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Capacity building

A large group of people seated around a table, talking and writing notes.
Perth leadership exchange, November 2018.

The Australia Council develops and strengthens leadership across the arts and cultural sector by delivering a high performing suite of capacity building programs. These programs develop people, foster connections and broker opportunities for Australian arts and artists at home and overseas. They grow skills and networks that support artistic ambitions and participation in a stronger global arts community, strengthening Australia’s position as a preferred global partner.

Responding to the needs of the sector, the Council’s capacity building programs target a range of arts professionals and support leaders at different stages of their careers. From general managers and producers to artistic directors and practising artists, the programs nurture dynamic and diverse leaders. More than 630 arts leaders benefited from these programs in 2018–19.

The Council’s capacity building opportunities include:

  • the Arts Leaders and Future Leaders programs
  • the International Leadership Program
  • the Arts Governance Program
  • leadership exchanges and masterclasses
  • secondments and leadership collaborations
  • scholarships and partnerships.

Arts Leaders and Future Leaders are the Council’s core leadership programs. Two cohorts in each program were active during the 2018–19 period. A total of 97 emerging, mid-career and established arts professionals participated in several residential intensives, online workshops, group projects and peer-to-peer engagement.

After a successful pilot of the program, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed its continued support for the International Leadership Program. A further 30 international arts professionals from nine eligible Indo-Pacific countries will join the leadership programs in Australia over the next three years. Ten leaders from China, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam are currently participating in the programs.

Now in its third year, the Arts Governance Program is a national program to support arts organisations in enhancing their governance practices. To date, the program has enabled over 1,000 managers and board directors to refresh and improve their governance practices. During the 2018–19 period, a total of 143 leaders attended face-to-face workshops and over 320 viewed online webinars.

Leadership Exchanges in Broome and Perth broadened the access of these leadership programs by inviting 59 local and regional leaders to join the conversations.

Participants of the Future Leaders Program undertook self-directed secondments in a range of Australian and international arts institutions. A total of 23 secondments were supported in organisations such as Dark Mofo (Australia), Regional Arts Victoria (Australia), Sharjah Art Foundation (United Arab Emirates), Centre for the Less Good Idea (South Africa), Cemeti (Indonesia), Detroit Symphony Orchestra (United States) and Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity (Canada).

In 2018, the Council introduced a new leadership collaboration fund for alumni of the leadership programs. The purpose of the opportunity is to support ongoing exchange and collaboration between alumni on completion of the formal programs. Activities include a range of artistic, cultural and capacity building elements and are linked to leadership development. A total of 10 collaborations between 43 alumni were supported during the year.

The Council continued to invest in leadership development through partnering with strategic institutions in both internationally and in Australia. Through a range of scholarships, arts leaders access further opportunities and our development impact is increased. In 2018–19, five mid-career performing arts leaders received scholarships to participate in the International Society of the Performing Arts Fellowship Program and a senior First Nations leader participated in the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation Milparanga program. In 2019 we introduced a new global leadership development opportunity for CEOs through a partnership with National Arts Strategies in the United States.

“I’ve found it a rich and rewarding experience that has fundamentally altered my perspective on what good arts leadership looks like and how it can be practised.”
– Arts Leaders participant

“The program has given me a bird’s eye view of my own work, and myself, and I am very happy with that viewpoint, which can get lost in the everyday rhythm of life.”
– International Future Leaders participant

“The support I got was massive and very impressive. My secondment has not only enhanced my learnings so much, but also given me so many friends for life.”
– Future Leaders secondment participant

Maximising network capabilities

The Australia Council contributes to the long-term resilience of the Australian arts community by investing in the individuals who lead our sector, and by activating knowledge-sharing and network-building across regions and areas of practice.

In December 2018 the Council hosted a unique arts specific training and networking program for arts workers, arts managers and board directors from the Broome region. The two day interactive learning experience brought together multiple training and outreach programs. It connected and inspired participants and enhanced their arts leadership skills. ​The exchange was a partnership with Country Arts WA, Arts Law and the Institute of Community Directors Australia, an Our Community enterprise.

A chain of camels walking along the beach with the sun behind them.
Camels on Cable Beach in Broome. Credit: Emily Jane Smith.

Creating pathways to disability-led leadership and employment​

The Australia Council has a longstanding commitment to access and inclusion and fostering representation and diversity in the arts. We recognise the barriers and inequities in society that impact on arts practice and participation, including for people with disability. Visible success stories, role models and mentors are key to building opportunities and leadership.1

Dan Graham is a theatre director and emerging advocate for artists with disability. The Council supported Dan to travel to New York in January 2019 for his Future Leaders secondment to take advantage of the critical mass of performing arts activities. He met with access departments in theatres which do not currently exist in Australia and brought back new ideas and best practice for the local sector. The leadership opportunities are helping Dan secure further opportunities to develop his practice and professional career.

1. Australia Council 2018, Creating Pathways: Insights on support for artists with disability.

Dan Graham black and white head shot. Dan looks at the camera smiling.
Future Leaders participant Dan Graham. Credit: Robert Brindley.