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 Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.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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'Antipodes' David Malouf, 1985 Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction
'Antipodes' David Malouf, 1985 Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction


Victorian Premier's Literary Awards

The first Victorian Premier's Literary Awards were held in 1985, inaugurated by The Hon John Cain, Premier of Victoria. The awards presentation coincided with the centenary of the birth of Victoria's most famous literary couple – Vance and Nettie Palmer – and was held at the new Arts Centre. David Malouf took out the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction for his collection of short stories, Antipodes, while Bernard Smith won the Nettie Palmer Prize for Non-Fiction for The Boy Adeodatus.


The other awards in the $50,000 prize pool were for poetry, drama and Australian Studies.

In 1996, after a decade of the Awards being run by the Ministry for the Arts, the State Library of Victoria took over their administration with an increased prize pool. Since 2010 they have been managed by the Wheeler Centre.

The roll-call of Victorian Premier's Literary Award winners is an Australia literary who's who with recipients including Peter Carey, Murray Bail, John Marsden, Rodney Hall, Richard Flanagan, Fiona Moorhead, Dorothy Hewett, Sonya Hartnett and Les Murray.

In 2011, then Premier of Victoria and Minister for the Arts, Ted Baillieu, announced a new streamlined awards program, increasing the individual prize money and introducing a $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature, the richest single literary award in the country.

There are currently five main annual award categories (Fiction, Non Fiction, Drama, Poetry and Young Adult), each with a prize of $25,000. The winners of each of these five award categories are also in the running for the Victorian Prize for Literature. There is also an award for an Unpublished Manuscript, presented as part of the Emerging Writers Festival, and a biennial award for Indigenous Writing, presented on Indigenous Literary Day.

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