Our five Arts and Culture priorities

These priorities were created based on community input.

Priority 1: Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and cultures are at the heart of Yarra

Yarra’s goal over the next five years is to enhance our connection with Aboriginal culture. It will celebrate, respect and embrace Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and heritage.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders have clear priorities for arts and cultural development in Yarra, including sharing their culture, supporting a range of traditional and contemporary arts activity and storytelling. However, they aim to do so in ways that protect the community’s principles of knowledge transfer and ownership of intellectual property. To realise these aims and to increase the prominence of Aboriginal arts and culture in Yarra, Council will ensure community leaders have input into major decision making. This input will include Aboriginal Elders, but will not be limited to them. It may also include Aboriginal artists, community workers, residents and businesses.

Yarra will celebrate and embrace Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and culture by increasing the cultural competence of our creative producers, participants and audiences. It will ensure our decision-making in arts and culture reflects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and values by embedding their leadership into our decision-making processes.

Priority 2: Artists are essential to a thriving Yarra

Council recognizes the need to safeguard our artists’ future by revitalising the arts, culture and night-time economy after the pandemic. Creative producers need help to adapt their work to accommodate a world in which public health restrictions may be ongoing, such as by increasing the outdoor and digital aspects of their practice.

Council will leverage support from government and private partners, to help strengthen and innovate Yarra’s artistic practice for a post-COVID era. All levels of government need to coordinate their support for Australia’s creative production, and Yarra can initiate and lead this coordination. Within Council too, greater coordination between different divisions will leverage support for arts and culture. Many areas across Council already have arts and culture embedded in their work – including Economic Development, Aboriginal Partnerships, Youth Services, Library Services, Sustainability and Design and Placemaking – but there are further opportunities across Council.

Community feedback has also made it clear that Council’s networks and resources have the potential to provide important knowledge and skills that can help artists renew and adapt their practices to changing conditions. Council’s own staff provide important networks that are valuable to our arts community, including our environmental, arts and culture, and planning units. External organisations that Council has strong relations with are also important resources for artists, including arts and culture peak bodies and community organisations.

Priority 3: Our arts and culture shape Yarra’s places and spaces

Yarra’s public places bring people together. As Yarra grows, opportunities to experience arts and culture will need to follow patterns of population growth and development. Rather than ‘art washing’, in which a public artwork is added as an adornment to a planned building or neighbourhood, Yarra’s arts and culture unit will be involved in decision-making from the inception of a planning decision. They will ensure that artists’ visions are central to development plans and that these visions provide ongoing opportunities for the community to engage with the arts.

Council will work with property owners, including private owners, commercial arts venues and non-profit organisations, to investigate ways in which it can expand opportunities for artists to occupy a range of flexible, temporary, long-term and public-facing spaces and to use these spaces to increase engagement with the public throughout Yarra.

Priority 4: We celebrate and support our creative and diverse community

Participating in community life is the key to a healthy, socially connected and culturally rich Yarra. Council aims to enable as well as celebrate Yarra’s diversity. Community feedback suggested that there is scope to ensure that Yarra’s grants processes are promoted to and made accessible to diverse communities, who use different communication channels and present their work in different ways.

Council aims to strengthen inclusion and support vulnerable communities. In doing so, it recognises the need to make sure that urban development provides economic and social opportunities to our diverse community, and to address the negative impacts that COVID-19 restrictions have had on feelings of social connection.

Priority 5: Our arts contribute to an ecologically sustainable future

Collectively, we need to imagine, explore and develop ways in which we can live prosperous and fulfilling lives that are independent of fossil fuel use. The practice of imagining and exploring alternative futures is central to much arts practice. Yarra will develop strategies to encourage its artists to help us see and experience new ways of living. Council’s arts and culture funding schemes, artist and public programmes, and procurement process will cultivate arts practice that assists Yarra to reach its sustainability goal.