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 Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.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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Ian Cathie, Victorian Minister for the Arts from December 1987 to October 1988
Ian Cathie, Victorian Minister for the Arts from December 1987 to October 1988


Arts Ministers

The late 1980s was a turbulent time for the Victorian Government, economically and politically, and this was reflected in the arts portfolio, with a quick succession of Arts Ministers appointed between 1987 and 1990.


Ian Cathie, a former Minister for Education who had served as Shadow Minister for the Arts in Opposition, took up the role from December 1987 until October 1988, prior to his retirement.

"I shared Arts with another portfolio called Post Secondary Education, where I was continuing work I had begun as Minister of Education in setting up an entirely new structure for TAFE. As well I had already announced my retirement.

"So, when the Premier asked me to take responsibility I was puzzled as to what I could do. I remember asking a colleague in Education, Peter Kirby, for advice and, after a pause, he said 'Enjoy it'," Cathie recalls.

"I did, and after retiring my wife and I enjoyed supporting the State Opera. So the arts gained two supporters. I was very impressed with the [Victorian] Tapestry Workshop and the State Opera, as well as the work in our regional cities.

"The arts are very important to Victoria with more people attending the Arts Centre than AFL football. I hoped that the arts in Victoria would get support from all levels of government."

Ian Cathie was followed as Arts Minister by Deputy Premier Robert Fordham, who was Minister for the Arts between October 1988 and January 1989. Robert Fordham also held the portfolio of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Mr Fordham said he saw the arts as having a dual importance: developing, broadening and supporting the cultural experience available to all Victorians; and fostering an industry that generates employment, not only in its own right, but in other industries such as tourism.

Youth arts, arts education, local and community arts were areas in which Fordham was particularly interested. "These areas guarantee the future of Victoria's cultural traditions. To develop these traditions, young people and the community as whole must have access to the arts and arts education," he said.

Barry Pullen was Minister for the Arts from January to February 1989. He was followed by Evan Walker, who held the position from February 1989 until April 1990.

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