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 Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.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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Melbourne Performing Arts Celebration 1982


The Ministry for the Arts in the 1980s

As the Ministry for the Arts entered its second decade it continued to financially support a wide range of art organisations and activities, but it also looked at how it could support the sector's development in 'non-funded' ways. These included research projects, the development of marketing programs, and publicity and communications to raise the public profile of the arts.


One of the most successful initiatives was the Melbourne Performing Arts Celebration – a six-week promotion of the wide range of amateur and professional performing arts in Victoria, which was jointly backed by corporate sponsors. It included a series of Theatre Discovery Walks in which well-known Melbourne theatre personalities led free tours around the city's new and historic theatres.

The Ministry also undertook its first promotional campaign to raise the profile of arts and culture, and promote the new organisations that had been established in the late 1980s.

In addition to a range of artform executives and a scientific officer, Ministry staff included a community arts executive and a regional development executive. In 1987 an ethnic liaison executive was appointed to develop the multicultural arts, and in 1989 a festivals and tourism executive came on board as part of a cultural tourism push.

The Ministry's funding programs, which had previously only supported arts organisations and groups, expanded to offer grants to individual artists, as well as introduce a strong focus on community arts initiatives.

To assist with making funding decisions and to ensure grant applications were assessed equitably and objectively, the Ministry introduced peer advisory panels in 1983.

Panels comprised of artform experts evaluated applications and made recommendations to the Ministry and the Minister for the Arts. In addition to artform expertise, panel members were selected to represent the interests of artists and arts workers, and the broader community.

By the end of the 1980s, the Ministry for the Arts had under its responsibility Film Victoria, Geelong Performing Arts Centre, Museum of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, State Film Centre of Victoria, State Library of Victoria and the Victorian Arts Centre Trust.

Other Ministry initiatives in the 1980s included:

  • The establishment in 1985 of an Arts Law Referral Service, with over 50 lawyers available to give specialised advice to artists and arts practitioners.

  • The creation of the Victorian Government Exhibitions Indemnification Scheme in 1986. The scheme, which continues today, provides Government-backed, fully insured indemnity cover for temporary exhibitions at Victorian cultural institutions, removing the potentially prohibitive cost of commercial insurance. It also promotes best practice in exhibition and risk management across the gallery and museum sectors.

  • The introduction in 1988 of a Local Arts Travel Fund, providing small grants of up to $500 to individuals and groups to travel in order to develop their skills as artists, small business operators, and arts administrators.

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