Rural empowerment through the arts: The role of the arts in civic and social participation in the Mid West region of Western Australia
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To combat social and economic inequity in rural Australia, governments, communities, and policy makers are seeking ways to empower local residents to find local solutions to local problems. Through an exploratory review of the literature and semi-structured interviews conducted in the Mid West of Western Australia, this research examined the role of the arts as a vehicle for increased social and civic participation to build resilience to inequity. For those interviewed, the arts were observed to strengthen sense of place and community identity. The arts were utilised as a means for encouraging and enabling civic participation, as well as providing opportunities for social interaction and networking, which are essential for the health and wellbeing of rural and remote residents. While providing a context for civic and social participation, the arts were viewed by several of those interviewed as a means for facilitating understanding between divisive and disparate groups. Yet, it was noted that the execution and drive for arts activities and events was dependent on the availability of human capital, but also on support from governance and funding authorities to build capacity to sustain these activities. If, as suggested by this exploratory review, the arts are a vehicle for building resilience in rural Australia, then further research is needed to support these claims to enable continued and future support for not just the arts, but the capacity of communities to engage in the arts.
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