THE REGIONAL ARTS COMMUNITY & THE MINING BOOM
Recently we traveled along the Warrego Highway to Roma stopping at a couple of major towns along the way. There was hive-like activity infecting the once quiet pastoral landscape of these towns. These regional centres have been transformed by the explosion of commercial opportunities presented by a contemporary “gold rush” boom in the proclaimed “climate friendly” energy resource mining industries.
The cultural life of these once mainly farming communities relied heavily upon the blood, sweat and heart of the local artists and volunteers? Now these small numbers of volunteers work even harder to bring a depth of cultural life and meaning to everyday life in these towns. Some towns superficially appear to be thriving but a visit to the gallery unable to open due to the paucity of volunteer numbers may be the indicator of a larger issue. Can they still provide, with limited resources, a quality cultural program under the pressure of this exponential invasion of their social structure? To continue requires the commitment to and interactive involvement in these activities by those benefiting from the ‘boom’.
Opinions are various and some – deeply passionate -regarding the potential benefits or problems that will be the legacy for each community. It appears that important support and funding has come to ensure cultural activities are seen to be valued. But can this financial support, generous as it may be, replace the energy and lifelong commitment of volunteers. These are the people that form the vital fabric supporting strong and diverse communities. Certainly Miles has the energy injected by the employment of cultural professionals at Dogwood Crossing gallery and the associated library, which eases the pressure on this community’s volunteers. But what will happen with Dalby, Chinchilla and Roma—all major communities driving the mining boom?
One of the critical issues facing these community structures and the individuals that support them is the lack of affordable housing and accommodation options. Unless you are employed in the mining industry, living in these towns has become a privilege that few can now afford. So many of these long-term locals are leaving. Who then is replacing these people? Do the temporarily located mining population have time to be involved in the cultural history and exchange of their new surroundings?
Temporariness and dislocation now dominate the social and cultural landscape of these once grounded communities. Perhaps there needs to be effective provision for and importantly, an everyday involvement in, the altruistic act of volunteering by those who benefit from the mining of this landscape. Although they inhabit the periphery, these transient populations rely upon a functioning ‘heart’ at the centre of these communities. Conceivably any meaningful and creative interaction, between each section of these evolving communities, could have only have beneficial implications for both.