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 Aussie troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and in 1975 our PM was controversially dismissed.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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Warrnambool Performing Arts Centre 1983
Warrnambool Performing Arts Centre 1983


VAPAC established

With work continuing on the development of a network of regional performing arts centres across Victoria, in early 1980 the Ministry for the Arts contributed funds to help form the Victorian Association of Performing Arts Centres (VAPAC).


The association was established to consider the artistic and managerial concerns of the newly established regional arts centres, including funding, marketing and promotion, product development and training. In its first decade VAPAC had 13 member venues of varying capacity and scale.

VAPAC's objectives were to provide access to arts and entertainment of a consistently high standard to the people of regional Victoria, in particular children and the elderly; encourage co-operation between all regional performing arts centres; continually lobby State and Federal government on issues relating to the arts in regional Victoria; and to develop theatre audiences of the future.

New regional arts centres continued to open in the early 1980s. The official opening of performing arts centres at Warragul, Warrnambool (pictured) and Wonthaggi as well as the Geelong Performing Arts Centre, marked the end of an ambitious and rapid period of facility development across Victoria, and the beginning of a new era in which the challenges of day-to-day operation and programming of the centres was the key focus.

By the mid to late 1980s, VAPAC had developed a program of touring performances. Early touring shows included Run For Your Wife and Middle Aged Spread; Morning Melodies and the Mike Jackson Show for seniors; and Noddy in Toyland, Bananas in Pyjamas and The Magic Pudding for kids. It also embarked on joint ventures with the Victorian Arts Council (now Regional Arts Victoria) to present the Melbourne Theatre Company's The Importance of Being Earnest and the Victoria State Opera's Marriage of Figaro.

At this point VAPAC's venues were attracting more than 650,000 people a year.

Today, VAPAC has 54 member venues across Melbourne and regional Victoria, plus four in Tasmania and one in New South Wales. These range from small intimate performance spaces to large theatres, and between them attract almost five million visitors a year.

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