Perfect sailing conditions met guests for Committee for Echuca Moama’s Christmas party aboard the MV Mary Ann in November.
Guest speakers included St Joseph’s College Arts Learning Leader & Bridge Arts Project (BAP) Chairperson Allison O’Brien, and Bendigo TAFE Echuca Lead Paul Stagg.
Allison spoke about her involvement in BAP and her passion shone through when she told the crowd about the excitement building for such a significant project for Echuca Moama. Guests were lucky enough to be able to view the site as the MV Mary Ann cruised past while Allison spoke.
The project will combine a conventional gallery and exhibition space on a 17-hectare site on which cultural history will be represented and explored through a variety of mediums, such as sculptures, installations, digital technologies and a raised walkway from the gallery to Dhungala, the Murray River.
‘People still say there is no future in the arts, but I want you to question that,’ she said. ‘Think of art as an industry.’
The Federal Government did just that in February last year when it launched the National Cultural Policy — ‘Revive: a place for every story, a story for every place’, which committed an additional $199 million in funding over four years.
Its five-year plan aims to renew and revive Australia's arts, entertainment and cultural sector.
Thanks to a $4.95 million Regional Tourism Activation Fund grant awarded last year, the Bridge Art Project is one step closer to realisation.
Allison also spoke about some of the benefits BAP would provide to the community, from the artists themselves who would have a dedicated space for exhibitions, to the mental health benefits an art gallery would provide, as well as adding another layer to the towns’ cross-section of industries.
‘We hope to create a vibrant art community that enriches our lives,’ she said.
Paul spoke about the direction of education in Echuca Moama and how the pandemic had changed the way tertiary institutes delivered their programs. It now included hybrid learning – a combination of face-to-face and online learning.
‘There are so many students looking for an alternative to school now,’ he said.
And Echuca’s campus is the perfect place to discover them since a Skills and Jobs Centre was launched in Echuca last year.
It provides free expert career advice to anybody on topics such as career development, study, employment transitions, employment trends, local labour market information, apprenticeships and traineeships, application advice and support.
In an aim to address local skills shortages, the campus also ran a nine-week ‘Supporting Skills for the Future’ program last year which gave secondary school students a taste of in-demand trades across the construction industry such as tiling and bricklaying.
Paul said it was important that the community and TAFE worked together to identify skills shortages and what programs could be provided to address these shortages.
Committee for Echuca Moama CEO Chris Janson thanked Allison and Paul for their time and also paid tribute to the organisation’s supporters, whose contribution enabled C4EM to advocate for a prosperous, vibrant and inclusive region.