About Us

What we do and how we do it

The Cultural Development Network is an independent non-profit organisation that links individual practitioners, community organisations and government across Victoria around issues of cultural vitality. We advocate a stronger role for cultural expression to build a healthier, more engaged and sustainable society. We work towards a society in which local communities, in all their diversity, have the resources and support they need to make and express their own culture. We advocate a stronger role for local government in nurturing cultural vitality and see the arts (at the heart of culture) as central to this vision. We aim to elevate and embed the appreciation of culture and community-based arts into public life at the local level. The Cultural Development Network is based in Melbourne, Australia. We work primarily across our state of Victoria and have partnerships in other Australian states.

Our Four Goals:

Facilitating the growth of useful connections
Discourse and Debate
Stimulating interaction between diverse perspectives
Projects and Partnerships
Demonstrating the value of community-based arts activities by example
Promoting the need for public support to cultural development

Our Four Action Areas:

To support the flourishing of diverse and authentic community cultures, we hope that

Arts Practice
The making of art becomes an everyday activity amongst communities
Community Understanding
The value of making art together is embraced by agencies and organisations that work with communities
Effective Service
The Cultural Development Network responds with initiatives that are relevant and effective to our members, their communities and the wider community, especially in Victoria
Government commitment
All spheres of government develop policy and resources that support independent community cultural activities


Through this website, our e-bulletins, public programs and projects, 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 120 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 also publish articles, lead discussions, present at conferences and represent the perspective of the cultural dimension on government and other decision making panels.