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

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Radical Community Work Journal


Radical Community Work Journal


School of Arts and Humanities




Cooper, T. (2018). Social enterprise and community work: Social impacts of a remote Australian Aboriginal Art Centre. Radical Community Work Journal, 3(2). Available here


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.

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