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The 1980s
Early years of arts and cultural development

In 2024 Arts OutWest celebrates 50 years of arts and cultural development in the NSW Central West. We’re the oldest of what is now a robust and vital network of 15 regional arts development organisations across the state. We have only been called Arts OutWest since the mid 1980s.

Here we continue our look back at the history of the organisation and projects in the region.

This history was published is a short document for our 50th Anniversary Dinner June 2024.

A BIG disclaimer:

This is very much a potted history pulled lightly from annual reports, file boxes, a giant tub of photos and more recent staff and board memories (some staff have been here for more than a third of the organisation’s existence). We most certainly have missed LOTS of things and people (lost filing labels and a few office moves might be to blame). 

DO YOU HAVE MORE STORIES? We’d love to share your Arts OutWest memories over the coming year (and perhaps put names, places and dates to faces in the photos on this pageso please get in touch.

The 1980s
1980 – Central Western Regional Arts Committee

Central Western Regional Arts Committee established and continues the employment of the field officer (Margaret Smith, later Karen Tyler). The Committe had representatives from councils, state government and the Australia Council and other stakeholders.

Mitchell College (now CSU) provided an office and admin support from October 1980.

More at

1987 – A new name

At the AGM on 19 July 1987 the name of the organization was publicly changed from ‘Central West Community Arts Organisation toArts OutWest’, and became incorporated. The name fully changed in 1991.


1980 LGAs in the program were: Lithgow, Bathurst, Orange, Cowra, Parkes, Forbes, Blayney, Cabonne, Waugoola, Bland, Weddin, Jemalong, Goobang, Lachlan, Evans, Oberon, Rylstone. This later included Dubbo, Welington, Mudgee, Lithgow, Coolah – up to to 15 LGAs at times.

From 1980 arts promotion activities included a Weekly Arts Release, monthly calendar and newsletter. A weekly TV segment was proposed.

Funding Federal, state and local government support. in various formats. Eg: in 1986 $32,000 from the Australia Counci for salaries of the community arts officer, Information Officer and Projects officer. In 1988 funding totaled $62,364. By late 1990s funding was state and local government.

NSW Government’s Country Arts Support Program starts 198X ($xxx per RADO region, upped to $15,000 in x

Community Arts Officer: Margaret Smith (to 1986). Karen Tyler (1986-1988), Janie Raffin (1988-1990).

Staff included: Second staff position, Information Officer, established 1986: Margaret McDonnell; also Patrica Clements (admin), Astrid Turner (media officer 1989-1991), Justin Byrne (community arts officer).

Chairs: Iain McPherson, Helen Hooper, Bill Marshall.

1988 First computer in the office.

1989- 2005 With support of Peter Andren at Prime TV a weekly arts segment (‘Artefacts’) presented by Arts OutWest, profiling a local arts story, person or event, begins (following years of including a ‘what’s on’ in weekly arts segments). Started as 90 second segemtns moving quickly to 5 minutes stories. Astrid Turner employed as first media officer late 1989.

Projects and support focused on local projects, supporting the growth of local arts councils, explorations into Aboriginal arts opportunities and cultural touris on local projects, supporting the growth of local arts councils, explorations into Aboriginal arts opportunities and cultural tourismm.

1988: Bicentennial year festival highlights included Village of the Future in Forbes, Glass Prism Mural at Bedgerebong, Blayney Skooldaze, Peace Garden Wall Bathurst, Carved brick features in the Orange Botanic Gardens, Condobolin Parade, Massed dancing in Cowra, Youth Performance Festival in Orange.


“A region of this size with a relatively small and scattered population [165,000 in 1980] encounters problems in the provision of some services. It is therefore important that there be effective communication and co-operation, particularly if resources are to be used to best advantage, and smaller centres not be disadvantaged,” – Margaret Smith, Community Arts Officer, report 1980.


‘…with 24 hours notice, [we] completed a successful submission for the $400,000 Bicentennial Festival program. Run by the indefatigable Janie Raffin, it was. I think it was a turning point. We were on the map… We made a lot of contact with local councils. We organised a big conference in Orange with Edward de Bono to encourage lateral thinking’. – Helen Colman, Director Arts Council of NSW in 1988, quoted in book ‘50 Years in the Bush’

Images from the Arts OutWest archives. Do you recognize someone or something that needs a label? Email us