Cover Image

Social enterprise and community work: Social impacts of a remote Australian Aboriginal Art Centre

Trudi Cooper


This article uses a case study of an Australian Aboriginal Art Centre to illustrate the social and community benefits of a commercial art centre in a remote Western Australian community. The article explores the some of the relationships between well-being, community enterprise, social capital and community work. The article concludes that the project realised many unintended benefits for community members, including increased self-respect, increased respect from others, mental health benefits, benefits to lifestyle, intergenerational connection, positive well-being and possible crime prevention. Moreover, some of social benefits (like cessation of drinking) were gained rapidly. In purely financial terms, the costs of supporting the project (employing a full-time Art centre manager and part-time community liaison), were less than the monetary value of the benefits. However, because the benefits were long-term and accrued to various government departments, no single department considered that long-term support was cost-effective, in terms of their specific purposes. Although assured long-term funding support is essential to the establishment of this type of initiative, the length of necessary support is frequently under-estimated. This risks the continuity and viability of this type of project and places excessive strain on paid staff. Finally, this case study illustrates that commonly used theorisation of community building does not adequately consider the situation in a racially divided community and changes are suggested.

Full Text:

Full Text


Acker, T., & Cosgreve, S. (2009). Wirnda Barna Artists Development Plan. Perth (no longer available online).

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2006, 26th June 2017). 2006 Census Data. Retrieved from (13 Sept 2018)

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Socio-economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), Data Cube only, 2011. 2013. (13 Sept 2018)

Australian Institute of, H., & Welfare. (2004). Rural, regional and remote health : a guide to remoteness classifications Rural health series (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare), 1448-9775 ; no. 4; Rural health series (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) ; 1448-9775 no. 4. (13 Sept 2018)

Cooper, T. and Bahn, S. (2012). Investigating the social welfare indicators of Regional Art Centres: a pilot study Perth: Edith Cowan University/ Department of Indigenous Affairs.

Cox, E. (2002). Australia: making the lucky country. In R. D. Putnam (Ed.), Democracies in flux : the evolution of social capital in contemporary society. New York :: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from Oxford Scholarship Online

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. (1997). Bringing them home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families Retrieved from Canberra: (13 Sept 2018)

Jennings, J. (2007). Race, Neighborhoods, and the Misuse of Social Capital. New York, UNITED STATES: Macmillan.

Mulholland, T., & Piscicelli, A. (2006). Western Australia Tomorrow Population Report No. 7, 2006 to 2026. Retrieved from Perth: (13 Sept 2018)

OECD. (2001). The Well-Being of Nations: The Role of Human and Social Capital. Retrieved from Paris: (13 Sept 2001)

Pearn, T. (2007). Mid West Indigenous Arts Industry Strategy (MWIAIS). Geraldton: MidWest Development Commission. (no longer available online)

Pope, J. (2005). Indicators of Community Strength at the Local Government Area Level in Victoria. Retrieved from Melbourne: (13 Sept 2018)

Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling Alone: the collapse and revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council. (2015). An introduction to Noongar History and Culture. Retrieved from (13 Sept 2018)

Taylor, J., & Biddle, N. (2010). Estimating the Accuracy of Geographic Variation in Indigenous Population Counts. Australian Geographer, 41(4), 469.

Vinson, T. (2004). Community Adversity and Resilience: the Distribution of Social Disadvantage in Victoria and New South Wales and the Mediating Role of Social Cohesion. Retrieved from Richmond, Victoria: (13 Sept 2018).

Young, D. R., & Lecy, J. D. (2014). Defining the Universe of Social Enterprise: Competing Metaphors. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations : Official journal of the International Society for Third-Sector Research, 25(5), 1307-1332.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.