First Nations Arts Corporation first time property owners thanks to generous grant funding

24 Aug 2023

Celebrations are in full swing for the Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance Aboriginal Corporation (SWFW), who officially opened their new headquarters yesterday on Gumbaynggirr land in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales.

Thanks to a major funding boost of over $2 million from the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC), SWFW have moved into their permanent base, where they will continue to promote artists and makers from the Worimi, Biripi, Dunghutti and Gumbaynggirr nations, which make up the SWFW region.

The property spans over 550 square meters in Coffs Harbour’s CBD. The ground floor houses a gallery, workshop and retail space, showcasing Aboriginal art within the region. The upper level includes offices for SWFW staff and the organisation’s social enterprise, the National Aboriginal Design Agency (NADA).

This is a great triumph for SWFW, who since mid-2022, have been searching for a fit for purpose building that meets both their current and future needs after facing limited property options amongst the SWFW operational regions.

The relocation will boost employment, creating 4 new positions which will bring the number of SWFW Indigenous staff to 10. These employees support over 300 Aboriginal artists, cultural practitioners and contractors per year in addition to providing licensing and commission services through NADA.

In their new headquarters, SWFW will share First Nations culture with the community amongst a population of over 92,000 people in Coffs Harbour – allowing for additional gallery sales and increased access for Indigenous people to participate in SWFW cultural and arts programs.

The acquisition was commemorated with a divestment ceremony held on Gumbaynggirr land, which included a Welcome to Country, Smoking Ceremony, a traditional Welcome Dance, speeches and a tour of the new SWFW gallery and office space.

ILSC Group Chief Executive Officer, Joe Morrison, attended the divestment ceremony and congratulated SWFW on this significant milestone, acknowledging the organisation’s continuing journey towards self-determination.

“This premises will be foundational for the Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance in showcasing Aboriginal arts and culture with the community both now and in the years to come,” said Mr Morrison.

“It’s been an honour for the ILSC to work alongside SWFW on this achievement. Their perseverance and spirit have been admirable, and we look forward to seeing the team benefit from this new space.”

SWFW General Manager, Rick Gonsalves, said the SWFW team are grateful for the ILSC’s support, and look forward to the ample opportunities the new Headquarters will bring their organisation, community and Indigenous artists.

“The new premises are a wonderful fit for our organisation, providing an amazing office environment to work, with ample room to grow. The ground floor gallery, workshop and retail space will allow us to support a larger number of Aboriginal artists from within our region to become more self-sufficient in the long run,” said Mr Gonsalves.

“We are so fortunate to have secured this premises with such an amazing ambience, ideal position in the Coffs Harbour CBD and the right attributes that enabled a stunning renovation which suits our needs now and into the future.”

The SWFW has now moved into the new premises, located at 6-8 Park Avenue, Coffs Harbour, New South Wales.

L to R – Joe Morrison (GCEO, ILSC), Rick Gonsalves (General Manager, SWFW) and Ian Hamm (Chair, ILSC)

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