Artists flock to Northern Rivers

KARLA Dickens arrived on the Northern Rivers four years ago as an established artist, teaching and exhibiting her work in Sydney.

Today the Goonellabah artist's works are displayed in galleries across the globe, and Ms Dickens has become part of the fastest-growing creative community in NSW.

Figures released by Arts Northern Rivers show employment in industries such as film, art and writing surged by more than five per cent between 1996 and 2006, more than doubling the state average and beating every other part of NSW, including Sydney.

And with programs to develop those industries now in place, and with plans to strengthen the local music and fashion industries, that figure is expected to increase even further.

Arts Northern Rivers chief executive Lois Randall said figures from the 2006 Census showed nearly 3000 people working full time in creative industries on the Northern Rivers. However, she said the real figure was much greater, with many arts professionals “hidden” in other industries.

"A lot of people might be something like a TAFE teacher and also be creating work," she said. "Some people work on projects that are time limited and you have a lot of people doing things like driving a taxi between jobs."

Ms Randall said the launch of the Creative Industries Consortium last week, which is made up of 12 arts, education and industry organisations in the region, means they are now working together in a formal partnership to support creative industry development.

Arts Northern Rivers project officer Melitta Firth said creative industries on the Northern Rivers were estimated to have been worth nearly $80 million at the time of 2006 Census.

Ms Randall said specific projects were helping to strengthen the region's creative sector further:

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