How arts organisations can help our First Nations young people

Cultural awareness training and a plan of action make positive inroads.
How arts organisations can help our First Nations young people

Image: Kayla Clinch, National Gallery of Victoria Trainee. Supplied

ArtsReady is stepping up its campaign to build a greater understanding and awareness of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, thanks to ongoing cultural awareness and educational training.

The ArtsReady program also provides entry-level training and support for young Australians interested in careers in the creative and cultural sector across the country. The program has been successful in helping organisations attract young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through traineeships. 


The ArtsReady program has seen many examples of the positive impact of having young Aboriginal people within the workplace. Currently, 42% of ArtsReady trainees are young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people looking to start a career in the arts industry.

‘The benefits of employing a young Aboriginal person are twofold. Its capacity and confidence building for the young person and enriches the organisation hosting them,’ said Jade Colgan, Executive Manager, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs. 

The underrepresentation of our First Nations people in the arts and creative industries is an opportunity for many organisations to become leaders of positive change. ‘Art and cultural expression play such a large part in Aboriginal life and ways of being,’ said Colgan. ‘Arts organisations are a great fit for young Aboriginal people and broaden the type of traineeship opportunities available.’

Arts organisations can approach ArtsReady to develop proactive solutions to build a more culturally diverse workforce, in the arts sector, and across industry roles, from administration and management even to representation on boards. 

Getting started 

Small, medium and large national organisations can all play their part. It is important to have the planning in place that encourages diversity in the workforce. 

One of the best places to start is through a cultural awareness training program such as the one run by ArtsReady, which aims to build more inclusive workplaces across the creative industries and to assist organisation who want a greater understanding of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander culture.

In 2016, ArtsReady’s Cultural Awareness Program was delivered to over 1400 people across the country including corporate partners, big and small, host employers and interested community members.

Jade Colgan believes the program is a ‘foundational step in ensuring understanding and a base level of knowledge within any organisation.’ 

‘It also speaks to the values of an organisation in aiming to work towards creating safe, understanding and welcoming workplaces where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff can thrive,’ she added.

The powerful program has challenged the knowledge and beliefs of many, in hopes of encouraging all people to become leaders for positive change. 

‘We understand that funding can be challenging across arts organisations but we still encourage people to think about ways to increase the number of First Nations’ people in the workforce. A traineeship is a good step in this direction,’ said Colgan.

 The ArtsReady traineeship facilitates employment opportunities in arts and cultural organisations. Host employees provide day-to-day training and supervision, while the program takes care of everything else, including administration, payroll and ongoing support for trainees.

‘With the help of ArtsReady, many arts organisations can now take that first step to building a more culturally inclusive workplace and providing a young Aboriginal person with the opportunity to get their foot in the door in a career in the arts,’ said Colgan.

Traineeships can be just as rewarding for the host employer

In the latest video by ArtsReady, current ArtsReady host employer Kate Ryan, National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) curator recently spoke about the benefits of taking on a trainee.

‘We’ve been working on a program that gives the trainee insights into what we do at the NGV. We find that you cannot really learn about the project until you experience it and do it. Through those experiences our trainee (Kayla) is building a great skill set. We’re really well supported and can call on the ArtsReady team if we ever have any questions,’ said Ryan.

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Brooke Boland

Thursday 29 June, 2017

About the author

Brooke Boland is a freelance writer based on the South Coast of NSW. She has a PhD in literature from the University of NSW. You can find her on Instagram @southcoastwriter.