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 Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.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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The Victorian Vision exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria
The Victorian Vision exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria


Victoria turns 150

Victoria's sesquicentenary – the 150th anniversary of European settlement in Victoria – was commemorated in 1984 and 1985, under the theme, 'Growing Together'. The Ministry for the Arts played a leading role in the arts and entertainment commitment, and the 150th left a lasting legacy on the Victorian arts sector.


As many as 132 separate arts projects received funding and emphasis was given to projects of lasting value to Victoria and to those which created employment within the arts industry. Priority was given to the commissioning of new works and the provision of seed funds to professional and community arts organisations.

The Next Wave festival, the Chinese Museum and the Living Museum of the West are among the organisations established as a result of the 150th anniversary.

In a year of special events, Swanston Street became a garden for a weekend party attended by half a million people.

Arts highlights included:

  • Victoria Victoria, a choral concert featuring a 1000-voice choir at the Royal Exhibition Building. The performance included excerpts from Victoria Cantata by Caron who won the commission from the State Government for the International Exhibition of 1880.
  • Lost Victoria, a theatrical history of Victoria for Children, presented by the Melbourne Writers Theatre and performed on Herring Island
  • The Comic History of Victoria – a 365-part radio series written and performed by young Victorian comedians and made available to every radio station in Victoria.
  • The Victorian Vision, an exhibition of paintings and artefacts documenting Victoria's settlement, held at the National Gallery of Victoria in a collaboration between the Gallery and the State Library of Victoria.
  • Melbourne Theatre Company's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream and the Australian Ballet Dancers Company's production of Giselle – both at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.
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