Art Central Project

Arts, partnerships and cultural change in Central Goldfields Shire

Art Central was a multidisciplinary arts project undertaken in Central Goldfields Shire in central Victoria between 2013 and 2015. The maryborough_083 copy 2project was instigated by the Cultural Development Network to trial theories about what arts projects in local government contexts could contribute to positive cultural change, and the processes by which that might occur most effectively.

The program brought together professional artists from across the region into a residency with the local arts community; while encouraging individuals, businesses and organisations from across sectors (education, recreation, small business and health) to embrace the arts.  The project sought to create a lasting impact in the lives of participants and community by engaging influential local leaders and helping them understand and embrace the value of arts in their own organisations and in their partnerships and sponsorships with their communities.

The project was underpinned by the work and research of CDN over ten years, which has demonstrated that the arts play a key role in the cultural vitality of communities of all kinds, and that the key to animating the culture is to tap into ideas, activities and values that lie within existing institutional and community organisations. The project led the arts component of a larger State Government investment in regional health and well-being over three years and beyond.

Background to the project

Like many rural communities, the Central Goldfields Shire has experienced a range of social and economic changes in the last few decades. Located in Central Victoria, it is approximately one hour’s drive from the main regional cities of Ballarat and Bendigo and about two and half hours drive north-west of Melbourne, the capital city of Victoria. The Central Goldfields region has a unique combination of natural environment, with significant manufacturing, retail and tourism potential. The Shire has a population of more than 12,500 people, a rich gold rush history and relatively cheap housing. It is celebrated for tourist attractions, which includes stunning heritage buildings, wineries, the historical Maryborough station and farmer’s markets. Other prominent townships in the Shire include Bealiba, Carisbrook, Dunolly and Talbot. Maryborough is the Shire’s main business centre with a population of approximately 7,500.

While rural and regional towns in Victoria are no strangers to the cycles of ‘booms’ and ‘busts’ of droughts, bushfires and global economic fluctuations, these events eventually take a hard toll on communities. Decline of industrial employers over the last few decades has left a legacy of unemployment, in addition to a constant flow of people accessing public housing in the Shire that is compounded by limited access to higher educational opportunities in the area. For the past few decades, townships in the Central Goldfields Shire have been one of the most socio-economically disadvantaged in the State of Victoria. According to a 2007 report by Tony Vinson, Maryborough is suffering from the effects of entrenched poverty, where unemployment rates are double the state average, and food security and educational attainment are the among the lowest in the State.

In 2007, as part of a whole-of-community planning and development initiative, Council commissioned a study on the Shire’s economic, social and educational challenges. The study highlighted socio-economic problems as well as challenges with community identity and values. According to the report, the community had become ‘resilient’ after decades of ‘toughing out the hard times’, but its culture lacked a sense of aspiration, achievement or positive future visioning (Perry, 2008). Decades of hardship and disadvantage had resulted in a resilient outlook in a community resistant to change – “don’t fix it unless it’s broke” mindset (Central Goldfields Shire, 2011).

Faced with such unfavourable statistics, CGS Council decided to embark on a community culture-focussed model of transformational change as one of its six key priority areas (Meddows-Taylor, 2011). As culture encompasses one’s values and aspirations (Hawkes, 2001), the crux of this transformational strategy was to acknowledge that cultural change is key to advancing the community. As Chris Meddows-Taylor said, a shift in the community culture was needed – ‘one where the future would not mirror the past’ (Green, 2011).

One initiative to help spur the transformational change agenda was the Maryborough Neighbourhood Renewal (NR) project. This was a precursor to a community development program entitled Go Goldfields (GG) that commenced in 2012. The $2.5 million strategy funded by the Department of Human Services targeted change in the 0-19 age bracket, and included money for early years speech pathology, literacy and support for parents.

Central Goldfields Shire  View Google Map.

The project

The Art Central project was birthed in discussions between John Smithies, Director of the Cultural Development Network (CDN) and the then Mayor of the Central Goldfields Shire (CGS), Chris Meddows-Taylor, during this period that the Shire was investing resources in developing a community initiative to address its socio-economic disadvantages.  CGS Council had a vision to build a highly desirable community to live, learn, work and visit. Following Council’s agenda to bring about community culture change and “develop an aspirational culture” (Meddows-Taylor, 2011), the Art Central project was established with a vision of reorienting the community. It was developed to challenge all elements of the CGS community culture that Council had identified as its priority, shifting emphasis from the dominant values of resilience and conformity to values in which hope, aspiration are prioritised and achievement is considered possible.

Before its official start in 2013, Art Central was in development for more than two years with local government, artists, businesses, sports associations, primary and secondary schools and a diversity of not-for-profit organizations. During this time, informal relationships were forged between leaders from CGS Council, education, sports, business and arts sectors and CDN, project partners. CDN supported and recommended the establishment of a community leadership group (CLG) as partnership model for the project involving community leaders from the fields of arts, education, health, business, sports and recreation. By involving and embedding community leaders in the project, CDN hoped that influential individuals in the community would keep the work ‘alive’ past the lifespan of this project. CDN hoped that this would add an extra layer of strength to the project and increase the potential for new partnerships to be forged in sectors outside of the project.

Another important intended outcome of the Art Central was the encouragement of the emergence and mentorship of local artists. From the beginning, CDN stressed the importance of having the same lead artists for the duration of the project to maximize the achievement of positive, sustainable long-term outcomes. Hence, three resident artists and mentors were hired for the project: Fiona Blair (The Old Van), berni m janssen, Peter Widmer and Geoff Bonney (Ratartat), who brought a wealth of experience in visual and literary arts and community engagement. Their role was to identify, engage, recruit and work with local artists to transfer skills so that they could continue to work skillfully and effectively with their communities at, and beyond the completion of the project.

2013 also marked the start of the Go Goldfields (GG) strategy by the Central Goldfields Shire Council, and the decision to link and partner both projects were seen as unique opportunity to observe how the arts could contribute to positive youth development and literacy. GG included a small arts component and was hence enlisted as a project partner and resource for Art Central. GG did not have adequate funding to support a full community arts project, so it was decided that a joint investment from the Australia Council CCPI program would enrich Go Goldfields projects that targetted disadvantaged communities in the Shire through child and family literacy programs. As a result, GG combined its community arts funding with Art Central funds with the view to enable arts integration into its five strategic outcomes.

Project activities

From January 2013, professional artists, organisations and community individuals and groups engaged in a number of collaborative creative activities that explored local community aspirations. Of particular success was the strong relationships forged with the health (particularly mental health and disability) and education sectors. The project housed its activities at the ‘Art Shop’; a working studio space and gallery located on High Street in Maryborough, with project activities also extending to other townships in the shire. Activities took on a ‘street based approach’, propelling art into the community and boosting awareness of project.  The  Museum of Truth and Lies project was undertaken in October 2014.

Project Poster | ABC Story | Shire News

Projections from the Video Architecture Community Colouring Competition featured at the opening of the Museum.


Lam, C. (2015). Making Arts Central in a Regional Australian Community, in Cities for the Future, (pp. 142-145). Melbourne: Global Compact Cities Programme.

Australia Council
Art Central is a Creative Community Partnerships Initiative of the Australia Council,
the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body.

CDN    Central Goldfields   Global Cities  Go Goldfields

A review of the Arts Central project was undertaken in Making Arts Central in a Regional Australian Community, recently published in the Global Compact Cities Programme’s latest ‘Cities for the Future’.  In the article Cynthia Lam, a Research Officer from RMIT University explores how the Central Goldfields Shire is trailing a new approach to economic and social revitalisation, by encouraging organisations across all sectors to embrace the arts.

The Cultural Development Network cooperates with a range of partners in all its activities, bringing benefits for both parties. Current partnerships include:

Creative VictoriaVictorian Government through Creative Victoria
Creative Victoria is the state government body responsible for the arts, supporting a diverse mix of arts and cultural activity across the state. CDN and Victorian Government through Creative Victoria worked together to support Castanet network. CDN took a major role in Creative Victoria’s arts and disability research project, in 2010, and Creative Victoria contributes to support for CDN’s annual operations in Victoria and has previously supported many of CDN’s initiatives including conferences Expanding Cultures and Generations. In 2016 Creative Victoria adopted CDN’s schema of outcomes for their Organisation Investment Program reporting.

Australia CouncilAustralia Council for the Arts
The Australia Council for the Arts is the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body, supporting Australia’s arts through funding, strengthening and developing the arts sector. CDN and the Australia Council collaborate on a range of projects. Previous joint initiatives have included the Arts Central project, the National Local Government Cultural Forum and Generations.

Australia Local Government Association

The Australian Local Government Association is a federation of state and territory local government associations, representing 560 councils across the country. ALGA offers leadership on policy for cultural development in local government across Australia. ALGA collaborates with CDN to co-ordinate the National Local Government Cultural Forum. In 2011, the two organisations co-presented the international conference Culture: A New Way of Thinking for Local Government, Melbourne.

Culture 21Commission on Culture, United Cities and Local Governments
(international peak body for local government)
CDN shares the Commission for Culture’s goal of the recognition of culture as a fundamental aspect of public policy, along with other policy areas relating to society, economy and environment. The organisations collaborate to promote cultural development in local government in Australia, and the Asia-Pacific. Specific activities include the 2011 Conference led by CDN organized with UCLG-Asia Pacific region, Culture: A New Way of Thinking for Local Government, Melbourne

Centre for Social and Global Research, RMIT University

The Centre for Social and Global Research at RMIT University Melbourne, currently houses CDN, where the two organisations collaborate on research about local cultural development. Currently CDN is working with Researchers within the CSGR, evaluating the social and cultural outcomes of a creative cultural project lead by Wurinbeena Ltd and Indigenous Elders in East Gippsland. Previous major projects have included Art Central project, a shire-wide arts mentorship program that brings together professional artists from the region into a residency with the local arts community. Previous to this, CDN had partnered with the Global Cities Research Institute at RMIT University on joint projects including Generations, an arts and civic engagement project, where CDN undertook project management and GCRI led research and evaluation, which were reported in this document. Both organisations contributed to the project’s culmination, the national Generations Conference.

The Creative Arts Therapies Research Unit (CATRU), Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne

The Creative Arts Therapies Research Unit (CATRU) aims to support the further development of creative arts therapy disciplines in Melbourne and wider Australia through research and research training. The Research Unit collaborates with CDN on research in the areas of cultural evaluation and government policy and planning for the arts. This is delivered through ongoing joint research with one of the Units Researchers, Dr. Kim Dunphy.

Former partnerships:

National Local Government Cultural Forum

The National Local Government Cultural Forum was a twice yearly meeting for local government and other stakeholders to articulate a national perspective on developing stronger cultural development practice in local government across Australia. The Cultural Forum brang together representatives from local government: the seven state and territory local government associations represented by staff of the policy units; the eight Australian capital cities who offer practical application and leadership, plus the national peak body for local government, Australian Local Government Association (ALGA). The other members were major national stakeholders of the Australia Council for the Arts – Community Partnerships and the Commonwealth Ministry for the Arts. Cultural Development Network initiated the Forum, acted as Secretariat and undertook the work of the Forum.

Centre for Cultural Partnerships, Victorian College of the Arts and Music

VCACDN’s shared interests with VCAM’s Centre for Cultural Partnerships on research about arts participation. Joint endeavours included the Culture and Community Researchers’ Network 2009-2012 and the Making Culture Count conference in May 2012. The conference organisers worked together on publications coming out of the conference which you can learn more about here. In 2017 VCAM’s Centre for Cultural Partnerships closed, however key academics within the Centre continue to engage with CDN where mutual research interests exist.


CastanetCastanet was a network of Victorian arts organisations, artists and government agencies that worked in partnership with Arts Victoria. Castanet supported community arts and cultural development in Victoria by offering professional development programs as well as planning, brokering and information services to anyone who was interested in developing community arts projects and activities. CDN established the original working group with one significant output of the group being the the Arts Information Exchange.

City of MelbourneCity of Melbourne

CDN is grateful for the support of the City of Melbourne in the provision of office space and administrative support in the first decade of the organisation’s life between 2002 and 2012. During that time, CDN and the City’s Arts and Participation Program produced the ArtsTalk series, a program of free public forums around topics of interest to cultural development workers. The organisations continues to collaborate in hosting LG Pro Special Interest Group for local government cultural development professionals. City of Melbourne is also represented on the National Local Government Cultural Forum and the Municipal Association of Victoria’s Arts and Culture Committee, initially established as a joint project of CDN & MAV.

Vic HealthVicHealth

CDN has partnered with the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation on a number of initiatives over several years. Previous joint initiatives and projects have included the Castanet community arts initiative, the LEAP project and Community Consent and the Arts project.

Constructing home and identity with young people from refugee backgrounds through media and technology.


‘A New Deal’ argues that engaged or participatory art practice can be shown to be central rather than marginal to the meaning and value of art in the ‘story’ of human society, but only if we take a long view and change the position from which we read and understand received history. It also argues that new models of art and institutional practice are needed in the present, which foreground and validate participation, engagement and commonality – the reconnection of artist and community within social space. These new models are needed if we are to generate the new art forms that emancipate rather than disempower the citizen and which are not defined by the cul de sac of commodity and consumerism.

This article argues that engaged or participatory art practice can be shown to be central rather than marginal to the meaning and value of art in the ‘story’ of human society, but only if we take a long view and change the position from which we read and understand received history.

This article argues that engaged or participatory art practice can be shown to be central rather than marginal to the meaning and value of art in the ‘story’ of human society, but only if we take a long view and change the position from which we read and understand received history.

‘A New Deal’ argues that engaged or participatory art practice can be shown to be central rather than marginal to the meaning and value of art in the ‘story’ of human society, but only if we take a long view and change the position from which we read and understand received history. Community Development Journal Vol 42 No 4

Local government project 2010-2013

CDN was contracted by VicHealth as an advisor on a series of local multi-year cultural development projects with the councils of Casey, Mildura and a group of Central Highlands councils; Ballarat, Ararat, Golden Plains, Hepburn, Moorabool and Pyrenees.

The projects included:

  • Six Shires/Three Goals/One United Team (6 x 3 x 1) (City of Ballarat with Ararat Rural City, Golden Plains Shire, Shire of Hepburn, Shire of Moorabool and Shire of Pyrenees)
  • Casey Arts Participation Initiative (City of Casey)
  • LEAPing into Arts and Culture Mildura (Mildura Rural City Council)

Further information can be found at VicHealth.


We initiate and run a range of projects that focus on cultural development in communities, with partners including local and state government, arts organisations and universities.  Through this work, we aim to expand the knowledge and experience of participants, especially artists,  communities and local government staff, and provide information to shape development of public policy. All our major projects include elements of evaluation or research to ensure that the knowledge gained from the project is documented and disseminated.

Public Discourse

We also regularly contribute to public debate, discussion and events for our sector: 

Making Culture CountEditors: Lachlan MacDowall, Marnie Badham, Emma Blomkamp and Kim Dunphy.

Culture and cultural development are now internationally recognised as important dimensions of contemporary governance and public policy. The production of accurate and relevant data has become central to cultural policy and how the cultural lives of citizens are understood. Conceptual and practical developments in measurement tools, such as cultural indicators, have the potential to enrich our understanding of culture’s role in wellbeing, vitality and citizenship. From UNESCO’s benchmarks for cultural freedom to comparative measures of provision and creative cities indices, diverse approaches to quantifying culture and tracking progress now exist. But how useful are all these measures? Are they helping us to keep track of what matters? What opportunities exist to contest, refine or democratise these systems of measurement? This book was co-edited ny CDN’s Research Program Manager Kim Dunphy with colleagues from the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Cultural Partnerships, Lachlan MacDowall, Marnie Badham and Emma Blomkamp.

For more information: or phone: (03) 9925 0282

Download Flyer

Purchase online here 

Wind & Sky Productions is pleased to announce that ‘Seeing the Land from an Aboriginal Canoe’ went live on Culture Victoria on the 27 May, to mark the beginning of National Reconciliation Week. The project explores how 19th century European settlers depended on Aboriginal navigators and canoe builders to transport goods, mail and people on the rivers of remote colonial Victoria. This film and multimedia project includes artwork from the regional collections of the Art Gallery of Ballarat and the Ballarat Gold Museum, as well as photographs, artwork and maps from the collections of the State Library of Victoria, Public Record Office Victoria and Museum Victoria. While it is very much a story of Central and Western Victoria the content covers the river systems of Victoria from the Murray to the coast.

CDN has developed an on-line resource for local government cultural development planning.

This page provides information and resources for councils about previous activities about cultural development planning for local government.

Cultural development planning forum series, Victoria, 2014 & 2015

CDN, in partnership with the Arts and Culture Committee of the Municipal Association of Victoria and host councils, hosted a series of three forums on cultural planning between April and July in central Melbourne (Melbourne City Council) and four regional locations: Camperdown (Corangamite Shire Council); Kerang (Gannawarra Shire Council); Seymour (Mitchell Shire Council) and Morwell (Latrobe City Council) in 2014.
Forums series program
Artshub article
Report on forum series
A further forum was held at MAV in Melbourne in May 2015. This event introduced the Framework for Cultural Development Planning (CDP) that CDN has been establishing over the past year, in collaboration with councils across Victoria. Hosted at the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), this event involved more than 40 staff and elected reps from metropolitan and regional councils, state governments, arts organisations and New Zealand national government, as well as students from several Victorian universities. It acted as a refresher and extension of last year’s forum series on cultural development planning run by CDN across Victoria.
Report on 2015 forum

Data sets for local cultural development

This document provides an overview of datasets that may be relevant and useful to cultural development planners in local government across Australia. A focus has been given to datasets available at local government level, as well as those that may be useful even if they are only available at state and national levels.
Cultural data for local government

Resource lists

Cultural planning annotated bibliography
This report provides a review of resources available about cultural planning that are relevant to local government cultural development in Australia. Documents and their weblinks are listed, along with a summary of each article’s content and potential usefulness to practitioners.

Evaluation for local cultural development bibliography
This report provides a review of resources available about evaluation that are relevant to local government cultural development in Australia. Documents and their web links are listed.

Review of the evidence about local cultural development
This document is the beginning of a larger project to review the evidence for the contribution of cultural development activity in local government, particularly in Australia. The work will be undertaken throughout 2014 and updated versions will be provided here as soon as they are available.

Other resources

This list includes other resources of interest to cultural development planners. We invite submissions of documents of interest.

An early plan from the City of Yarra 1998-99

1.     The Forum

The National Local Government Cultural Forum (aka Cultural Forum) is a network of capital city councils, local government associations and partners committed to sharing knowledge and expertise towards a common objective.

2.     Objective

To increase the capacity of local government to strengthen the arts and cultural development in their communities

3.     To Operating Principles

The Cultural Forum will draw on the UCLG Policy Statement on Culture that aims to;

    1. strengthen heritage, creativity, cultural industries, crafts, cultural tourism
    2. ensure culture has its rightful place in all public policies, particularly those related to education, the economy, science, communication, environment, social cohesion and international cooperation

The Cultural Forum will operate as a clearing-house for ideas and activities that improve policy impacts on the arts and cultural development in local government.

4.     Membership to the Forum

The membership will include representation from the eight capital cities, seven state-based local government associations, Australian Local Government Association, Cultural Development Network, Australia Council for the Arts, Office for the Arts and Global Cities Research Institute.

Adelaide City Council Local Government Association of Queensland
Australia Council for the Arts Local Government Association of South Australia
Australian Local Government Association Local Government Association of Tasmania
Brisbane City Council Local Government Association of the Northern Territory
Canberra City/ACT Melbourne City Council
Cultural Development Network Ministry for the Arts, Attorney-General’s Department,
Commonwealth of Australia
Darwin City Council Municipal Association of Victoria
Global Cities Research Institute Perth City Council
Hobart City Council Sydney City Council
Local Government NSW WA Local Government Association









The Forum members will agree on a forum member as Chair or approach an external person to Chair the forum meetings.

5.     Governance

The Cultural Forum is not a legal entity and the Cultural Development Network will be the responsible body for supporting the Cultural Forum, for signing contracts and receiving and acquitting the funds that underpin the activities of the Cultural Forum.

6.     Executive

The Cultural Development Network Incorporated (CDN) and the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) will form a joint executive of the Cultural Forum and manage the meeting agendas and the business of the forum.

7.     Secretariat

The Cultural Development Network Incorporated will provide the secretariat service to the Cultural Forum and manage the forum meeting schedule and distribution of meeting papers, agendas and minutes.  The Secretariat will maintain a system for internal communications and central storage and access to Cultural Forum documents and records.

8.     Code of conduct

The individual members of the Cultural Forum will:

    • have a broad understanding of cultural development issues faced by local government;
    • be genuinely interested in the Cultural Forum and the outcomes;
    • be committed to, and actively involved in pursuing the Cultural Forum’s outcomes;
    • be an advocate for the Cultural Forum’s objectives and outcomes;

9.     Role of members

Individual members of the Cultural Forum will formally represent their organisations on arts and cultural development issues and be able to present the views of their organisation.

Cultural Forum members will prepare for scheduled meetings and present ideas in an open way that can be shared by the other forum members.

The Cultural Forum can ask for members to join working groups to work on agreed projects and assignments between full Cultural Forum meetings

10.  Work plan and budget

The first meeting of National Local Government Cultural Forum will determine the work plan of the forum which will be reviewed at each subsequent meeting of the Cultural Forum.

The Cultural Development Network, as joint executive and secretariat, will provide the base level of support to the work plan and present relevant reports and information to the members of the Cultural Forum as required.

Working groups of the Cultural Forum will be formed to address significant and priority items in the work plan and will be led by one of the Forum members with a clear set of tasks and timeline/s, and supported by the secretariat.

The Cultural Forum does not have a budget other than that which supports the secretariat through the agreement with the Community Partnerships division of the Australia Council for the Arts.

The Cultural Forum can decide to seek further resources as it determines and when associated with specific initiatives or projects of a working group.

11.  Term of the Forum

The initial term of the National Local Government Cultural Forum is three years from January 2013 through to December 2015.

The Federal Government’s National Cultural Policy, Creative Australia, was recently released. It celebrates Australia’s strong, diverse and inclusive culture. It describes the essential role arts and culture play in the life of every Australian and how creativity is central to Australia’s economic and social success: a creative nation is a productive nation.

New Article | On song – Adelaide named a UNESCO City of Music | Adelaide has turned up its reputation as a vibrant musical mecca, with the South Australian capital officially named a UNESCO City of Music | Read more

New UNESCO Report | Cultural Times: the first global of cultural and creative industries.

The report shows cultural and creative industries account for 29.5 million jobs worldwide | Read more

New Resource | Creative Responses to Sustainability

A new series of guides mapping cultural initiatives engaging with social and environmental issues in different countries. Read more

New in Sociology Research | Culture as a Vocation: Sociology of career choices in cultural management by Vincent Dubois

Essential reading for those interested in how career pattern in the cultural sector are changing. Read more

New Book: The Secrets of Culture by D. Paul Schafer

Humanity’s future depends on the adoption of culture as the central organising principle of society. Originally trained as an economist, Schafer argues the current “economic age” must soon give way to a new “age of culture” that places the highest priority on people and the natural environment, rather than materialism and the marketplace.

New Article: Disrupting the Cycle of Urban Violence with Arts and Culture by Brenton Mock

Hip-hop dialled down street violence in the Bronx. New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Indian gangs made peace through craft. Why is culture such an underrated civic tool?

New Book: Creative Economy and Culture: Challenges, Changes and Futures for the Creative Industries.| By John Hartley, Wen Wen, and Henry Siling Li.  

A look at the conceptual challenges, the forces and dynamics of change, and prospects for the future of creative work at planetary scale.

New Toolkit : Youth Arts Tool Kit from Arts USA

Develop new or strengthen existing art programs for at risk youth.

New Book: Culture as a Vocation: Sociology of Career Choices in Cultural Management by Vincent Duboise

This book focuses on would-be cultural managers by identifying their social patterns and by revealing the resources, expectations and visions of the world they invest into their profession.

New Report : Culture and Creative Spillovers in Europe: report on the preliminary evidence review, October 2015

A collaborative preliminary methodological review about the evidence and causality of spillover effects of the arts, culture and creative industries in Europe.

New Book: Creating Cities

In an engaging, thoughtful and observational style, Marcus Westbury argues that most towns and cities are wasting their most obvious opportunities: the talent, imagination, and passion of the people that live there. In a globalised age, local creativity has access to new possibilities that most places have barely begun to grasp. More information

New Book: The Intervention: an Anthology

In this historic anthology, award-winning writers Rosie Scott and Dr Anita Heiss have gathered together the work of twenty of Australia’s finest writers. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous together create powerful statements from Northern Territory Elders to bring a new dimension and urgency to an issue that has remained largely outside the public radar.This book and a range of publications relating to reconciliation from Concerned Australians can be found here

New Book: The Creative City: Vision and Execution

The Creative City: Vision and Execution, edited by James E. Doyle and Biljana Mickov, challenges the popular understanding of the Creative City, by bridging the gap between the Creative City as concept and the Creative City as practice and, in so doing, provides a contemporary template for policy makers, city planners, and citizens alike. Read more

New Research Report: ‘How Creativity Works in the Brain’, Insight from a Santa Fe Institute Working Group, Cosponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.

This report summarises themes and trends emerging from psychological and neurobiological studies of creativity. It explores models for trans-disciplinary research collaborations and it foregrounds artistic creation as a process worthy of more rigorous study. Based on a two-day workshop held in Santa Fe, New Mexico in July 2014, the report also discusses the urgency of such research for broader societal gains. Read More

New Research Report : Building Audiences

This publication looks at the barriers to increasing engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and highlights ways the sector could be mobile audiences, through a greater understanding of attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. Read More

Special Issue: Hyperrhiz “Mapping Culture Multimodally”

Dr. Craig Saper, co-editor of Hyperrhize 12, and Felix Burgos have contributed to this special issue of Hyperrhiz that uses the phrase cultural mapping to describe both a practice and an emerging interdisciplinary field. With multiple roots extending through theory and diverse areas of practice, from artistic inquiry to community planning, cultural mapping reflects the spatial and placed-based research in cultural and artistic studies, architecture and urban design, geography, sociology, cultural policy and planning, and e-media studies. Its recent adoption within a variety of disciplinary areas has necessitated new methodologies, perspectives, and disciplinary objectives. More information

New Art and Health Blog: Latrobe University Art and Health

A new blog that offers a space for conversations and swapping of news, ideas, experiences and inspiring examples from practice and research. More information

New Book: Globalization, Culture and Development

New book edited by Christiaan de Beukelaer, JP Singh and Miikka Pyykkonen considering the links between the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and cultural development. More information

New Publication: Internationalizing Knowledge Management for Creative Economies

New publication by Lazaro Israel Rodriguez Olivia commissioned by German Commission to UNESCO considering North-South-South good practices in knowledge management, creative economy and cultura-for-development in Germany and Mexico. More information

New Report: Creative councils for creative communities produced by Marrickville Council (NSW) and the UTS Centre for Local Government (UTS:CLG)

Published by ACELG, this resource emphasises the role of creativity as a prerequisite to innovation in local government, particularly during a time of change and reform to the local government sector. The paper explores current thinking about creativity in communities, organisations and the public sector and discusses an approach taken within Marrickville Council about organisational creativity that could be considered by other local governments wishing to operate in a more creative and innovative way. More information

New Article: Why Don’t They Come?

By Ian David Moss, Louise Geraghty, Clara Schuhmacher and Talia Gibas on May 6, 2015
It’s not just the price of admission that’s keeping poor and less-educated adults away from arts events.
More information

New Film: ‘Seeing the Land from an Aboriginal Canoe’

Wind & Sky Productions is pleased to announce that ‘Seeing the Land from an Aboriginal Canoe’ went live on Culture Victoria on the 27 May, to mark the beginning of National Reconciliation Week. The project explores how 19th century European settlers depended on Aboriginal navigators and canoe builders to transport goods, mail and people on the rivers of remote colonial Victoria. This film and multimedia project includes artwork from the regional collections of the Art Gallery of Ballarat and the Ballarat Gold Museum, as well as photographs, artwork and maps from the collections of the State Library of Victoria, Public Record Office Victoria and Museum Victoria. While it is very much a story of Central and Western Victoria the content covers the river systems of Victoria from the Murray to the coast.

More Information
Media release

New Book: Arts and Cultural Leadership in Asia, Josephine Caust, University of Melbourne

This book presents a range of case studies of arts and cultural leadership across a large number of Asian countries. Besides examining different cultural frameworks and contexts, the book considers different cultural approaches to leadership, discusses external challenges and entrepreneurialism, and explores how politics can have a profound impact. Throughout, the book covers different art forms, and different sorts of arts and cultural organizations.
More information

New Article: ‘Pipe Dreams’ Public Art Commission to grace Pipemakers Park

Renowned Australian artist Matthew Harding is the successful artist selected for Maribyrnong City Council’s latest $170,000 Public Art Commission.  He will install his public art piece ‘Pipe Dreams’ at Thompson Reserve, the entrance to Pipemakers Park in Maribyrnong. Matthew Harding’s concept was inspired by the industrial heritage of the site.  It also references the energy and flow of the iconic Maribyrnong River and symbolises hopes and aspirations of the local community.
More information

New Interactive Resource: Building Social Cohesion in Our Communities

The Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) at the University of Technology, Sydney has recently developed a new online resource for local government which provides the sector with a practical approach to develop strong, socially cohesive communities. This interactive resource, is the first sector-specific resource to focus on social cohesion, supported by a strong evidence-base of current, validated research and local government case studies. It was developed for the Australian Human Rights Commission under the National Anti-Racism Strategy.

This free resource is available at

See more about the background and read a summary document at:

Conference Resources and Final Publication: Culture(s) in Sustainable Futures Conference (Helsinki, 6-8 May 2015) now available:

Streamed plenary sessions with the keynote speeches
Students’ reflections from the conference
List of abstracts
List of participants
The final publication of the COST Action IS 1007 “Culture in, as and for Sustainable Development” and the Executive Summary

New Print Resource: Cultural Mapping as Cultural Enquiry, edited by Nancy Duxbury, W.F. Garrett-Petts, and David MacLennan, is now in print!

This book address these themes, drawing on examples from Australia, Canada, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Egypt, Italy, Malaysia, Malta, Palestine, Portugal, Singapore, Sweden, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Ukraine. Contributors explore innovative ways to encourage urban and cultural planning, community development, artistic intervention, and public participation in cultural mapping—recognizing that public involvement and artistic practices introduce a range of challenges spanning various phases of the research process, from the gathering of data, to interpreting data, to presenting “findings” to a broad range of audiences.

More information

New Research Collection: Beyond Access, Arts Access Victoria

This research sought to create an evidence base for the creative case for inclusive arts practice to support greater recognition for artists with disability by transforming and extending notions of what art is, who makes it and how it is made.

More Information

New Annual Issue: Artslink Indigenous Global

The much-anticipated annual Indigenous issue is now available. Topics explore
the forging of new relationships across the globe in a transnational exchange of ideas, histories and shared concerns to do with the environment, colonialism and the place of indigenous peoples in the framing of world culture. To stock or purchase this issue of Artlink, please contact


New Media Release: Budget Cuts Impact the Australian Council for the Arts Funding

Measures announced in the Australian Government’s 2015 -16 Budget have a significant impact and the Australia Council has made a number of difficult decisions to manage the transition to the new funding framework. A number of grants and funding opportunities previously offered to arts and culture sector have been impacted.

For an overview of these planned changes please visit:

New film collection: Three film resources released to further support the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander women and men in local government

Your community, Country and council –Aboriginal women run for election – VLGA Youtube and DVDs available in 10 minute and 20 minute versions available on Youtube.

My Vote, your vote our vote VEC film to encourage voter registration

Our Vote Counts – stories of Aboriginal Women’s Voting Experience – Womens’ Health Goulburn North East

For more information on the resources please contact Linda Bennet

New Article: Rebel Elders- An Intergenerational Performance Project

Rose Turtle Ertler is a musician/sound artist currently working on several community inspired projects in Regional Victoria. One such project includes ‘Rebel Elders’, where Rose worked with nine elderly Ballarat residents on a movement based performance which was accompanied by a recorded soundtrack of their own stories of rebellion and music composed by local musicians. One aim of the project was to disprove ideas revealed in the Human Rights Commission (2013) about the negative image of elderly people in media who are often portrayed as dull, sick, grumpy and boring.

To read more about this thought provoking and heart felt project click here.

New Report: Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Nation: An Overview of Australian Arts

Arts Nation: An Overview of Australian Arts is a new report which provides evidence as a catalyst for informed discussion about arts and culture in Australia. It will be an evolving report which fills a critical gap by creating and interpreting a set of national indicators to increase our understanding of the Australian arts industry. This first report delivers a selected set of initial indicators that enrich the existing evidence base for the arts. It builds on key data collections and research undertaken by over 100 arts and research organisations across Australia. Eight leaders from across the arts sector shared their personal experiences and insights for Talking Points articles on the topics of Diversity and International. The report also includes analysis on the arts and subjective wellbeing to measure the impact of the arts on personal satisfaction levels and more broadly on society. I

More information

New newsletter: New Ministry for the Arts e-newsletter to launch in April

new e-newsletter will keep you in the loop with regular updates on the work of the Ministry, great feature articles on topical issues in the arts and cultural sector, and highlights of what’s on, interesting facts and funding opportunities.

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New Report: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Festival statistics: Key concepts and current practices (2009) 

In any community, festivals are an important showcase of culture and creativity, and the cornerstone of economic development strategies to attract tourists. But governments often lack the tools necessary to measure the full impact of such multi-faceted events.

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New Article: Not all graffiti is vandalism – let’s rethink the public space debate by Liam Miller, 27 March 2015

Is there a distinction between art and vandalism? This is the question that always seems to rise up when graffiti becomes a topic of conversation, as it has after Lynch’s outburst. This is, however, not just important for those of us who want to know the answers to obscure questions such as, “what is art?” It affects everyone.

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New website: Music & Travel Writer

On how the inclusion of culture with social, environment and economic policies strengthens local governance
Tuesday 4 October, 2011, Melbourne Town Hall, Swanston St, Melbourne

Conference Overview| Speakers’ Presentations | Photo Gallery


On how the inclusion of culture with social, environment and economic policies strengthens local governance (more…)

Volume I: Resistance and Reconciliation in Regions of Violence

Catherine Filloux, Roberta Levitow, Ruth Margraff, Dijana Milosevic, Charles Mulekwa, Abeer Musleh, Aida Nasrallah, Madhawa Palihapitiya, Lee Perlman, Devanand Ramiah. Edited by Cynthia Cohen, Roberto Varea, Polly Walker
Paperback, Price: $21.95
Acting Together: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict is a two-volume work describing peacebuilding performances in regions beset by violence and internal conflicts. Volume I: Resistance and Reconciliation in Regions of Violence focuses on the role theatre and ritual play in both the midst of and in the aftermath of violence. It highlights the stories of courageous artists and community leaders who create works of great power and beauty while telling truth to power and rebuilding severed relationships.

Emma Blomkamp, Emma Blomkamp, PhD candidate, VCAM and University of Auckland,
The political context of cultural indicators: evidence and values in democratic governance

Kim Dunphy, PhD candidate, International and Community Development, Deakin University
Understanding outcomes of participatory arts: a framework for evaluation

Marnie Badham, PhD student at the Centre for Cultural Partnerships in the Faculty of VCA and MCM, University of Melbourne.
‘Naming the World’ as representation: a relational approach in socially-engaged arts and cultural indicators (more…)

CDN undertakes a range of research projects that contribute to our aims of promoting cultural vitality.

Outcome‐focussed planning in Australian local government: How council plans and cultural development plans measure up’ by Surejan Uppal & Kim Dunphy in the Australian Journal of Public Administration, (currently on Early View), January 2019

Contemporary public policy increasingly emphasises a focus on outcomes, the difference that occurs in the lives of citizens from policy and activity of government. Other contemporary imperatives for effective planning include: recognition of the values of the community whom plans serve, direction towards goals and objectives, utilisation of evidence, articulation of theories of change that underpin planning and responsiveness to evaluation. This article reports a desk‐based research project to assess how local government planning documents meet these imperatives. Two documents are examined for 67 councils across Australia: the major strategic document, council plan or other‐named document and the cultural development plan (CDP) or other‐named document that directs staff and investment aimed at cultural enrichment of the LGA. Findings indicate that the majority of councils’ documents appeared only concordant with one or two of these planning imperatives. No plan addressed more than three. Overall, council plans and cultural development plans did not clearly indicate their responsiveness to values of their communities, nor include objectives that formed measurable steps towards goals or formally refer to the use of evidence in decision‐making. No plans included theories of change to underpin decision‐making. This analysis indicates clear areas of improvement for planning for local governance. 

‘When culture counts’ by John Smithies in Multiple Perspectives on Culture Counts, Cultural Trends, Volume 26,  Issue 4, November 2017

The introduction of the Culture Counts system in Australia has disturbed the cultural sector (arts, libraries and heritage) as it highlighted the existing lack of consistent, and therefore meaningful, evaluation of cultural activities.

In this opinion piece, Smithies writes in defence of Culture Counts as an innovative technology that set out to solve the problem of understanding how audiences, peers and artists think about the quality of work, and has since included broader impacts. However, in advance of this defence, he summarises the position of Cultural Development Network (CDN) – which is that the quality of the “work” to any group is not the most important aspect to measure. Read more

Cultural impact assessment: a systematic literature review of current methods and practice around the world, 2016.
Adriana Partal and Kim Dunphy.
This article presents the results of a systematic literature review on applications of cultural impact assessment (CIA) internationally.

Analysis of Victorian councils’ Cultural Development Plans, 2015
Kim Dunphy and Leda Yazgin
This report presents the findings of an assessment of cultural development plans published by councils across Victoria, based on their alignment with principles for cultural development planning in CDN’s Framework for Cultural Development Planning.

Findings of survey of Victorian councils’ cultural development activity, 2015
Kim Dunphy, John Smithies et al
This report presents the findings of a survey of Victorian councils undertaken in 2014-2015, about cultural development planning, cultural facilities, leadership of communities in cultural development and planning, and engagement of artists.

A holistic framework of evaluation for arts engagement, 2015.
Kim Dunphy.
This chapter proposes a holistic framework for evaluating the outcomes of arts engagement, across the domains of cultural, social, civic, environmental and economic.

Making Arts Central in a regional Australian community, 2015.
Cynthia Lam
This short article offers a discussion of the Arts Central project that was established to build a vibrant and culturally active community in central Victoria, Australia.

Frameworks for cultural development projects, 2015.
John Smithies and Kim Dunphy.
This chapter offers two frameworks developed for the specific context of cultural development in local government: a set of planning principles, and key stakeholder groups and the dynamic relationships between them.

Local councils, the arts and reconciliation, 2014.
Emma Asscher
This report explores ways the local councils in Victoria are contributing to reconciliation in their communities by using the arts as a vehicle.

Evaluating outcomes of arts engagement: a holistic model, 2014.
Dr. Kim Dunphy
Overview of paper presented at ENCATC Advanced Seminar: Rethinking Cultural Evaluation: Going Beyond GDP, Paris, 22 October 2014.

Cultural data for local government: research report, 2014.
Leda Yazgin and Kim Dunphy
This report provides a review of data about culture, including the arts, from across Australia that local government might use for planning and evaluation. 

Cultural planning practices in local government in Victoria, 2013.
Kim Dunphy, Lyndall Metzke and Linda Tavelli
Results of a state-wide survey about cultural planning practices in local government across Victoria.

Cultural impact assessment: international literature review, 2013
Kim Dunphy and Adriana Partal
This reports offers a short summary of findings of an international literature review on cultural impact assessment.

The art of cultural development, 2012.
John Smithies
CDN’s Director discusses how arts policies can help councils build stronger better connected communities in an issue of Local Government Managers Australia.

Measuring the contribution of culture, 2012.
Kim Dunphy
CDN’s Manager documents progress about indicators for councils’ investment in cultural activities in an issue of Local Government Managers Australia.

Art, Governance and the Turn to Community: Putting Art at the Heart of Local Government, 2010.
Martin Mulligan and Pia Smith
This report details findings of the Generations research project that sought to explore links between engagement in community based arts activities and active civic engagement. 

Informed Consent and the Arts, 2010.
Pia Smith and John Smithies
Literature review and guidelines for participants consent in community-based arts projects. CDN for VicHealth

International literature review on cultural and arts indicators, focussing on local government, 2010. 
Kim Dunphy for CDN

Draft framework of arts indicators for local government, Part 1 &  Part 2, 2010.
Kim Dunphy for CDN

How can the impact of cultural development work in local government be measured: towards more effective planning and evaluation strategies, 2010.
Kim Dunphy
Article in Local-Global journal, ReGenerating Community: Arts, community and governance, Vol. 7

Revitalizing Rural Communities Through Arts and Creativity, international research report, 2009.
Kim Dunphy
This chapter investigates the revitalisation of rural communities through arts and creativity.

Picture This: Increasing the cultural participation of people with a disability in Victoria, 2009.
Cultural Development Network
Literature Review and community consultation, for the Office for Disability, Arts Victoria and Department of Human Services.

BIGhART, Cultural Development Network and the City of Melbourne, 2001

Scott Rankin, Artistic Director of BIGhART, and his team of artists had not worked in a central city context before this project. BIGhART’s arts-led social inclusion programs had already had positive involvement with young people in rural Australia, and had theory and practice elements that we believed would be beneficial to the community cultural development agenda in Victoria.

With funding support from VicHealth, the project partners engaged a group of disadvantaged young people, case workers in social welfare agencies working with them and a team of mentoring artists led by filmmaker, Phillip Crawford. They created a public art event that used a mobile bed (symbolising homelessness) as the site for the screening of a series of short films made by young people in which their stories were creatively told. The bed, with a built-in multi-media screen, was pushed around Melbourne’s CBD by project participants during the Next Wave Festival in 2002. It stood in Federation Square as the Sqaure’s first ever public event during the Melbourne Festival. In the bed-vigil project, the bed was slept in 24 hours a day by project participants and notable Melburnians who shared their stories of being Knot@home with visitors.

Footage shot for and during the bed vigil was then integrated with other screen-based and live performances that formed BIGhART’s Melbourne Festival theatre work, Knot@home at the Capitol Theatre. This continued the creative exploration of homelessness and the impact of being Knot@home by sharing indigenous and refugee experiences. Kerry Armstrong was one the professional artist mentors involved in this project which has led, among other things, to a greater awareness of the power of cultural expression as a vital component of effective social justice interventions.

The power of the arts in juvenile justice contexts was examined at a forum, Taking A Risk – the ART of Re-engaging Young People, convened by CDN after Knot@home’s conclusion. This forum consolidated links with other community cultural development artists and agencies in this field, including Sally Marsden and the Jesuit Social Services and Maud Clark and Somebody’s Daughter Theatre Company.

To watch the production of short films online click here

To order a copy of the film click here

Knot @ Home Project Study Guide


Photo: Wedderburn’s children in performance.This project was developed by CDN in partnership with the at La Trobe University, Bendigo. It began life as a ‘triple bottom line’ audit of five small towns in central Victoria. led the research program that gathered and analysed local data against ‘sustainability indicators’ in social, environmental and economic terms.

This project was developed by CDN in partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Regional Communities at La Trobe University, Bendigo. It began life as a ‘triple bottom line’ audit of five small towns in central Victoria. Dr Maureen Rogers led the research program that gathered and analysed local data against ‘sustainability indicators’ in social, environmental and economic terms.

When the Network got involved in 2001 and added the ‘fourth pillar’ of culture to the equation, this academic research study was transformed into an arts-led community engagement program actively involving hundreds of people in the towns of Dunolly, Talbot, Carisbrook, Maldon and Wedderburn. Artists were commissioned as animators and interpreters. The processes of collecting, interpreting and expressing the research data were transformed. Thanks to the arts, the elusive element of active engagement by community members was achieved. The results exceeded all expectations.

Thanks to Andrea Hicks, a visual artist and community activator, schools, children, tertiary students, local businesses, councils and community leaders were drawn into the project. They made it sing. During 2002, Andrea co-ordinated a massive undertaking: countless townspeople made (and later exhibited) a range of artworks in clay, on fabric, on film and on paper that explored the research themes. These were created at workshops led by local artists Andrea commissioned to share their skills. They were exhibited at the project’s finale events in each centre’s town hall through October 2002.

Another critical ingredient in this project’s success was the creative input of Craig Christie, a composer, writer and director who worked with townspeople to produce an original musical theatre production that drew on ideas shared during focus groups that explored social cohesion. The show, Right Where We Are, celebrated real-life stories of experience in small country towns. It was performed and staged by local people at the finale town hall events. Each night, a local talent show warmed up packed houses in all five towns before the curtain rose on Right Where We Are and then the roof nearly lifted off.

Local filmmaker, Philip Ashton caught it all on camera and produced a documentary of the project including the early planning stages. This film, A Journey in Community Building and a CD of songs from the theatre show are still available for sale. Local artist Anne Moloney has designed an interactive website that depicts the social connections in each town along with research material and project highlights.

A key reason for CDN’s involvement in the Small Towns: Big Picture project was to promote the value of the arts in community development, economic development, and environmental management in regional communities, and to strengthen connections between the arts and academic institutions and policy bodies in the regional development field including local government.

The partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Regional Communities at La Trobe University has proved to be a successful way of promoting the value of artists as ‘engagers’ of community action. The key researcher, Dr Maureen Rogers, in her discussions and presentations to academic and policy colleagues ends her story of the Small Towns: Big Picture program with the words: “this researcher will never go into a community without an artist again”. She made this comment to the 300 strong audience at the Local Government Community Services Association of Australia National Conference, Just and Vibrant Communities in Townsville in July 2003 after she and Judy Spokes had made a presentation about the project. Judy Spokes and Maureen Rogers made a presentation about Small Towns Big Picture in Kamloops, Canada, at the Cultural Future of Small Cities conference in May 2005.

In April 2003, the visual arts exhibition of the project (curated by Andrea Hicks and comprising mainly children’s artworks) was launched at the City Gallery in Melbourne. This was a rare example of country arts showing in the city rather than the other way around. This event was also the premiere of A Journey in Community Building, the video documentary of the program by Phillip Ashton. This screened on a loop during the six weeks of the exhibition season. Also premiering on the opening night of the exhibition was the CD soundtrack of Right Where We Are, featuring the songs from the musical theatre show created with townspeople by Craig Christie. A live performance of excerpts on the night was also a big hit.

Many of the original artworks are now embedded in the public spaces of the towns or hang in community centres and schools as a lasting legacy of the project. The permanent artworks to be installed by the Central Goldfields Shire Council together with Celebrating Carisbrook, a community festival in March 2004, are further tangible results. An arts policy for the Shire is another important development encouraged by this project.

Artist Andrea Hicks has gone on to co-ordinate various community arts activities in Carisbrook and Maryborough that create a high profile for the creative dimension of community building. This development work has led to the commissioning of a community public art work program in Carisbrook that was informed by the Small Towns: Big Picture social research. This new ‘legacy project’ was supported by a VicHealth Local Government Arts and Environment grant.

Read more:

  • Rogers, M. and Spokes, J. (2003). Does Cultural Activity Make A Difference to Community Capacity? A key question addressed by Small Towns Big Picture project, New Community Quarterly, 1(4).
  • Rogers, M. (2003). Small Towns: Big Picture — Social Sustainability Indicators and the Arts, Social Dimensions of the Triple Bottom Line in Rural Australia – Bureau of Rural Sciences. Download PDF
  • Project slideshow 

The World Culture Project is based on the belief that culture and cultures have a central role to play in global development and human affairs and are the key to human welfare and environmental well-being in the future. The Project was initiated in 1988 to commemorate the World Decade for Cultural Development (1988-1997). It was officially designated a World Decade for Cultural Development activity by UNESCO in 1989. This site includes a number of interesting full-text articles related to culture and cities/communities/municipalities.

Arts residencies in the Asian Century
Asialink Arts Residency Program
presented by the Cultural Development Network, City of Melbourne and Asialink


CDN is managed by a Board of volunteers whose expertise includes arts practice, academia, local and state government, the non-profit sector and arts organisations.

Paul Holton, Chair, (joined 2003)

Paul is Director Development with East Gippsland Shire Council. His role encompasses strategic management of Statutory Land Use Planning, Economic Development, Capital Projects and Council Enterprises across the East Gippsland Shire. He has worked in Local Government for over 20 years in areas such as arts facilities administration, cultural development, leisure facilities and events management. Paul was part of the team that initiated the highly successful Wangaratta Festival of Jazz. He is a former member of the Australia Council’s Community Cultural Development Board.
Contact Paul

Sarah Catherine Firth, Deputy Chair (joined 2018)

Sarah is an award-winning comic artist, writer, and animator based in Melbourne. She also runs a small business, offering live illustration, graphic recording and strategic visualisation services for multiple clients across industries.

Some of her notable creative achievements have been, in 2006 Sarah was named one of Australia’s top 25 artists aged under 25 and under in the 25/25 show by Art & Australia Magazine. In 2007 she received a commission and residency with Carriageworks, followed by a commission from Experimenta Media Art in 2010.

In 2012 she was awarded the Talking Difference Fellowship at the Immigration Museum, and her animated documentary Face to Face won The People’s Choice Award in the Australian Shorts section of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival. This led to a two-month long collaboration with the Arquetopia Foundation and the Imagina Museum in Mexico.

In 2017 she performed and had comic work in the Yogyakarta Biennale in Indonesia, the Lake International Comic Festival in the UK and the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. In 2018 her comic collection Short Shorts was nominated for a Ledger Award, she received a Frankie Magazine Good Stuff Award, was a finalist in the Incinerator Social Change Art Award, and her graphic essay on complexity was listed in The Conversation’s ten best literary comics in Australia.

She has a stack of self-published comics, a new illustrated book “Badass Mums” with Affirm Press, and comics in upcoming anthologies with Abrams Books, Picador and Allen & Unwin. She is currently working on her debut graphic novel thanks to the Creators Fund program.
Contact Sarah

Deputy Mayor Rod Fyffe, Treasurer (Representative of the Board of the Municipal Association of Victoria. Joined September, 2012)

Rod Fyffe is the Deputy Mayor for Greater Bendigo City Council (2016-2017) and has served as a Councillor for Greater Bendigo since 1996. In this time he has served four terms as Mayor (2003/2004, 2004/2005, 2010/2011 and 2015/2016) and is the first person to serve as Deputy Mayor. In 2013 Cr Fyffe was awarded an Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his services to Local Government. He is a member of the Board of the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) representing Rural North Central Victoria. He is also a member of the Insurance Committee, Chair of the Arts and Culture Committee and a member of the Professional Development Reference Group at MAV. Cr. Fyffe is a Member of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Libraries, a Member of the State Library Public Libraries Advisory Committee and a member of the Australian Packaging Covenant Council.
Contact Rod

Dr Nicholas Hill, (joined December 2007)

Nick Hill is a lecturer and arts manager. His qualifications include BA (Hons); PG DipM and MA. He completed his PhD at South Bank University, England, on – “The Folk and the People: Patronage and Promotion in the Tamasha of Maharashtra”. Previously he worked at South Bank University as Senior Lecturer in Arts Marketing and Course Director (Services Management program). His research interests include Arts & Patronage, South Asian Performing Arts (Folk – Popular – Traditional), Performing Arts Hybrids, Arts Marketing and Communications, Instrumental and Intrinsic Arts Benefits, Arts Ethnography, The lived experience and prism methodology. Nick currently works at International House, a residential college owned by the University of Melbourne.
Contact Nicholas

Hanut Singh Dodd, (joined May 2006)

Hanut is a highly experienced cultural, heritage and tourism manager with skills in specialised areas such as museum management, cultural and environmental tourism, event management, exhibition development, public program management, architectural conservation, moveable cultural heritage and collection management. Hanut has more than ten years of experience working as a freelance curator and architectural conservator and has also worked for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service as Area Manager at the Hill End Historic Site, as Director of the National Wool Museum, for councils in Victoria including Cities of Melbourne, Port Phillip and Hume and as a Project Manager with the Alpine Resorts Coordinating Council. Hanut currently works for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in Victoria as a Manager of 4×4 Fire Fleet Reform, Policy and Integration.
Contact Hanut

Greg Box (joined May 2011)

Greg is currently the Manager of Arts Culture & Heritage at Yarra Ranges Council developing a number of cultural facilities. He has worked as an arts practitioner and administrator with many different communities from a diverse range of social and cultural backgrounds. Much of Greg’s work has focussed on building community partnerships and cultural development projects at Greater Dandenong and Yarra Ranges. In particular he has a strong background in creating public art in local government and helped establish SITE: RMIT Public Art within the school of art at RMIT.
Contact Greg

Lindy Allen (joined March 2016)

Lindy is a highly-experienced senior executive, currently operating Living-Proof Media, an independent consultancy to the arts offering services including documentation, evaluation, writing and editing for publication. Recent professional roles include Chief Executive Officer of Regional Arts Australia (2012-2014) and Chief Executive Officer of Regional Arts Victoria (2004-2012). During 2012-2013, Lindy was Executive Producer for the Centenary of Canberra’s largest national community engagement program, One River, spanning four states and a territory.

Current board roles include Falls Creek Resort Management, Winton Wetlands Committee of Management, Creating Australia and the Cultural Development Network. Former board roles include Lakes Entrance-based Aboriginal cultural organisation Wurrinbeena, the Narrandera-based arts organisation CAD FActory, Regional Arts Australia and Trustee of the Australian Children’s Theatre Foundation. Other roles include judge and mentor for the Victorian Tourism Industry Commission Awards and Australia Day Ambassador.

Professional qualifications include Bachelor of Arts (University of Melbourne), Graduate Diploma Arts Management (University of South Australia), Photojournalism major, Bachelor of Creative Arts, Latrobe Uni Bendigo and Graduate Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD).
Contact Lindy

Michelle Zemancheff (joined March 2018)

Michelle Zemancheff is a cultural industry and local government professional with almost a decade’s experience, building on a former career in law. Michelle’s formal qualifications include a Master of Arts (Arts Management) with Distinction (RMIT), with her dissertation having researched the nuances of measuring cultural value and social impact; subsequent to a Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) with Distinction (RMIT), and an Advanced Diploma of Photography (PSC). Michelle is currently the Coordinator of Arts and Cultural Development at Nillumbik Shire Council. Her portfolio encompasses cultural planning, policy development and strategic direction. She is also responsible for a spectrum of cultural development that ranges from creative industries, public art and community arts.
Contact Michelle

Many young people from refugee backgrounds struggle to develop positive cultural identities in the settlement context. Can connecting them to their peers and communities overseas assist in this challenge? 

The premise of the Home Lands project was that ongoing communication with ‘home’ and the diaspora could provide important sources of support and positive identification for young people from refugee backgrounds. To explore this premise, young people from refugee backgrounds in Melbourne were supported in the production of audiovisual materials for exchange over the Internet with their friends, families and communities overseas in camp and settlement contexts. Participants were from two groups of young people from refugee backgrounds (Karen and Hazara). Both groups worked collaboratively in the production of digital media short films; Karen youth in Melbourne connecting with displaced youth in Thailand and Hazara youth in Melbourne collaborating with peers in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Participants shared their appropriation of the city as a place of their own, extending their feeling of belonging beyond suburbs in which they reside, to the metropolis of Melbourne, to their ties to other homelands and family abroad.

The project resulted in a number of significant findings: how youth create and navigate their present and future as belonging not only to one nation, but to a rapidly changing and interconnected world; and the importance of transnational relationships for refugee youth settlement, with Information Communication Technology (ICT) and digital communication playing a central role in maintaining these relationships. The project has been one of the first to identify key roles that ICTs play in assisting those who have experienced forced migration more broadly and has resulted in important social and cultural contributions. It is particularly relevant in helping a rethink of what a multicultural Australia might look and feel like and what developing a sense of belonging in Australia means to young people from refugee backgrounds.

Young participants created a number of artistic products and presented those to a range of audiences.  This included the production of two DVDs- Karen Voices: Collected Works 2010-2011 and Bamiyarra: Collected Works 2012-2013, which contain songs, short films and photographic stories produced and exhibited by the young people in the project. The products are accessible both as hard copy, and through internet links to the project website, Swinburne Library, Policy Online and YouTube. The photography exhibition by the Hazara participants travelled beyond Melbourne to Sydney and the outer suburbs of Melbourne.

A symposium was hosted by partners in 2011 to share information about the project: Constructing home and identity with young people from refugee backgrounds through media and technology. Presented by the Cultural Development Network and the City of Melbourne, supported by Latrobe University Refugee Research Centre, the Centre for Multicultural Youth and APC.AU. Papers and presentations are available here.

The projected also resulted in a range of scholarly outcomes:

Gifford S.M, Wilding. R, (2013). Digital Escapes? ICTs, Settlement and Belonging Among Karen Youth in Melbourne, Australia, Journal on Refugee Studies

Rodriguez-Jimenez, A. and Gifford, S.M. (2010). Finding voice: Learnings and insights from a participatory media project with recently arrived Afghan young me with refugee backgrounds, Youth Studies Australia, 29(2): 33-41.

Wilding, R. (2009). Refugee Youth, Social Inclusion and ICTs: Can Good Intentions Go Bad?, Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 7(2/3). 159-175.

Wilding. R (2012). Mediating Culture in Transnational Spaces: An Example of Young People From Refugee Backgrounds, Continuum.

The HomeLands project was funded by an Australia Research Council Linkage Grant, led by the Refugee Research Centre- La Trobe University and supported by the City of Melbourne (Arts Participation Program), the Cultural Development Network, the Centre for Multicultural Youth and


1999 – Following a national conference ‘Art and Community: New Century, New Connections’ organised by a group of local governments in Melbourne, the need for an ongoing structure to support the role of culture in local development was identified.

2000 – Cultural Development Network was first established with Judy Spokes as Executive Officer. 

2003 – CDN established as an independent non-profit organisation overseen by a board of experts in culture and local governance.

2012 –  A re-orientation towards a stronger research focused led to a co-location with the Global Cities Research Institute at RMIT University. CDN now has a formal partnership with the Centre for Global Research (CGR).

The current CDN team has a long history with the organisation. Kim Dunphy joined as Manager in 2004, John Smithies as Director in 2005, Amy Stevenson as Administration and Research Officer in 2015 and Holly Schuable as Research Officer in 2017.

CDN regularly hosts students and interns from around Australia and the world. Two of these interns have now joined the CDN team; Raji Uppal, Master of Arts Management, RMIT University, Melbourne; and Vanessa Di Grazia, Bachelor of Arts (International Studies), RMIT University. .

What we do and how we do it

Cultural Development Network (CDN) addresses its goal of a culturally rich and vibrant society by working to increase the expression of culture through the platform of the arts, libraries and heritage. We do this by building the capacity of local government across Australia to support artists and local communities and work towards integrated planning across all levels of government.

CDN carries out significant research and development into what matters to communities, their elected representatives, artists and arts managers. Understanding better planning principles, how to evaluate and provide meaningful measurement of outcomes, particularly the understanding of connection of cultural outcomes to economic, social, environmental and civic outcomes of engagement in cultural development activities.

CDN acknowledges five domains of public policy: civic, cultural, economic, environmental and social, which are all important and interconnected for a good quality of life. CDN’s work is sited within the cultural domain and directed towards its primary goal, of a culturally rich and vibrant Australian society. At the same time, CDN acknowledges that cultural development activities impact on, and are impacted by, all policy domains.

CDN advocates for a stronger role for cultural expression to build a healthier, more engaged, sustainable and creative society. The organisation stresses the importance of local government in nurturing cultural vitality and sees the arts, within culture, as central to this vision. These ideas have been reflected in a number of publications, firstly the Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: culture’s essential role in public planning, written by Jon Hawkes in 2001 to explicate the organisation’s goals. This monograph has been very influential internationally, including underpinning the work of the international peak body, United Cities and Local Government’s Committee for Culture. In 2015 the organisation partnered with the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Cultural Partnerships to produce the edited collection Making Culture Count: the politics of cultural measurement (MacDowall, Badham, Blomkamp & Dunphy, Palgrave, 2015)

The organisation has gradually moved from a state-based to a national role, catalysed by its establishment of the National Local Government Cultural Forum in 2013. The group comprises representatives from federal government arts agencies, every capital city, and local government peak bodies from each state and territory across Australia, who collaborate to develop culture’s role in local government policy and practice. CDN also has strong partnerships internationally, particularly through United Cities and Local Governments in the ASPAC (Asia-Pacific) region.


Through this website, our projects, published research, participation in public programs and our monthly e-bulletins, we provide opportunities for people interested in the cultural vitality of local communities to exchange information and ideas.

Discourse and Debate

Since our establishment in 2000, we have initiated or contributed to more than 150 public events. These have been designed to stimulate productive dialogue between sectors as diverse as refugee and youth services, academia, school and community education, disability, housing, environmental sustainability, juvenile justice, local government culture development, and community services. We have also run seven major conferences: Making Culture Count in 2012, Culture: A New Way of Thinking for Local Government in 2011, Regenerating Community in 2009, Expanding Cultures in 2007, The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability in 2004, Beyond Cultural Policy Symposium in 2003, and The Art of Dissent in 2002.

Our activities have brought thousands of people together to meet, inspire and challenge each other toward the common goal of the development of culturally vital community life. Events tackling new topics and audiences are being developed all the time. 

 Projects and Partnerships

We initiate and run a range of projects that focus on cultural development in communities, with partners including local and state government, arts organisations and universities. Through this work, we aim to expand the knowledge and experience of participants, especially artists,  communities and local government staff, and provide information to shape development of public policy. All our major projects include elements of evaluation or research to ensure that the knowledge gained from the project is documented and disseminated.


We advocate for the inclusion of cultural vitality to the accepted ‘triple bottom line’ planning goals of economic, social and environmental sustainability. Our main tool in this endeavour is Jon Hawkes’ monograph, The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability (pdf summary), that we commissioned in 2001. The ideas expressed in this publication inform our approach to the role of culture in society, as they influence communities, planners and policy makers all over Australia and overseas. The international peak body for local government, UCLG, has recently adopted a policy statement acknowledging “culture as the fourth pillar of development“. We represent the perspective of the cultural dimension on government and other decision making panels through our projects, public discourse and publications.