28/10/2021

Increased diversity and Aboriginal representation in Arts and Cultural leadership.

Embedded across the Arts Plan South Australia 2019–2024 (Arts Plan) is a call to increase diverse representation in audiences, artistic content, and at all levels of arts leadership.

In 2019, the consultants compiling the Arts Plan pointed out that while there was good gender balance, the diversity inherent in the broader South Australian community was not reflected on the boards of arts and cultural organisations in our state. They emphasised the important leadership role of boards, specifically that they need to exemplify diversity and community relevance.

Country Arts SA had a long-standing commitment to Aboriginal representation at board level, but similar representation on other arts boards remained limited and the Arts Plan called for this to be addressed as a priority.

Two years on, the arts and culture sector has embraced this call to action and has continued to address issues around diversity, inclusion and representation. Boards are actively diversifying their membership as well as their programming, staffing and engagement with a range of communities and experts.

Following are examples of recent appointments:

  • Mr Gavin Wanganeen, a contemporary Aboriginal artist and former Australian Football League (AFL) player, was appointed to the Board of State Theatre Company of South Australia in March 2021.
  • Alison Page, an award-winning creative at the forefront of contemporary Australian Aboriginal design and storytelling, was appointed to the board of the Art Gallery of South Australia in July 2021.
  • Former Governor of South Australia Mr Hieu Van Le arrived in Australia as a refugee from Vietnam in the 1970s and has been announced as the incoming chair of Adelaide Festival Centre Trust.
  • Dr Christopher Wilson is a First Nations archaeologist and Indigenous studies educator and was appointed to the Board of the South Australian Museum in May 2021.
  • The newly appointed artistic director of Australian Dance Theatre, Mr Daniel Riley, is the first Aboriginal director of the company.
  • Barkindji songwoman Nancy Bates was appointed as Adelaide Fringe’s Reconciliation and Diversity Manager in September 2021.

These are just a sample of the increasing diversity in arts and cultural leadership and programming. Nexus Arts recently released You’re Welcome: A Guide for Arts Organisations to Increase Diversity in our Audiences, a toolkit to prompt new thinking around diversity, and there are many more examples on our stages, in galleries and through special programs involving collaboration and mentorship across the sector.

To see all Arts Plan updates, please read the Recommendations and government’s response.