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 Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.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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Arts Minister Race Mathews at the announcement of Theatre Standby at the opening night of the Highett High School’s Music/Drama complex on Tuesday 8 April 1986.
Arts Minister Race Mathews at the announcement of Theatre Standby at the opening night of the Highett High School's Music/Drama complex on Tuesday 8 April 1986.


Developing new audiences

In its first decade the Ministry for the Arts focused on building arts infrastructure and supporting an increasing array of arts activity. By 1983 it was also looking at ways to build new audiences and encourage participation – especially amongst young people. One key initiative was the Theatre Standby scheme, which was designed to allow every secondary student in Victoria the opportunity to enjoy live theatre at a price they could afford.


Using a Standby Pass, students were able to see shows presented by the State's subsidised performing arts companies for just $3 a ticket. This included the Melbourne Theatre Company, Playbox, the Universal, the Church, St Martins and Antill. Participating commercial companies offered a discount on their lowest priced ticket.

As well as the pass, every student was issued with a free brochure and calendar of theatre highlights and teachers received backup support material as teaching aids.

The Theatre Standby scheme was the first of its scale in Australia, and resulted in a marked increase in patronage from young people under the age of 18.

Another audience development initiative, Half-Tix, Melbourne's performing arts half-price ticket booth, opened in the Bourke Street Mall in March 1984. Today, Halftix Melbourne – now located in the Melbourne Town Hall – is Australia's longest running discount ticket service.

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