Please note: Some of the content on this page was published prior to the launch of Creative Australia and references the Australia Council. Read more.

Cultural strength and ethical art supporting regional tourism and employment

Oct 18, 2019

Arts experiences play an important and growing role in tourism, engaging visitors with the uniqueness, depth and diversity of Australian culture while supporting local jobs and economies.

Australia’s unique position as home to the world’s oldest living culture is part of what makes Australia such a special place to visit. Over 820,000 international tourists engaged with First Nations arts while in Australia in 2017, an increase of 41% since 2013.1

The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) supports regional development, tourism and employment through an annual showcase celebrating Queensland Fist Nations arts and culture. CIAF supports the careers of First Nations artists by providing a platform for exposure, income generation and professional development. It offers an ethical and world-class marketplace that inspires cultural exchange locally, nationally and internationally.

CIAF is a multi-platform event – art is not just hung on walls. An extensive program of art market, art fair, artists talks, art workshops, dance, live music, exhibitions and fashion performance, make for an immersive experience that echoes across the Cairns cityscape. 

In July 2018, the CIAF program showcased over 300 visual artists and 230 performers, and attracted 45,600 attendees, with overnight visitor expenditure of $3.5 million. Overall sales were up 17% on the previous year, and visitation at Cairns’ cultural venues and galleries increased by 115%.

2019 marks CIAF’s 10th anniversary. Over the past decade, the development of strong local partnerships with Cairns cultural institutions has provided a mainstream platform for Queensland First Nations artists to build a wider following and attract a new non‑Indigenous audience, while encouraging First Nations audiences to feel welcome in mainstream venues.

IMAGE CREDIT: Seia Kayin Thithuyi Dancer at Cairns Indigenous Art Fair. Credit: Blueclick Photography.

CIAF has become an event in which communities embrace inclusion and the wider audience values First Nations art and culture – 90% of attendees acknowledge CIAF for increasing their understanding of First Nations arts and culture.2

CIAF has also become a highlight of the tourism calendar. Its success in attracting visitors is endorsed through an enhanced sponsorship agreement with Cairns Airport, which recognises the significance of Queensland’s First Nations arts and culture and the role CIAF plays in boosting regional tourism.

CIAF was awarded the Indigenous Business Excellence Award for 2018 by the Cairns Chamber of Commerce. CIAF is supported through Four Year Funding (2017–20).


1 Australia Council 2018, International Arts Tourism: Connecting cultures.

2 CIAF 2019, CIAF soars with new and enhanced airport partnership.