Each year, we support, develop and present contemporary arts in collaboration with our communities of focus: First Nations, culturally and linguistically diverse, LGBTIQA+ and artists with disability and connect with an engaged audience.
You can read more about our story below or deep dive with our Annual Reports.
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 Footscray Community Arts 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 Footscray Community Arts
Footscray Community Arts 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:
50 Years of Vibrant Creativity
Footscray Community Arts has been recognised for exemplary practice in community arts and cultural development. Our year-round programs have fostered generations of contemporary arts practitioners. In 2011, the precinct underwent development with upgrades to our cultural facilities that enhanced the last decade of our cultural capability. We continue to evolve as we respond to national and international policy and social trends and a rapidly changing West. We make a significant contribution to the Australian cultural footprint: we engaged over 1400 artists and visitation grew by 24% to 86,429 in 2019.
COVID-19 and Cultural Resilience
For the majority of 2020, our staff and artists demonstrated remarkable resilience, delivering over 1,000 online experiences to over 100,000 digital audiences members. While difficult, the extended closure period provided Footscray Community Arts with time to reflect, plan, redesign and invest in shaping the future of this unique community arts precinct – to emerge stronger and with renewed relevance to our communities of the west through a refreshed brand, enhanced digital capabilities, an ambitious cultural agenda and a Precinct Plan to realise a creative precinct of the future.
Image: Uncle Larry Walsh at Wominjeka Festival 2018. Photograph by Gianna Rizzo.