Darwin: a creative tropical city

3 February 2009

With the right support, Darwin could have a reputation for creative innovation and intellectual prowess, according to research led by Charles Darwin University’s School for Social and Policy Research.

For the past three years researchers from CDU, the University of South Australia and the University of Wollongong have been mapping Darwin’s creative industries.

Creative industries include businesses that are founded in creativity and knowledge innovation such as marketing, advertising, film and television.

Chief investigator of the Creative tropical city: mapping Darwin’s creative industries project, Associate Professor Tess Lea said: “Darwin has a vibrant grass roots creative community that is relatively well networked, particularly with our northern neighbours, despite receiving limited support.”

Through interviews with 98 Darwin creative practitioners, the places where they live, work, and gain inspiration were mapped. Several hot spots were identified, including the city centre and Parap, with Winnellie emerging as an important creative area.

“Identifying iconic creative spaces is important, because these generate the productivity that creates reputation and presence. It tells us what places need to be treasured and protected,” Dr Lea said.

Drawing information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the research discovered that almost 2000 people were employed in Darwin’s creative industries in 2006.

The city’s creative industries “employed three times the number of people than mining (at 463 people), nearly twice the number in finance and insurance (1160 people), and substantially more than agriculture, forestry and fishing combined,” the research report stated.

For Darwin to develop a resilient economy that is less dependent on the Federal Government and the resource sector, the report pushed for a “fundamental realignment of priorities” to further embed the university into the community, and “for fertilisation and imaginative investment, giving individuals and companies the opportunities and technical knowledge needed to develop and innovate”.

“The university’s contribution is direct through the provision of CI literate graduates in the key disciplines of design, new media, music, technology and engineering. It is from these clusters that the Territory’s software engineers, communication designers, animators and creative entrepreneurs have and will emerge,” it stated.

Darwin’s creative practitioners said the city’s proximity to Asia, its “give it a go” spirit, and youthful sense of excitement were its creative strengths, but people who specialised in multimedia and graphic design, labelled inadequate internet speeds as a serious drawback.

And to enhance creative inspiration and liveability, creative practitioners expressed a strong desire for future city developments not only to embrace, but also to further develop Darwin’s unique sense of character.

The research findings will culminate in a public exhibition from 10 to 22 February at the Northern Territory Library. The public is also invited to attend the report launch at 6:30pm Tuesday 10 February, also at the NT Library.

The research was supported by the Australian Research Council, Tourism NT, Darwin City Council, and the Northern Territory Department of the Chief Minister.




Key objectives

  1. Economic Development
  2. Social and Cultural Development
  3. Environmentally Sustainable Development

About the partnership

The Partnership Agreement provides for the economic and social development of the Northern Territory to be supported by a robust and resilient University working in partnership with government agencies and the wider community to contribute to education, research, policy development and program delivery.