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 Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.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.

Next Prev
Bruce Gladwin and Rita Halabarec in Wooden Head 1992 Image: Peter Van de Veer
Bruce Gladwin and Rita Halabarec in Wooden Head 1992 Image: Peter Van de Veer


Back to Back Theatre formed

Geelong's Back to Back Theatre started life in 1987 as a project of the Corilong Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities. From its earliest days it aimed to create theatre with people who are perceived to have a disability. With a strong artistic focus, the group received a small project grant from the Victorian Ministry for the Arts in 1988.


A decade later, Back to Back Theatre became an independent entity and the company was invited to apply for an annual grant from Arts Victoria. Annual funding validated the artistic status of the company within the Victorian theatre sector and provided a stable administration that supported an incredible period of expansion and enrichment. The ensemble collaborated with Circus Oz, Handspan, Melbourne Workers' Theatre, My Friend the Chocolate Cake, Snuff Puppets and inflatable artist Mark Cuthbertson.

A turning point came in 2000 when the company, now under Artistic Director Bruce Gladwin, received a Victoria Commission of $100,000 through Arts Victoria for Soft – an epic work exploring the social implications of developing genetic technologies. Innovative in both form and content, Soft premiered at the 2002 Melbourne International Festival of the Arts (now Melbourne Festival) and won The Age Critics' Award for Creative Excellence.

A second Victoria Commission of $90,000 in 2004 supported the creation of two equally ambitious works: Small Metal Objects (2005), a work performed in public spaces; and Food Court (2008), a collaboration with the experimental jazz trio, The Necks. Small Metal Objects has now been performed across the globe, and has picked up a slew of awards including The Age Critics' Award, a Green Room Award in 2005, the Zurich Festival's ZKB Acknowledgement Prize in 2007 and a New York Dance and Performance Award – a Bessie Award – in 2008.

Also garnering international acclaim is Back to Back's Ganesh Versus the Third Reich, which premiered at the 2011 Melbourne Festival to critical and audience acclaim. It was awarded the 2011 Age Critics' Award for best new Australian work, won three Green Room Awards and the 2012 Helpmann Award for Best Play, and was listed as one of the UK Guardian newspaper's top theatre productions of the year.

Back to Back is now one of Australia's most globally recognised and respected contemporary theatre companies. Over the last five years alone the company has toured to 49 cities across the world, but it still calls Geelong home. Its creative and administrative base is in the redeveloped old Courthouse building.

Back to Back continues to push boundaries, with a unique voice and fearless approach to theatre-making. In the words of the ensemble: "We are not afraid to step into the cold, dark side. At first we're scared, but afterwards we feel good. We are witty, emotional, we go deep into the work, we go places you can't go in real life."

Share this milestone: