The key to understanding FCAC’s future is grounded in the story of our past. FCAC values the ongoing legacies of the people who drove social, political and cultural change in the West, and recognises the rich history of both FCAC and Melbourne’s West.
First Nations Context
“In the past Aboriginal people lived, worked, played sport, had meetings and performed in Melbourne’s west. Today this is still happening and we are still here…
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were always part of the industry in the west. People were part of the Aboriginal movement but many were also workers, maintaining their Aboriginal identity. In the west, we were part of the industries, and the people who supported the establishment of FCAC also supported Aboriginal people’s rights. This is our shared history.”
– Uncle Larry Walsh
Colonisation and Migration
European settlement dates from the early 1800s with the settlement of Saltwater (Footscray) established in 1839.
Significant growth took place in Footscray in the late 1800’s, with the increase of residential (mainly in the form of small workers cottages) and industrial development. Footscray remained predominantly an industrial area until the 1960s and 1970s when industry moved further into Melbourne’s outer suburbs.
Following World War II, Footscray experienced an influx of large numbers of migrants. Continued migration over the last 60 years means the West remains one of the most culturally diverse areas in Victoria.
Establishment of FCAC
FCAC was established in 1974 by artists, unionists and other community activists with a clear agenda of access for all. This group of founders successfully advocated for state and federal funding to establish an arts centre responsive to the social and cultural needs of Footscray’s marginalised and disadvantaged communities. At the time, the creation of a community arts centre was unique in Australia and extraordinary for Melbourne’s West which was lacking in basic infrastructure, transport systems and recreation facilities.
Leadership and Evolution: 45 Years of Vibrant Creativity
The founding principle of ‘access for all’ has remained at the heart of FCAC’s evolution. For over 45 years, FCAC has been recognised for exemplary practice in community arts and cultural development. Our year round programs and companies in residence have fostered generations of contemporary arts practitioners. FCAC makes a significant contribution to the Australian cultural footprint with 105 new works created at FCAC in 2018 and average visitation of 80,000 per year since 2015. In 2011, the precinct underwent a development with upgrades to our cultural facilities that enhanced the last decade of cultural capability for the centre. FCAC continues to evolve as we respond to national and international policy and social trends and a rapidly changing West.
IMAGE. 1. Opening night of Due West Arts Festival, 2019. Photograph by Jacinta Keefe.