A place for the arts in rural revitalisation and the social wellbeing of Australian rural communities
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Despite the significance of rural Australia to national identity, many commentators claim that rural Australia is in crisis and suffering from decline as a consequence of economic restructuring and policy reform (Gray & Lawrence 2001; Sonn, Drew & Kasat 2002; Baum, O'Connor & Stimson 2005; Tonts & Atherley 2005). As a result, the social wellbeing of people living in rural Australia has become an issue of major national significance. Despite a number of commentators suggesting that the arts could play a crucial role in the contribution to the social wellbeing of rural communities, there is an absence of thorough research in this field (Kingma 2002; Matarasso 1997; Mills & Brown 2004; Williams 1995). The most rigorous research into the benefits and impact of the arts has been conducted with a focus on individual health and wellbeing in a clinical and therapeutic setting. Extensive research in a community setting however is somewhat limited. This paper demonstrates, through a review of the current literature, the place for the arts in rural revitalisation and therefore, the social wellbeing of a community, directly through tourism, income generation and employment opportunities, and indirectly by enhancing participation and creativity in public decision-making, strengthening community capacity, and strengthening identity and sense of place.
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