Five short years after the dream of showcasing mid-west Indigenous art to a city audience became reality, Oakajee Port and Rail’s (OPR) Good Heart Mid-West Aboriginal Art Project has been recognised on the national stage.

Good Heart was recently declared the national winner in the Corporate Social Responsibility category of the Public Relations Institute of Australia’s 2012 Golden Target Awards. The announcement was made at the World Public Relations Forum in Melbourne.

The category recognises organisations that aim to improve the quality of life of employees, communities and society at large – through programs extending well beyond statutory obligations or the business imperative.

Judges described Good Heart as: An excellent project with outstanding benefits flowing through to the Aboriginal community, in both recognition of their art and reward for their artistic endeavours. It’s a great demonstration of corporate social responsibility.

Since its inception in 2008, Good Heart has seen more than 650 contemporary and traditional works from over 60 individual mid-west Indigenous artists displayed in a week-long exhibition in Perth’s CBD. The exhibition now attracts more than 5,000 visitors annually and well over $400,000 has been generated in sales, which flow directly to the artists.

In recent years, select works have been accepted by the Art Gallery of WA (AGWA) for inclusion in its permanent art collection - and housed at the AGWA-funded Geraldton Regional Art Gallery.

“We’re extremely proud of the role Good Heart has played in supporting broader efforts to foster a self- sustaining indigenous arts industry in the mid-west,” OPR Chief Executive John Langoulant AO said.

“The project has gone from strength to strength, with ever-increasing corporate support and new initiatives.”

These include a mid-west exhibition preview, hosted by Geraldton Newspapers; artist scholarships; and publication of a souvenir mid-west Indigenous art booklet by Market Creations.

DLA Piper also utilised works and the exhibition to promote the law firm’s Reconciliation Action Plan.

“The exhibition has developed a genuine following and is highly anticipated by both collectors and artists alike – all the while, we’ve tried to maintain a grassroots approach,” Mr Langoulant said.

Mr Langoulant thanked all supporters of Good Heart and the region’s arts organisations for their ongoing mutual commitment to mid-west Indigenous art.

Realising the full potential of the local arts industry requires appropriate support to artists through strong and viable arts centres including Yamaji Art Gallery in Geraldton, Wirnda Barna Artists Incorporated in Mt Magnet and the Tjukurba Art Gallery in Wiluna.

Good Heart 2012 was proudly supported by OPR’s partners – AECOM, ANZ, Gilbert + Tobin, BMT JFA Consultants, Crosslands Resources, DLA Piper, Geraldton Newspapers, Geraldton Port Authority, Market Creations, Mid West Development Commission, Oceanica Consulting, WorleyParsons Services and MYR Consulting.

OPR acknowledges the assistance of Northampton Old School – Women’s Textile Team, Wirnda Barna Artists Inc. Mt Magnet, Yamaji Art Geraldton, City of Greater Geraldton, Gryphon Management Australia, Jacksons Drawing Supplies and Mullewa Indigenous Women’s Group.