Arts Flashback

To celebrate Arts Victoria's 40th anniversary we've hit the archives
and uncovered some choice moments in the development of
Victoria's arts sector.

Click on the images below to view the stories and photo galleries, share them with others, and find out how Victoria grew to be the arts and cultural powerhouse it is today.


Bell-bottoms, handlebar moustaches, platform shoes, our daring approach to fashion (and facial hair) belied an era of serious social change and political drama in 1970s Australia.

We scrapped the White Australia Policy and welcomed an era of multiculturalism. Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.

We had more leisure time that ever before. Norm coaxed us off the couch with Life. Be in it and we got fit. But when we weren't out BMXing, ten-pin bowling or roller-skating, we were listening to Skyhooks and Sherbet, tuning into the new world of FM radio, and watching Number 96 on our brand new colour TVs.

Here in Victoria, a creative community of artists, craftspeople, theatre-makers and musicians were laying the foundation of the mighty independent arts sector we enjoy today.

Premier Rupert Hamer put the arts firmly on the Government's agenda with the creation of Australia's first state Ministry for the Arts. Its first priorities? Getting the construction of Southbank's Arts Centre complex moving, creating a chain of regional performing arts centres, and bringing art out into the public.

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Vortex Community Dancers project, artist Helen Balfour with young participants. Photo: Ruth Maddison
Vortex Community Dancers project, artist Helen Balfour with young participants. Photo: Ruth Maddison


Jobs creation and artists' training

Concerned about the unemployment rate among artists and other cultural workers, the Ministry for the Arts initiated an Artist in Community Jobs Creation Scheme in 1983, which sought to create new opportunities for artists to work, while stimulating local communities. It was the first program of its kind in Australia.


The program paired unemployed professional artists with community organisations, including local governments, who acted as 'hosts' for the artists and assisted them with finding materials and funding. The participating artists had a wide range of skills, including painting, sculpting, filmmaking, photography, environmental design and community performance.

Major projects undertaken through this scheme included:

  • Beechworth Photographic Family Album (artist, Stephen Henderson)
  • Brunswick Baths Mural (artist, Evelyn Vyhnal)
  • Broadmeadows Community Health Services Mural (artist, Terry Matassoni)
  • F.I.L.E.P. Photographic Collective (artist, Angela Lynkushka)
  • Fringe Network/PBAA Radio Drama (artists, Hugo Armstrong and Chris Barnett)
  • Hospital Employee's Federation Banner (artists, Julia Church and Kathy Walters)
  • Jolimont Railway Workshop Mural (artists, Sarah Curtis and Mary Rosengren)
  • Mansfield Musician (artist, Mark Smerdon)
  • Melbourne University Raised Line Tactual Graphics for Blind (artist, Beatrice Sheehan)
  • Northcote Mural – Henry Street Primary School (artist, Eve Glenn)
  • Open Channel Community Video (artist, David Tiley)
  • Painters and Decorators Union Mural Hoardings (artist, Chris Minko)
  • Portland Fawthrop Lagoon Sculpture (artist, David Shepherd)
  • Princes Hill High Curtain Mural (artist, Tracey Naughton)
  • Shire of Korong/Collage (artist, Jenny Pitts)
  • 3CCC FM Radio Writing (artist, Phillip Edmonds)
  • Vortex Community Dancers (artists, Helen Balfour and Tracey-Jo Riley)

These projects were visually documented by photographer, Ruth Maddison.

As a result of two years involvement in the Job Creation Scheme, the Ministry established a Community Arts Project Centre which provided further opportunities for promotion, documentation, research and resource gathering in community arts.

In 1984 an Artist in the Community Training Program was introduced, with 25 trainees selected to participate. Traineeships were devised on an individual basis and included four-week placements with experienced artists on community arts projects; lectures, workshops and seminars to develop skills for community work, including research tools, funding structures, publicity and public relations, project management, community development, and collaborative structures; and individual skills development, ranging from assertiveness and communications skills to video workshops and artistic development.

At the conclusion of the program, the majority of trainees secured employment opportunities, and the program went on to underpin future training approaches for community arts work.

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