50 years of supporting arts, culture and creativity in Victoria

15 December 2022

Arts, culture and creativity are intrinsic to life in the place now known as Victoria.

From tens of thousands of years of First Peoples creative and cultural practice to the cultural icons that sprung up in the wake of the gold rush like State Library Victoria and the Museum of Natural and Economic Geology – the precursor to today’s Melbourne Museum – and pioneering performers including Dame Nellie Melba, Kylie Minogue, Uncle Jack Charles and Cate Blanchett who put our state on the map, creativity has always been part of our DNA.

This year our creative state celebrates a significant milestone.

On 13 December 1972, the Victorian Government passed the Ministry for the Arts Act, enshrining in legislation the Victorian Government’s commitment to backing the arts.

That Act created a government body (first called the Ministry for the Arts, later Arts Victoria) dedicated to supporting and investing in the state’s arts sector and cultural life. It was the first body of its kind in the country, and it was charged with strengthening and growing the arts and cultural sector and ensuring all Victorians had opportunities to participate in and experience the arts.

In January 2015, Arts Victoria evolved into Creative Victoria, expanding its responsibilities to include the screen, design, games and fashion industries.

This broader remit is reflected in the refreshed Creative Victoria Act 2017, which builds on the original Act to recognise the social, cultural and economic value of the creative industries. It also explicitly acknowledges the contribution and importance of First Peoples arts and cultural practice and commits to supporting and promoting it.

The new Act also enshrines in law a responsibility for the Government of the day to renew the state’s creative industries strategy every four years. The first Creative State strategy launched in 2016 and the current strategy Creative State 2025 is packed with initiatives and actions that will position the state’s creative industries as a catalyst for the state’s future economic prosperity and social wellbeing.

Fifty years later, how has this landmark Act changed the cultural landscape in Australia’s creative state?

Black and white image of construction of the arts centre
View across the river showing construction of both the Melbourne Concert Hall (now Hamer Hall) and Theatres Building at the Victorian Arts Centre (now Arts Centre Melbourne), 1978 Photograph by Rick Altman Victorian Arts Centre Trust Collection Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne

The past five decades have seen Victoria’s cultural landscape change dramatically. From the birth of icons like Arts Centre Melbourne, Melbourne Museum and Fed Square, to the proliferation of regional performing arts centres and galleries, to the emergence of the festivals and events that have come to define Victoria’s annual calendar.

Today Victoria’s strengths across the creative industries are widely recognised. We are known as the country’s capital of music, fashion, digital games, design and much more. We are home to the most visited gallery and library in the country, and the world’s most visited museum of screen culture. We have more live music venues per capita than anywhere on earth, one of the world’s top comedy festivals, and the largest celebration of independent arts in the country in Melbourne Fringe.

From the extraordinary Back to Back Theatre to the punk energy of Amyl and the Sniffers, Victorian talent continues to make waves around the world.

So while Victoria’s creative landscape has changed significantly since the Ministry for the Arts Act was passed in 1972, the government’s commitment to supporting exciting new creative ideas,

creative organisations and businesses doing amazing things, and investments in some of Australia’s most impressive creative infrastructure has remained unchanged for half-a-century.

Here’s to the next fifty years, and beyond!