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.

Dr Eric Westbrook, Ministry for the Arts Director 1973 – Sept 1980
Dr Eric Westbrook, Ministry for the Arts Director, 1973 – 1980

1973

Arts Ministry opens for business

The new Ministry for the Arts commenced operations in July 1973 with inaugural Director Eric Westbrook (previously Director of the National Gallery of Victoria) at the helm. Westbrook has been described by those who worked with him as a man of great wit and great ideas.

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In the Ministry's first annual report (1973-74) Dr Westbook wrote: "State bodies of this nature must only seek to make artistic excellence possible – whether professional or amateur – and in a democracy be constantly alert that there should be no interference with the form and nature of such creative work."

Until the Ministry's offices were secured, Dr Westbrook worked from an office at the NGV.

The first decisions on his plate related to the nature and extent of support for the three major performing arts companies – the MTC, Ballet Victoria and the Victorian Opera Company. All three had received Federal Government support through the new Australian Council for the Arts.

Assistance was given to the National Theatre to transform the Victory Cinema in Barkly Street, St Kilda, into an 800-seat theatre, studios, administrative offices and informal performing areas for the National Theatre schools.

The Ministry also worked with Melbourne City Council to bring arts and entertainment into the city's parks and gardens. This included twice-weekly lunchtime entertainment in the Treasury and Flagstaff gardens and Sunday events in the Fitzroy Gardens, ranging from Shakespeare and chamber music to jazz, puppets and vaudeville.

Ministry was responsible for the State-owned arts agencies, which in its earliest years were the National Gallery of Victoria, the Library Council of Victoria and the State Film Centre.

The first staff appointments were for specialist art form liaison officers – initially music and visual arts, followed by drama, community arts and dance.

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