Richard Watts| ArtsHub |  Friday 24th April 2015

Performing arts representatives in Victoria have expressed dismay that their sector has not been included in a recently-announced strategy to bolster the creative industries.

The Andrews’ Government’s Creative Industries Taskforce – part of a strategy to increase the public value of the creative industries in Victoria, announced last week by the Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley –  has been criticised for failing to include representatives of the state’s dance, circus and theatre sectors among its members.

The Taskforce, whose 10 members have been charged with developing a plan to open up new opportunities for collaboration, innovation and industry growth for the creative industries in Victoria, is chaired by CEO and Publisher-in Chief of Melbourne University Publishing, Louise Adler.

Its members include established performers Eddie Perfect, a singer-songwriter, composer and comedian now best known as a television actor, and comedian and TV satirist Shaun Micallef, but no-one from the small-to-medium performance sector.

The state’s major performing arts companies, including Melbourne Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre, Victorian Opera and Chunky Move, have no representation on the Taskforce; neither do the state’s peak performing arts bodies, Theatre Network Victoria, Ausdance Victoria, and the Australian Circus & Physical Theatre Association (ACAPTA).

Nor are such organisations represented on the Taskforce’s Expert Reference Group, which comprises 13 members plus Chair Louise Adler.

ACAPTA Director Gail Kelly told ArtsHub: ‘ACAPTA applauds the Government’s initiative and we value the process of consultation, however we don’t think they’ve got the mix quite right. I think they need to include more artists from small to medium companies and independent artists, and I would encourage them to certainly engage with the circus arts in this new process.’

Andy Howitt, Director and CEO, Ausdance Victoria, expressed concern about the lack of dance sector representation on the Taskforce and its Expert Reference Group.

‘Ausdance Victoria welcomes the exploration of a new strategy for the creative industries, by the establishment of the Creative Industries Taskforce. We support their clear focus on collaboration, innovation and industry growth, in all sectors, right across Victoria,’ he said.

‘In recent years we have nurtured an increase in the number of major dance companies, dance festivals and small to medium works being developed. The dance industry continues to be celebrated across Victoria, Australia and around the globe.

‘We are an industry in need of support. We believe the creation of a new strategy for the arts and creative industries is best explored by ensuring balanced representation across all art forms, including the dance sector,’ Howitt told ArtsHub.

Nicole Beyer, Director, Theatre Network Victoria, echoed Howitt’s concerns.

‘It is heartening that Minister Foley has kept his word and has started the process of developing a creative industries strategy, and we applaud this. We also know that the members of the Taskforce and the Expert Reference Group are all highly committed, passionate and intelligent people, and will bring a diverse range of perspectives to the strategy. We are disappointed, though, that the Taskforce itself doesn’t have representation from the subsidised performing arts sector – this sector is the biggest cohort of organisations and artists supported through the Organisations Investment Program and Vic Arts Grants, so it is an oversight to not have someone on the taskforce who understands this sector’s aspirations and needs,’ she said.

‘Similarly we would like to see more representation from our sector on the Expert Reference Group. We are such a big sector, from our major theatre, dance and circus companies to our small to medium companies and festivals, and our prolific independent artists, that to lose this sector’s confidence in the process would be a shame.

‘We know that consultation is planned with all sectors, but we also know that consultation outcomes are always distilled in the final mix. We really need someone to be an integral part of the policy development team, who can take carriage of our issues all the way through the process,’ Beyer concluded.

Bethwyn Serow, Executive Director, Australian Major Performing Arts Group, also expressed concern.

‘Sustainability in the arts is complex and requires an understanding of both the settings necessary to support artistic excellence as well as the business levers necessary to underpin it,’ she said.

‘We value the consultation opportunities that will exist for the majors, small to medium performing arts organisations and independent artist in formulating a creative industries policy. However, this is no substitute for representation at the taskforce level. It is for this appointed group to analyse, dissect, select, discard and reimagine ideas, issues and observations collected through the consultation process. With no performing arts organisations with direct knowledge of working daily across the demands and disciplines of business and the ongoing creative output, the work of the taskforce will be hindered.’

Minister Foley’s office was approached for a response, but declined to comment at this time.

The creative industries contributed an estimated $22.7 billion to the Victorian economy in 2013 (8% of the state’s total economy) and employed over 220,000 people.

For more details about the Creative Industries Strategy, including a full list of members of the Creative Industries Taskforce and its Expert Reference Panel, see

IMAGE CREDIT: Osamah Sami in the current MTC production I Call My Brothers. Photo by Jeff Busby.