Listening to our community: insights gathered during the Creative Wollongong engagement

We asked the community and other stakeholders to share their thoughts, dreams, and aspirations for our City’s cultural life to help us create a new plan with their priorities at the forefront.

Engagement details

Engagement was delivered in two stages. The first was a series of targeted workshops with local creative practitioners held in each Council ward from 30 August to 9 September 2023. The second stage was opened up for the broader community and other stakeholders to participate from 5 October 2023 to 17 January 2024.

We used several methods to promote each stage of the engagement, such as distributing posters and flyers throughout the LGA to encourage people to sign up to the Art and Culture register of interest on We sent emails, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), and a survey to more than 2,400 stakeholders. They were invited to learn more and join the conversation. We sent the information to Neighbourhood Forums, Northern Illawarra Residents Action Group, participants in previous engagements and other stakeholders including State Government agencies, community and multicultural organisations, schools and businesses. We published a project webpage on, which included the Creative Wollongong 2019-2024 Snapshot document, FAQ, online survey and Show and Tell Gallery. We issued a media release, ran social media campaigns and published notices in the Illawarra Mercury Community Update. We sent information to and held meetings and workshops with local creatives, Aboriginal stakeholders, preschools, primary schools and organisations providing services to children and young people. Council staff dropped into numerous venues, events and programs to distribute promotional postcards, share information and invite people to participate. People could also access the information from Council’s Customer Service Centre, Wollongong Art Gallery and their local library.

Engagement participation

We heard from 326 respondents in total and had conversations with many more. We received 86 online submissions, three hardcopy surveys, six emails and two phone calls. Twelve meetings/workshops and ten informal drop-in sessions were held with various community groups including creatives, school students and staff, professional networks, and youth groups. Some respondents provided photos with their submissions. We held workshops with a total of 203 participants. The project webpage had 1.5k unique views, four people contributed to the online Show and Tell Gallery and the social media campaign reached more than 17,000.

What we heard

We heard a vibrant creative and cultural life in our city means celebrating diverse expressions, fostering connection, and creating identity. It's viewed as being vital for personal and community wellbeing and attracting a global audience. People spoke about sharing stories that reflect their values through artistic expression, cultivating joy and community cohesion in a unique tapestry of cultures and perspectives.


Eighty-five surveys were submitted, responses indicating how the community values creativity and culture. It is seen as essential in creating vibrancy in our city, while enhancing and transforming community experiences. It plays a key role in exploring, celebrating, and shaping Wollongong’s unique identity including its natural assets, its cultural heritage, and its diversity. There is a recognised need for the creative industry and creatives to be supported in a sustainable and practical way, including access to affordable creative spaces, planning and design of public spaces and facilities and advocacy. Access and inclusion to creative and cultural events is important in ensuring that audiences and individuals have appropriate access to the spaces and programs delivered, and programs and events both support community participation appropriately reflect the community.

The positive impact participating in the city’s creative or cultural life as creatives, makers and audiences is significant and spans health, wellbeing, participation, and liveability in and of the city. Art events and creative experiences are seen as ways to build and strengthen social cohesion and relationships, connect communities, and share and learn stories of our local community. Suggestions were made considering strategic use of public spaces and community facilities to grow smaller creative communities across suburbs and improve urban planning and design.

Several provided photos and links with their submissions.

Workshops with creatives

Forty-seven local creatives participated in a series of workshops across all Council wards. The profound impact art and culture has had on Wollongong, fostering connection, mental health, and community resilience was prominent in the feedback. Participants advocated for vibrant, diverse cultural experiences, highlighting economic benefits and inclusivity. The arts are seen as vital for identity, joy, and shared stories, promoting growth, hope, and a sense of belonging in a rapidly evolving City.

They benefit from a growing network that fosters collaboration and positive culture. Challenges included venue and investment issues, struggles with business aspects, financial difficulties, and a disconnect within the arts community. Suggestions for ways Council could support creatives included the establishment of advisory groups, training programs, grassroots support, and fostering private sector involvement. Encouraging First Nations celebration, youth engagement, and amending public spaces were key themes. There is a desire for simplified bureaucratic processes, offerings of affordable workshops, and the creation of centralised digital platforms to support artists.

Members of the local music scene view the cultural plan’s overarching goal as being to cultivate a vibrant, safe, and inclusive music ecosystem in Wollongong. They stressed the need for cultural zoning, licensing considerations, and support for local artists. Suggestions included paying for soundproofing, collaborating with various entities, and promoting safety through improved transport, especially late at night, and door security. People advocated for collaboration, inclusivity, and the creation of supportive environments for cultural performances to enhance the music scene. Discussions focused on late-night trade, transport, and cultural infrastructure in town centres, with the importance of community involvement and diverse programming highlighted.

Child and family services

Twenty-four child and family services stakeholders discussed ways to enhance creative and cultural learning experiences for young children in the community. They emphasised the importance of promoting information, involving schools, targeting parents, ensuring accessibility, hosting events outside the city centre, and embracing culturally diverse activities. They prioritised engaging families/carers to enable participation in cultural events, creating inclusive, culturally rich learning environments, providing access to quality experiences, and offering diverse programming.

Workshops with preschool and primary school children

A total of 132 children from all Council wards participated in a series of workshops. They are actively involved in diverse cultural events, arts, and creative pursuits. They participate in activities such as museum visits, cultural festivals, and art exploration both locally and internationally. Children expressed a keen interest in books, music programs, and opportunities to learn about different cultures. Barriers to engagement include lack of awareness, financial constraints, transportation issues, and parental factors. Their vision of a creative city is one with vibrant cultural celebrations and various artistic landmarks. They aspire to contribute by organising events, promoting kindness, supporting public art, and addressing social issues. They envision a joyful, diverse, and inclusive city that embraces cultural understanding and individual expression. Their ideas extend to practical considerations, such as dedicated spaces for activities, diverse age-group support, and effective communication channels like apps and social media.

Open submissions

We received nine open submissions from local creatives, residents and Aboriginal stakeholders. Lengthy submissions were provided in full to the project team. The submissions highlighted the profound personal impact of arts and culture and emphasise their role in acknowledging and emphasising social issues. They also talk about the various challenges and success artists experience locally and explore ways to enhance the local creative and cultural scene with a focus on community participation, and support.

A local Aboriginal filmmaker suggested Council commit to capturing a set number of stories from Aboriginal creatives annually, extending the initiative to mentoring Aboriginal young people in creating their short films to foster self-expression and community connection.

Suggestions included addressing the exclusion of young Aboriginal people from creative programs. The need for targeted programs for young Aboriginal people was raised, along with addressing transportation barriers and promoting their participation.

Recommendations included using arts to promote caring for Country, increasing funding for Aboriginal artists, appointing them as resident artists at Wollongong Art Gallery, and involving Elders in program design.

Permission from Elders was advised for cultural activities on sacred land, and there was a call for non-Aboriginal people to learn about Aboriginal history.

Collaboration with the Department of Communities and Justice was suggested to involve young Aboriginal people in the creative life of the city, especially those in complex legal situations.

Social media

The commentary varied depending on the group the discussion took place in. In local creative, arts and music groups, posts promoting the engagement mainly received ‘like’ and ‘love’ reactions. In a University of Wollongong student group, there was criticism of how Council handles noise complaints for venues hosting live music events. In a Dapto community group, commentary was critical of Council doing a cultural plan, with a view that doing this before infrastructure is in place is a backwards approach. Some said Council should focus its resources on maintenance in the area instead.

Next steps

We’re using this feedback to develop Council’s new cultural plan. The draft plan will be publicly exhibited in 2024 to invite community and other stakeholder input on it. This feedback will then be used to further refine the plan before it goes to Council for adoption later in 2024. We’ll continue sharing information with the community and key stakeholders as we progress.

Share Listening to our community: insights gathered during the Creative Wollongong engagement on Facebook Share Listening to our community: insights gathered during the Creative Wollongong engagement on Twitter Share Listening to our community: insights gathered during the Creative Wollongong engagement on Linkedin Email Listening to our community: insights gathered during the Creative Wollongong engagement link

Consultation has concluded

<span class="translation_missing" title="translation missing:">Load Comment Text</span>