, maintaining the old machinery and the existing routes.

The boiler house at Zollverein coal mine is now home to the Red Dot Design Museum: Every day, the diverse offerings on the 100-hectare grounds invite visitors to experience the world of coal, coke, art, and culture in the heart of the Ruhr Area.

Can Creative Industry Attract Visitors & New Settlers?

Hosting of the 2021 Archibald Prize at the Gippsland Art Gallery (Sale) demonstrated that most visitors to the blockbuster exhibition came from outside the local shire, contributing approximately $4.8 million to the local economy. According to Director, Simon Gregg, the event “prompted the Wellington Shire to integrate ‘The Blockbuster’ into its 2021-25 Council Plan.

Archibald Prize exhibition travels to Gippsland Art Gallery, Port of Sale.

Planning for the proposed (now cancelled) Commonwealth Games resulted in a region-wide collective festival plan to be staged at visual and performing arts venues and satellite sites across the region from Mallacoota to Phillip Island. Under the working title of ‘Heartland,” the conceptual centrepiece was to be ‘Gunnailand’, the Traditional Owner name for the region known as ‘Gippsland.’

"The Triennial Festival", says the highly respected Gippsland Art Gallery Director, Simon Gregg, “would not only bring pride of place to a region that has long viewed itself as second-best (in the Arts world), but also restore confidence and build capacity within its vast community of artists and performers, as well as strengthen the regions’ capability to draw visitors to the region.

The Gallery is an example of Creative Industry excellence. It has a history of regional cultural leadership, a strong body of supporters, volunteers, donors and a stable of artists from across Gippsland. The Gallery stages a dynamic program of exhibitions, it has a trusted relationship with First Nations artists and curators, a valuable collection of artworks, an education program that caters to a wide community, an outreach program that extends throughout the region and a 'big picture' view of its role in the region and the state.

Can Creative Industry Hatch Enterprises?


The industrious Float 3909 Inc. collective under the leadership of Andrea Lane, Gary Yelen and Josephine Jakobi, is based in small inlet of Lake Tyers and the Fishing Industry port of Lakes Entrance. They have built a series of creative enterprises based on solid values that care about art, culture, community and the beautiful Gippsland Lakes environment.  

Slowly but surely Float has experimented and evolved into a community driven arts hub. Amongst its many achievements, it has constructed an innovative floating studio for Artists-in-Residence. It has created and crowd-funded a global competition for the ultimate Glamping ‘Campster’ Design. It has transformed a derelict industrial Iceworks factory into a dynamic community arts space for exhibitions, workshops, produce and craft markets and live music performances. Float Inc. sowed the seed for converting disused Slip Yard sheds into a bespoke space for showcasing Fishing Industry heritage. In recent years they were instrumental in the rise of the East Gippsland Winter Festival, a region-wide collaboration that has injected an economic boost to tourism and supply chain businesses emerging from Covid, catastrophic fires and economic crisis.

“We launched the (F)ROUTE CAMPSTER design competition that drew entries from around the world. We then crowdfunded the creation of the prototype (F)ROUTE POD in partnership with Giant Grass & local canvas company Canvas Barn. We won design and manufacturing awards and travelled it to Korea.” Andrea Lane

IceWorks Studio, Lakes Entrance Workshop, Gallery, Performing Arts Space, Community Space

Float Inc. exemplifies the Creative Industry enterprise development, alive and bubbling away in small regional communities. It is organic in structure, inclusive, collaborative, innovative, sensitive to seasons, environment and local culture. It forms local industry partnerships and hatches creative enterprises that transform the identity of place.

Such community-centred organisations create that quintessential ‘buzz’ of culture. It is a potent force that brings communities out and together. It stimulates the economy and enhances social wellbeing.


A transitional Creative Industry for Gippsland? The rich diversity of culture, communities, pools of talent, enterprises, infrastructure, heritage and environmental assets are there, widespread throughout the region. It is time for a rethink of creativity as industry, one that can have real impact on the future of our region.


Text: Jo Moulton, Convenor, Sanctuary East Gippsland Inc co-design lab and thinktank.

Additional References: supplied by Jacqui Bell, Program Director Resilience, The Next Economy. 

Title Image: SteamPunk Art Glass BOHA UK (Artist Unknown)

[11] CEDA – the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, is an independent, think tank. It brings together leaders of industry, universities and government and CEDA’s purpose is to achieve sustainable long-term prosperity for all Australians. Opinion Piece by Stuart Cunningham Professor Cunningham is supervising his project team to capture the latest insights on the creative economy arising from Census 2021.

[111] Comparing STEM vs. STEAM: Why the Arts Make a Difference. University of Central Florida, Engineering Dept.

[1V]  Comparing STEM vs. STEAM: Why the Arts Make a Difference. University of Central Florida, Engineering Dept.



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