Our History

Founded in 1969, the Victorian Arts Council began its life as an umbrella body of regional arts councils, serving as the Victorian branch of the Arts Council of Australia (now Regional Arts Australia). Initially, the Victorian Arts Council supported performing arts touring, as well as offering resources and support for its affiliated regional arts councils. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the organisation developed in complexity in response to regional arts needs, and its formal incorporation in 1981 streamlined its business practices. 

A comprehensive independent review in the late 1990s undertook valuable work in reflecting on the artistic legacy of the Victorian Arts Council’s first three decades. Its key recommendations centred around the need to create a unique suite of Victorian arts programs, rather than serving as the Victorian branch of the national body. In response, the organisation’s artistic programming in the 2000s developed sophisticated new focuses in education, cultural partnerships, major projects, and of course touring, in what was fast becoming an increasingly intricate national touring landscape. Government partnerships were strengthened, resulting in devolved grant relationships with all levels of government, as well as partner-funded Regional Arts Development Officer positions.

Today’s organisation is a company limited by guarantee, rebranded as Regional Arts Victoria in 1999. The organisation broadened its vision and its scope to encompass artists and arts organisations across Victoria, connecting artists and communities. In 2012 Regional Arts Victoria undertook our most recent planning process, identifying three strategic provocations for the next stages of our development:

  • Reframing Regional Arts Victoria as a robust, sustainable arts organisation with a clear and coherent artistic program;
  • Defined not by artform, venue, or artist career stage, but by the geographic places of Victoria, fostering and connecting the places where art is made, shared, experienced and discussed;
  • Infusing a passionate advocacy for the arts across everything we do.

Each of these provocations informs the current Strategic Plan 2014-2018. Regional Arts Victoria’s current scope encompasses all artforms, all creative practices, and all modes of artistic experience. Vibrant, comprehensive programs such as Education & Families, Cultural Partnerships and Performing Arts Touring create valuable learning, development and presentation opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people each year. As well as an annual Creative Leadership Program, a significant, long-term, state-wide artistic project focuses our creative facilitation and our advocacy every few years, leaving a lasting legacy, including Such Fertile Ground, Illuminated by Fire, and now Small Town Transformations.

Across artistic and creative development work spanning five decades, Regional Arts Victoria inspires art across the state.

Regional Arts Victorias leadership 



  1969 “ 1976 David Hamer
  1977 “ 1983 John Riordan
  1984 “ 1988 Gwendolyn Stainton
  1989 “ 1990 Bill Cook
  1991 “ 1996 Brian W Hewitt
  1997 “ 2002 David Madden
  2003 “ 2008 Mike Zafiropoulos AM, JP
  2009 “ 2013 Dennis Goldner
  2013 “ present Bruce Esplin AM

  1969 “ 1971 Neil Case
  1971 “ 1972 Patricia Marshall
  1973 “ 1974 Peter Batey
  1975 “ 1998 Don MacKay
  1998 “ 2004 Peter Matthews
  2004 “ 2012 Lindy Allen
  2012 “ present Esther Anatolitis

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