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More than just the lost art

Louise Campbell from Red Ridge talks about the Lost Art Project in central Queensland…

In an age when technology advances ever further into our homes and pockets, the traditions, culture and, subsequently, the very history of our rural towns and communities may be lost in this technological transition.

Red Ridge strives to protect the historical importance and culture of Australia’s small towns and, of course, the people that live within them. We hope to prolong the stories and narratives of community elders, encourage the passing of traditional skills and help form vital relationships within the community. Lost Art, a project hosted by Red Ridge, encompasses these goals in the hopes of empowering the values and traditions of local people.

In a time when rural work is scarce and unemployment high with changing demands for labour markets, Red Ridge and RAPAD Employment Services believe that participation in the arts fosters vibrant communities. An arts and craft based program may be a solution to strengthening rural commercial changes. Two years ago The Lost Art program commenced as a remote jobs and communities program with only a table and chair at the Blackall Men’s Shed. The vision was to change the lives of unemployed people by helping them to become job ready; upskilling and building community capacity.

The Lost Art is about the art of business and not-for-profit social enterprise in traditions of bush craft. All funds generated are returned back into the program that makes an economic contribution by purchasing local goods and services, paying rent and helping the viability of local business at a time when there are concerns about declining rural commerce. For communities the program offers enriching volunteer opportunities and the revitalisation of declining town centres.

Today The Lost Art studio animates a vacant shop space in the central business district of Blackall with unemployed people operating a social enterprise retail outlet. They meet daily, making and creating traditional leather craft; sharing the stories behind outback history and heritage. Handmade craft such as stockmen’s whips and hatbands, plaited belts, tobacco pouches, coin purses, passport and credit card holders as well as custom made items to order for locals and tourism markets who are looking for that unique handmade souvenir.

But it is more than just The Lost Art. It is a place and space that makes a significant contribution to the social, economic and healthy welfare of our community, changing people’s lives and making a creative difference. The Lost Art is helping many communities in isolated regions of remote Queensland. It now attracts interest from regional health service providers to help people struggling with and overcoming poor physical and mental health.

Loss of traditional crafts: the culture of stockmen and ringers is integral to our notions of Australian culture. It is shared by many Indigenous communities, some of whom continue to be employed on the land. The traditional bush crafts practiced by stockmen and ringers is fast disappearing however, largely due to mechanization and shifting labour markets. As the craft disappears so too does this piece of our history, particularly if we fail to share it with younger generations.

A future vision for the Lost Art is to share the bush craft with young and old through ongoing community workshops with an in schools program to not only preserve the art and craft behind Australian bush culture but to teach young people entrepreneurial skills through the making of a product to final retailing.

A greater challenge is to share Australian bush culture with corporate commerce by attracting interest to engage The Lost Art as a staff training and capacity building program.

Traditional bush craft made in The Lost Art is available online

Louise Campbell lives in rural remote Queensland and is passionate about arts and cultural activities in rural communities. With experience in local government and diverse skills in economic and community development she has initiated various key projects, executed community strategies; engaged community groups; and linked various industry sectors to build social capital and economic growth.





Red Ridge (Interior Queensland) helps to create healthy and resilient communities in remote western Queensland by bringing people together in art and cultural activities. We enrich their lives and we protect our heritage by working with our communities, government and donors. Our focus is the social and economic health of our own communities and all who live here.



Feature image: Master leather craftsmen. Duncan Scobie and Bob Wilson (Willo) stockmen and ringers leather craft tutors.