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 Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.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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Victorian Ministry for the Arts Annual Report (cover) 1979/80
1986 Writers Festival program cover


First Melbourne Writers' Festival

The first Melbourne Writers' Festival was held in October 1986, in conjunction with the inaugural Spoleto Festival. Organised by a Victorian sub-committee of the National Book Council, the festival offered a comprehensive program involving international and interstate writers and an extensive range of public readings, forums, seminars and workshops. It opened with the second annual Victorian Premier's Literary Awards dinner.


The first event was supported by a $9000 grant from the Victorian Ministry for the Arts and further funding from the Literature Board of the Australia Council and the Spoleto Festival.

Announcing its creation at the opening of the Annual Conference and Trade Fair of the Australian Booksellers' Association, Arts Minister, Race Mathews said the overall aim of the festival was to increase access by Victorians to international and local writers, and increase understanding of their work.

"I am confident that the Victorian Writers' Festival, as part of the Spoleto Festival, will bring both international and national recognition of Melbourne as the acknowledged intellectual, artistic and financial capital of Australia," Mr Matthews said.

Since then the festival has celebrated and profiled a vast array of writers from across Australia and around the world. Past International guests have included Paulo Coelho, A.S. Byatt, Ian Rankin, Seamus Heaney, Annie Proulx, Isabel Allende, Roddy Doyle, Bill Bryson, Ruth Rendell and Margaret Atwood. Australian guests have included Tim Winton, Kate Grenville, David Malouf, Robert Drewe, Drusilla Modjeska, Dorothy Porter, Tim Flannery, Shane Maloney, Germaine Greer, Peter Carey and Helen Garner.

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