Arts in Australia

Last updated

The Arts in Australia refers to the art produced in the area of, on the subject of, or by the people of the Commonwealth of Australia and its preceding Indigenous and colonial societies. Indigenous Australian art, music and story telling attaches to a 40–60,000-year heritage and continues to affect the broader arts and culture of Australia. During its early western history, Australia was a collection of British colonies, therefore, its literary, visual and theatrical traditions began with strong links to the broader traditions of English and Irish literature, British art and English and Celtic music. However, the works of Australian artists – including Indigenous as well as Anglo-Celtic and multicultural migrant Australians – has, since 1788, introduced the character of a new continent to the global arts scene – exploring such themes as Aboriginality, Australian landscape, migrant and national identity, distance from other Western nations and proximity to Asia, the complexities of urban living and the "beauty and the terror" of life in the Australian bush.

Indigenous Australian art art made by the indigenous peoples of Australia

Indigenous Australian art or Australian Aboriginal art is art made by the Indigenous peoples of Australia and in collaborations between Indigenous Australians and others. It includes works in a wide range of media including painting on leaves, wood carving, rock carving, sculpting, ceremonial clothing and sand painting. This article discusses works that pre-date European colonisation as well as contemporary Indigenous Australian art by Aboriginal Australians. These have been studied in recent years and have gained much international recognition.

The culture of Australia is primarily a Western culture, to some extent derived from Britain but also influenced by the unique geography of Australia, the cultural input of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and other Australian people. The British colonization of Australia began in 1788, and waves of multi-ethnic migration followed. Evidence of a significant Anglo-Celtic heritage includes the predominance of the English language, the existence of a democratic system of government drawing upon the British traditions of Westminster Government, Parliamentarianism and constitutional monarchy, American constitutionalist and federalist traditions, Christianity as the dominant religion, and the popularity of sports originating in the British Isles. Australian culture has diverged significantly since British settlement.

Australian literature is the written or literary work produced in the area or by the people of the Commonwealth of Australia and its preceding colonies. During its early Western history, Australia was a collection of British colonies, therefore, its literary tradition begins with and is linked to the broader tradition of English literature. However, the narrative art of Australian writers has, since 1788, introduced the character of a new continent into literature—exploring such themes as Aboriginality, mateship, egalitarianism, democracy, national identity, migration, Australia's unique location and geography, the complexities of urban living, and "the beauty and the terror" of life in the Australian bush.


Notable Australian writers have included the Nobel laureate Patrick White, the novelists Colleen McCullough and Henry Handel Richardson and the bush poets Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. Leading Australian performing artists have included Robert Helpmann of the Australian Ballet, Joan Sutherland of Opera Australia and the humourist Barry Humphries. Prominent Australian musical artists have included the Australian country music singer Slim Dusty, rising star Cody Simpson, folk-rocker Paul Kelly, "pop princess" Kylie Minogue and rock n roll bands the Bee Gees, AC/DC, INXS and Powderfinger. Quintessentially Australian art styles include the Heidelberg School the Hermannsburg School and the Western Desert Art Movement. Australian cinema has a long tradition with a body of work producing popular classics such as Crocodile Dundee and The Man From Snowy River , and arthouse successes such as Picnic at Hanging Rock and Ten Canoes . Prominent Australian trained filmed artists include Errol Flynn, Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett.

Patrick White English-born Australian writer

Patrick Victor Martindale White was an Australian writer who, from 1935 to 1987, published 12 novels, three short-story collections and eight plays.

Colleen McCullough Australian author

Colleen Margaretta McCullough was an Australian author known for her novels, her most well-known being The Thorn Birds and The Ladies of Missalonghi, the latter of which was involved in a plagiarism controversy.

Henry Handel Richardson Australian author

Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson, known by her pen name Henry Handel Richardson, was an Australian author.

Notable institutions for the arts include the UNESCO listed Sydney Opera House, the National Gallery of Victoria, the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra and the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney.

UNESCO Specialised agency of the United Nations

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris. Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. It is the successor of the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.

Sydney Opera House multi-venue performing arts centre in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

The Sydney Opera House is a multi-venue performing arts centre at Sydney Harbour in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It is one of the 20th century's most famous and distinctive buildings.

National Gallery of Victoria Art museum in Melbourne, Australia

The National Gallery of Victoria, popularly known as the NGV, is an art museum in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Founded in 1861, it is Australia's oldest, largest and most visited art museum.


The bush balladeer Banjo Paterson wrote Waltzing Matilda in 1895. Banjo Patterson.jpg
The bush balladeer Banjo Paterson wrote Waltzing Matilda in 1895.
Sydney Opera House Sydney Opera House - Dec 2008.jpg
Sydney Opera House

The arts in Australia, including the fields of cinema, music, visual arts, theatre, dance and crafts often reflect general trends in Western arts. However, the arts as practiced by indigenous Australians represent a unique Australian cultural tradition, and Australia's landscape and history have contributed to some unique variations in the styles inherited by Australia's various migrant communities. [1] [2] [3]

Cinema of Australia

The Australian film industry has its beginnings with the 1906 production of The Story of the Kelly Gang, the earliest feature film ever made. Since then, many films have been produced in Australia, a number of which have received international recognition. Many actors and filmmakers started their careers in Australian films, a large number of whom have acquired international reputations, and a number of whom have found greater financial benefits in careers in larger film producing centres, such as in the United States.

The music of Australia has an extensive history made of music societies. Indigenous Australian music is a part of the unique heritage of a 40,000 to 60,000 year history which produced the iconic didgeridoo. Contemporary fusions of indigenous and Western styles mark distinctly Australian contributions to world music. During its early western history, Australia was a collection of British colonies, and Australian folk music and bush ballads such as "Waltzing Matilda" were heavily influenced by Anglo-Celtic traditions, while classical forms were derived from those of Europe. Contemporary Australian music ranges across a broad spectrum with trends often concurrent with those of the US, the UK, and similar nations – notably in the Australian rock and Australian country music genres. Tastes have diversified along with post-World War II multicultural immigration to Australia.

Theatre of Australia

Theatre of Australia refers to the history of the performing arts in Australia, or produced by Australians. There are theatrical and dramatic aspects to a number of Indigenous Australian ceremonies such as the corroboree. During its colonial period, Australian theatrical arts were generally linked to the broader traditions of English literature and to British and Irish theatre. Australian literature and theatrical artists have over the last two centuries introduced the culture of Australia and the character of a new continent to the world stage.

At the close of the 19th century, the painters of the Heidelberg School began to capture the unique colours of the Australian bush, famed writers Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson presented conflicting views of the harshness and romance of life in Australia, and performing artists like opera singer Dame Nellie Melba made a mark internationally in classical European culture. During the 20th century, writers and performers like C J Dennis, Barry Humphries and Paul Hogan both mocked and celebrated Australian cultural stereotypes, while shifting demographics saw a diversification of artistic output, with writers like feminist Germaine Greer challenging traditional cultural norms.

Heidelberg School Australian art movement

The Heidelberg School was an Australian art movement of the late 19th century. The movement has latterly been described as Australian Impressionism.

Henry Lawson Australian writer and poet

Henry Archibald Hertzberg Lawson was an Australian writer and bush poet. Along with his contemporary Banjo Paterson, Lawson is among the best-known Australian poets and fiction writers of the colonial period and is often called Australia's "greatest short story writer".

Banjo Paterson Australian journalist, author and poet

Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson, was an Australian bush poet, journalist and author. He wrote many ballads and poems about Australian life, focusing particularly on the rural and outback areas, including the district around Binalong, New South Wales, where he spent much of his childhood. Paterson's more notable poems include "Clancy of the Overflow" (1889), "The Man from Snowy River" (1890) and "Waltzing Matilda" (1895), regarded widely as Australia's unofficial national anthem.

Australia's capital cities each support traditional "high culture" institutions in the form of major art galleries, ballet troupes, theaters, symphony orchestras, opera houses and dance companies. Leading Australian performers in these fields have included the opera Dames Nellie Melba and Joan Sutherland, dancers Edouard Borovansky and Sir Robert Helpmann, and choreographer/dancers such as Graeme Murphy and Meryl Tankard. Opera Australia is based in Sydney at the world-renowned Sydney Opera House. [4] The Australian Ballet, Melbourne and Sydney symphony orchestras are also well regarded cultural institutions.

High culture form of culture, opposite of popular and mass cultures, that includes cultural achievements that are accepted especially valuable by opinion-elites

High culture encompasses the cultural objects of aesthetic value, which a society collectively esteem as exemplary art. It may also include intellectual works considered to be of supreme philosophical, historical, or literary value, as well as the education which cultivates such aesthetic and intellectual pursuits. In popular usage, the term high culture identifies the culture of an upper class or of a status class ; and also identifies a society’s common repository of broad-range knowledge and tradition that transcends the social-class system of the society. Sociologically, the term high culture is contrasted with the term low culture, the forms of popular culture characteristic of the less-educated social classes, such as the barbarians, the Philistines, and hoi polloi.

Nellie Melba Australian opera singer

Dame Nellie Melba GBE was an Australian operatic soprano. She became one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian era and the early 20th century, and was the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical musician. She took the pseudonym "Melba" from Melbourne, her home town.

Joan Sutherland Australian soprano

Dame Joan Alston Sutherland, OM, AC, DBE was an Australian-born coloratura soprano noted for her contribution to the renaissance of the bel canto repertoire from the late 1950s through to the 1980s.

Organisations such as the Sydney Theatre Company and National Institute of Dramatic Art have fostered students of theatre, film, and television several of whom have continued to international success, with actors like Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush having been associated with both institutions.

Independent culture thrives in all capital cities and exists in most large regional towns. The independent arts of music, film, art and street art are the most extensive. Melbourne's independent music scene, is one of the largest in the world, whilst another can be found in the multitude of international street artists visiting Melbourne and, to a lesser extent, other major cities, to work for a period of time. As of February 2015, Arts and recreation services was the strongest industry in Australia by total number of employed persons growing by 20.59% since the same time in 2013. [5]

Visual arts

Art – painting and sculpture

"The Australian Native", by Tom Roberts, 1888 Roberts-The Australian native.jpg
"The Australian Native", by Tom Roberts, 1888
The large crowd at the 2006 Bondi Beach Sculpture by the Sea Sculpture by the Sea 01.JPG
The large crowd at the 2006 Bondi Beach Sculpture by the Sea

The visual arts have a long history in Australia, dating back around 30,000 years, and examples of ancient Aboriginal rock art can be found throughout the continent, notably in national parks such as the UNESCO-listed sites at Uluru and Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, and also within protected parks in urban areas such as Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in Sydney. [6] In the mid-twentieth century, the landscape paintings of Albert Namatjira were popular and received national and international acclaim. [7] Since the 1970s, contemporary Indigenous Australian artists have used acrylic paints in styles such as that of the Western Desert Art Movement, which leading critic Robert Hughes saw as "the last great art movement of the 20th century". [8] Art is important both culturally and economically to Indigenous society; art critic Sasha Grishin concluded that central Australian Indigenous communities have "the highest per capita concentrations of artists anywhere in the world". [9] Contemporary artists whose work has been exhibited internationally such as at the Venice Biennale, include Rover Thomas and Emily Kngwarreye, while designs were commissioned from several nationally recognised artists in 2006 for the new Musée du quai Branly buildings. The artists included Paddy Bedford, John Mawurndjul, Ningura Napurrula, Lena Nyadbi, Michael Riley, Judy Watson, Tommy Watson and Gulumbu Yunupingu. [10] [11]

Following the arrival of permanent European settlement in Australia in 1788, the story of early Australian painting has been described[ by whom? ] as requiring of artists a shift from a "European sense of light" to an "Australian sense of light". The origins of distinctly Australian painting is often associated with the Heidelberg School of the 1880s–1890s. Artists such as Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin and Tom Roberts applied themselves to recreating in their art a truer sense of light and colour as seen in the Australian landscape. Like the European Impressionists, they painted in the open air. These artists found inspiration in the unique light and colour which characterises the Australian bush.

Among the first Australian artists to gain a reputation overseas was the impressionist John Russell during the 1880s. Another notable expatriate artist of the era was Rupert Bunny, a painter of landscape, allegory and sensual and intimate portraits. Ernst William Christmas also made a name internationally.

Among the principal Australian artists of the 20th century are the surrealists Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and Russell Drysdale, the avant-garde Brett Whiteley, the painter/sculptors William Dobell and Norman Lindsay, the landscapists Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Albert Namatjira and Lloyd Rees, and modernist photographer Max Dupain. Each has helped to define the unique character of the visual arts in Australia. [1]

Modernism arrived in Australia early in the 20th century. Among the earliest exponents were Grace Cossington Smith and Margaret Preston. Humorist Barry Humphries has been a provocative exponent of dadaism in Australia. [12]

Popular with the general community have been Ken Done, best known for his design work, Pro Hart and Rolf Harris, a British/Australian living in the UK who is popular as a musician, composer, painter and television host. Ricky Swallow, Patricia Piccinini, Susan Norrie, Callum Morton, Rover Thomas and Emily Kngwarreye have all represented Australians at the Venice Biennale using the traditional mediums of sculpture, photography and painting while instilling them with a renewed vigour. A new generation of Aboriginal artists, while not rejecting the culture of the past, endeavour to move the artistic dialog forward, including Gordon Bennett, Rosella Namok, Richard Bell and Julie Dowling.

In recent years the art market has been democratised and art is judged on its merits rather than snobbery. A cohort of male artists aged under fifty (Dane Lovett, Adam Cullen, Ben Quilty, Anthony Bennett, Simon Cuthbert, Rhys Lee, Ben Frost and Alasdair McIntyre) have an expressive style and use humour in their work.

In addition street art is also a prominent feature in major cities such as Melbourne and Sydney. Though there is some debate over the legality, some councils have expressed greater recognition of the urban art movement.

Australia has a number of notable museums and galleries, including the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, the National Gallery of Australia, National Portrait Gallery of Australia and National Museum of Australia in Canberra, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney.


Errol Flynn c. 1940. Errol Flynn1.jpg
Errol Flynn c. 1940.

Australia has a long history of film production. Australia's first dedicated film studio, the Limelight Department, was created by The Salvation Army in Melbourne in 1898, and is believed to have been the world's first. [13] The world's first feature-length film was the Australian production The Story of the Kelly Gang of 1906. [14] After such early successes, Australian cinema suffered from the rise of Hollywood.

Nicole Kidman, star of Dead Calm Nicole Kidman Cannes 2017 2.jpg
Nicole Kidman, star of Dead Calm
Geoffrey Rush, star of Shine GeoffreyRushTIFFSept2011.jpg
Geoffrey Rush, star of Shine

In 1933, In the Wake of the Bounty was directed by Charles Chauvel, who cast Tasmanian-born Errol Flynn as the leading actor. [15] Flynn went on to a celebrated career in Hollywood. Chauvel directed a number of successful Australian films, the last being 1955's Jedda , which was notable for being the first Australian film to be shot in colour, and the first to feature Aboriginal actors in lead roles and to be entered at the Cannes Film Festival. [16] It was not until 2006 and Rolf de Heer's Ten Canoes that a major feature-length drama was shot in an indigenous language.

The first Australian Oscar was won by 1942's Kokoda Front Line! , directed by Ken G. Hall. [17]

During the late 1960s and 1970s an influx of government funding saw the development of a new generation of filmmakers telling distinctively Australian stories, including directors Peter Weir, George Miller and Bruce Beresford. Films such as Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) and Sunday Too Far Away (1975) had an immediate international impact. The 1980s is often regarded[ by whom? ] as a golden age of Australian cinema, with many successful films, from the historical drama of Gallipoli (1981) to the dark science fiction of the Mad Max sequels (1981–85), the romantic adventure of The Man From Snowy River (1982) or the comedy of Crocodile Dundee (1986). [18]

A major theme of Australian cinema has been survival in the harsh Australian landscape. A number of thrillers and horror films dubbed "outback gothic" have been created, including Wake in Fright , Walkabout (1971), The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), Razorback (1984) and Shame (1988) in the 1980s, and Japanese Story (2003), The Proposition (2005) and the world-renowned Wolf Creek (2006) in the 21st century. These films depict the Australian outback and its wilderness and creatures as deadly, and its people as outcasts and psychopaths disconnected to modern urban Australia. These are combined with futuristic post-apocalyptic themes in the Mad Max series.

The 1990s saw a run of successful comedies such as Strictly Ballroom (1992), Muriel's Wedding (1994) and The Castle (1996), which helped launch the careers of Toni Collette, P. J. Hogan, Eric Bana and Baz Luhrmann. This group was joined in Hollywood by actors including Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger who also rose to international prominence.

The domestic film industry continues to produce a reasonable[ quantify ] number of films each year. The industry is also supported by US producers who produce in Australia following the decision by Fox head Rupert Murdoch to utilise new studios in Melbourne and Sydney where filming could be completed well below US costs. Notable productions include The Matrix , Star Wars episodes II and III, and Australia starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.


Henry Lawson Henry Lawson photograph 1902.jpg
Henry Lawson

Australian writers who have obtained international renown include the Nobel winning author Patrick White, as well as authors Peter Carey, Thomas Keneally, Colleen McCullough, Nevil Shute and Morris West. Notable contemporary expatriate authors include the feminist Germaine Greer, art historian Robert Hughes and humorists Barry Humphries and Clive James. [19]

Dorothea McKellar Dorothea Mackellar.jpg
Dorothea McKellar
The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay The Magic Pudding.jpg
The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay

Among the important authors of classic Australian works are the poets Henry Lawson, Banjo Paterson, C J Dennis and Dorothea McKellar. Dennis wrote in the Australian vernacular, while McKellar wrote the iconic patriotic poem My Country . At one point, Lawson and Paterson contributed a series of verses to The Bulletin magazine in which they engaged in a literary debate about the nature of life in Australia. Lawson said Paterson was a romantic and Paterson said Lawson was full of doom and gloom. [20] Lawson is widely regarded as one of Australia's greatest writers of short stories, while Paterson's poems The Man From Snowy River and Clancy of the Overflow remain amongst the most popular Australian bush poems. Significant political poets of the 20th century included Dame Mary Gilmore and Judith Wright. Among the best known contemporary poets are Les Murray and Bruce Dawe.

Novelists of classic Australian works include Marcus Clarke ( For the Term of His Natural Life ), Henry Handel Richardson ( The Fortunes of Richard Mahony ), Joseph Furphy ( Such Is Life ), Miles Franklin ( My Brilliant Career ) and Ruth Park ( The Harp in the South ). In terms of children's literature, Norman Lindsay ( The Magic Pudding ) and May Gibbs ( Snugglepot and Cuddlepie ) are among the Australian classics, while eminent Australian playwrights have included Steele Rudd, David Williamson, Alan Seymour and Nick Enright.

Although historically only a small proportion of Australia's population have lived outside the major cities, many of Australia's most distinctive stories and legends originate in the outback, in the drovers and squatters and people of the barren, dusty plains. [21]

Contemporary works dealing with the migrant experience include Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi and Anh Do's memoir The Happiest Refugee , which won the Indie Book of the Year Award for 2011 and tells the story of his experience as a Vietnamese refugee travelling to and growing up in Australia. [22]

David Unaipon is known as the first indigenous author. Oodgeroo Noonuccal was the first Aboriginal Australian to publish a book of verse. [23] A significant contemporary account of the experiences of Indigenous Australia can be found in Sally Morgan's My Place .

Charles Bean (The Story of Anzac: From the Outbreak of War to the End of the First Phase of the Gallipoli Campaign May 4, 1915, 1921) Geoffrey Blainey (The Tyranny of Distance, 1966), Robert Hughes ( The Fatal Shore , 1987), Manning Clark (A History of Australia, 1962–87), and Marcia Langton (First Australians, 2008) are authors of important Australian histories.

Performing arts


Australian Aboriginal dancers in 1981. 1981 event Australian aboriginals.jpg
Australian Aboriginal dancers in 1981.
Sir Robert Helpmann. Robert Helpmann.jpg
Sir Robert Helpmann.

Traditional Indigenous Australian dance was closely associated with song and was understood and experienced as making present the reality of the Dreamtime. In some instances, they would imitate the actions of a particular animal in the process of telling a story. For the people in their own country it defined to roles, responsibilities and the place itself. These ritual performances gave them an understanding of themselves in the interplay of social, geographical and environmental forces. The performances were associated with specific places and dance grounds were often sacred places. Body decoration and specific gestures related to kin and other relationships (such as to Dreamtime beings with which individuals and groups). For a number of Indigenous Australian groups, their dances were secret and or sacred, gender could also be an important factor in some ceremonies with men and women having separate ceremonial traditions. [24]

The term Corroboree is commonly used in general Australian culture to refer to Australian Aboriginal dances, however, this term has its origins among the people of the Sydney region. In a number of places Australian Aboriginal people will perform "corroborees" for tourists.

In the latter part of the 20th century the influence of Indigenous Australian dance traditions has been seen with the development of concert dance, particularly in contemporary dance with the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association providing training to Indigenous Australians in dance and the Bangarra Dance Theatre.

Bush dance has developed in Australia as a form of traditional dance, drawing from English, Irish, Scottish and other European dance. Favourite dances in the community include such as the Irish Céilidh "Pride of Erin" and the quadrille "The Lancers". Locally originated dances include the "Waves of Bondi", the Melbourne Shuffle and New Vogue.

The Australian Ballet is the foremost classical ballet company in Australia. It was founded by the English ballerina Dame Peggy van Praagh in 1962 and is today recognised as one of the world's major international ballet companies. [25] It is based in Melbourne and performs works from the classical repertoire as well as contemporary works by major Australian and international choreographers. As of 2010, it was presenting approximately 200 performances in cities and regional areas around Australia each year as well as international tours. Regular venues include: the Melbourne Arts Centre, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre and Queensland Performing Arts Centre. [26] Robert Helpmann is among Australia's best known ballerinos.

Many immigrant communities continue their own dance traditions on a professional or amateur basis. Traditional dances from a large number of ethnic backgrounds are danced in Australia, helped by the presence of enthusiastic immigrants and their Australian-born families. It is quite common to see dances from the Baltic region, as well as Scottish, Irish, Indian, Indonesian or African dance being taught at community centres and dance schools in Australia.

Baz Luhrmann's popular 1992 film Strictly Ballroom , starring Paul Mercurio contributed to an increased interest in dance competition in Australia, and a number of popular dance shows including So You Think You Can Dance have featured on television in recent years.


Indigenous music

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu is a contemporary indigenous performer who sings in the YolNGu Matha languages. Gurrumul.jpg
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu is a contemporary indigenous performer who sings in the Yolŋu Matha languages.

Aboriginal song was an integral part of Aboriginal culture. The most famous feature of their music is the didgeridoo. This wooden instrument, used amongst the Aboriginal tribes of northern Australia, makes a distinctive droning sound and its use has been adopted by a wide variety of non-Aboriginal performers.

Aboriginal musicians have turned their hand to Western popular musical forms, often to considerable commercial success. Pioneers included Lionel Rose, and Jimmy Little, while notable contemporary examples include Archie Roach, the Warumpi Band, NoKTuRNL and Yothu Yindi. Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (formerly of Yothu Yindi) has attained international success singing contemporary music in English and in the language of the Yolngu. Christine Anu is a successful Torres Strait Islander singer.

Australian country music has been popular among indigenous communities, with performers including Troy Cassar-Daley rising to national prominence.

Amongst young Australian aborigines, African-American and Aboriginal hip hop music and clothing is popular. [27] Aboriginal boxing champion and former professional rugby league footballer Anthony Mundine identified US rapper Tupac Shakur as a personal inspiration, after Mundine's release of his 2007 single, Platinum Ryder. [28]

The Deadlys are an annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander achievement in music, sport, entertainment and community.

Folk music and national songs

Cover to Paterson's seminal 1905 collection of bush ballads, entitled Old Bush Songs The Old Bush Songs by Banio Paterson.jpg
Cover to Paterson's seminal 1905 collection of bush ballads, entitled Old Bush Songs

The early Anglo-Celtic immigrants of the 18th and 19th centuries introduced folk ballad traditions which were adapted to Australian themes: "Bound for Botany Bay" tells of the voyage of British convicts to Sydney, "The Wild Colonial Boy" evokes the spirit of the bushrangers, and "Click Go the Shears" speaks of the life of Australian shearers. The lyrics of Australia's best-known folk song, "Waltzing Matilda", were written by the bush poet Banjo Paterson in 1895. [29] Adopted by Australian soldiers during World War I, this song remains popular and is often sung at sporting events, including the closure of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, by Australian country music singer Slim Dusty.

Other well-known singers of Australian folk music include Rolf Harris (who wrote "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport"), John Williamson, and Eric Bogle whose 1972 song "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" is a sorrowful lament to the Gallipoli Campaign. Bush dance is a traditional style of dance from Australia with strong Celtic roots, and influenced country music. It is generally accompanied by such instruments as the fiddle, accordion, concertina and percussion instruments. [30] A well-known Bush band is The Bushwackers. [31]

The national anthem of Australia is "Advance Australia Fair":

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We've golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in Nature's gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history's page, let every stage
Advance Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia fair!

Unofficial pop music anthems of Australia include Peter Allen's "I Still Call Australia Home" and Men at Work's "Down Under".

Classical music

Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931) Nellie Melba by Henry Walter Barnett.jpg
Dame Nellie Melba (1861–1931)

The earliest Western musical influences in Australia can be traced back to two distinct sources: the first free settlers who brought with them the European classical music tradition, and the large body of convicts and sailors, who brought the traditional folk music of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The practicalities of building a colony mean that there is very little music extant from this early period although there are samples of music originating from Hobart and Sydney that date back to the early 19th century. [32]

La Stupenda - Dame Joan Sutherland in 1975 Dame Joan Sutherland colour Allan Warren.jpg
La Stupenda - Dame Joan Sutherland in 1975

Nellie Melba (1861–1931) travelled to Europe in 1886 to commence her international career as an opera singer. She became among the best known Australians of the period and participated in early gramophone recording and radio broadcasting. [33]

The establishment of choral societies (c. 1850) and symphony orchestras (c. 1890) led to increased compositional activity, although many Australian classical composers attempted to work entirely within European models. A lot of works leading up to the first part of the 20th century were heavily influenced by the folk music of other countries (Percy Grainger's Country Gardens of 1918 being a good example of this) and a very conservative British orchestral tradition. [32]

In the war and post-war eras, as pressure built to assert a national identity in the face of the looming superpower of the United States and the "motherland" Britain, composers looked to their surroundings for inspiration. John Antill [34] and Peter Sculthorpe began to incorporate elements of Aboriginal music, and Richard Meale drew influence from south-east Asia (notably using the harmonic properties of the Balinese Gamelan, as had Percy Grainger in an earlier generation). [32]

By the beginning of the 1960s, Australian classical music erupted with influences, with composers incorporating disparate elements into their work, ranging from Aboriginal and south-east Asian music and instruments, to American jazz and blues, to the belated discovery of European atonality and the avant-garde. Composers like Don Banks, Don Kay, Malcolm Williamson and Colin Brumby epitomise this period. [32] In recent times composers including Liza Lim, Carl Vine, Georges Lentz, Matthew Hindson, Nigel Westlake, Ross Edwards, Graeme Koehne, Elena Kats-Chernin, Richard Mills and Brett Dean have embodied the pinnacle of established Australian composers.

Well-known Australian classical performers include: sopranos Dame Joan Sutherland, Dame Joan Hammond, Joan Carden, Yvonne Kenny, Sara Macliver and Emma Matthews; pianists Roger Woodward, Eileen Joyce, Michael Kieran Harvey, Geoffrey Tozer, Geoffrey Douglas Madge, Leslie Howard and Ian Munro; guitarists John Williams and Slava Grigoryan; horn player Barry Tuckwell; oboist Diana Doherty; violinists Richard Tognetti and Elizabeth Wallfisch; cellists John Addison and David Pereira; organist Christopher Wrench; orchestras like the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra; and conductors Sir Bernard Heinze, Sir Charles Mackerras, Richard Bonynge, Simone Young and Geoffrey Simon. Indigenous performers like didgeridoo player William Barton and immigrant musicians like Egyptian-born oud virtuoso Joseph Tawadros have stimulated interest in their own music traditions and have also collaborated with other musicians and ensembles both in Australia and internationally.

Pop and rock

The Bee Gees performing in 1968 The Bee Gees.png
The Bee Gees performing in 1968
Kylie Minogue in 2012 Kylie Minogue Cropped Sliver Spoon Awards 2012.jpg
Kylie Minogue in 2012
Powderfinger performing in 2007 Powderfinger performing September 2007 (b).jpg
Powderfinger performing in 2007

Australia has produced a large variety of popular music from the internationally renowned work of the Bee Gees, AC/DC, INXS, Nick Cave, Cody Simpson or Kylie Minogue to the popular local content of John Farnham or Paul Kelly. [35]

Among the brightest stars of early Australian rock and roll was Johnny O'Keefe, who formed a band in 1956; his hit Wild One made him the first Australian rock'n'roller to reach the national charts. [36] While US and British content dominated airwaves and record sales into the 1960s, local successes began to emerge – notably The Easybeats and the folk-pop group The Seekers had significant local success and some international recognition, while the bands the Bee Gees and AC/DC had their first hits in Australia before going on to international success.

The arrival of the 1961 underground movement into the mainstream in the early 1970s changed Australian music permanently. Skyhooks were far from the first people to write songs in Australia by Australians about Australia, but they were the first ones to make good money doing it. The two best-selling Australian albums made up to that time put Australian music on the map. Within a few years, the novelty had worn off and it became commonplace to hear distinctively Australian lyrics and sounds side-by-side with imports.[ citation needed ]

During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s Australian performers continued to do well on the local and international music scenes, for example Cold Chisel, INXS, Men at Work and Kylie Minogue, Natalie Imbruglia, Savage Garden and Silverchair. In the early 21st century, bands such as Jet, Wolfmother, Eskimo Joe, Grinspoon, The Vines, The Living End, Pendulum, Delta Goodrem and others were enjoying success internationally.

Domestically, John Farnham has remained one of Australia's best-known performers, with a career spanning over 40 years. [37] Singer-songwriter Paul Kelly whose music style straddles folk, rock, and country has been described[ by whom? ] as the poet laureate of Australian music. [38]

The national expansion of ABC youth radio station Triple J during the 1990s has increased the profile and availability of home-grown talent to listeners nationwide. Since the mid-1990s a string of successful alternative Australian acts have emerged; artists to achieve both underground (critical) and mainstream (commercial) success include You Am I, Grinspoon, Powderfinger and Jet.

Country music

Country yodeller, Melinda Schneider with folk-rocker Paul Kelly Melinda Schneider Paul Kelly 2008.jpg
Country yodeller, Melinda Schneider with folk-rocker Paul Kelly

Australia has a long tradition of country music, which has developed a style quite distinct from its US counterpart, influenced by Celtic folk ballads and the traditions of Australian bush balladeers like Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. Pioneers of popular country music in Australia included Tex Morton in the 1930s and Smoky Dawson from the 1940s onward.

Olivia Newton-John. Olivia Newton-John Sydney 2008.jpg
Olivia Newton-John.

Slim Dusty (1927–2003) was known as the King of Australian Country Music. His successful career spanned almost six decades and his 1957 hit "A Pub With No Beer" was the biggest-selling record by an Australian to that time, the first Australian single to go gold, and the first and only 78 rpm record to be awarded a gold disc. [39] Dusty recorded and released his one-hundredth album in the year 2000 and was given the honour of singing Waltzing Matilda in the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Dusty's wife Joy McKean penned several of his most popular songs.

Other popular performers of Australian country music include: John Williamson (who wrote the iconic song "True Blue"), Lee Kernaghan, Kasey Chambers and Sara Storer. In the United States, Australian country music stars including Olivia Newton-John and Keith Urban have attained great success.

Country music has also been a particularly popular form of musical expression among the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Troy Cassar-Daley is among Australia's successful indigenous performers.

The Tamworth Country Music Festival is an annual country music festival held in Tamworth, New South Wales. It celebrates the culture and heritage of Australian country music. During the festival the Country Music Association of Australia holds the Country Music Awards of Australia ceremony awarding the Golden Guitar trophies.


The ceremonial dances of indigenous Australians which recount the stories of the Dreamtime, comprise theatrical aspects and have been performed since time immemorial during the 40–60,000 year Aboriginal occupation of Australia. [40] European traditions came to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788, with the first production being performed in 1789 by convicts. [41] Two centuries later, the extraordinary circumstances of the foundations of Australian theatre were recounted in Our Country's Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker: the participants were prisoners watched by sadistic guards and the leading lady was under threat of the death penalty. [41]

Cate Blanchett of the Sydney Theatre Company. Cate Blanchett Cannes 2015.jpg
Cate Blanchett of the Sydney Theatre Company.

The Theatre Royal, Hobart, opened in 1837 and it remains the oldest theatre in Australia. [42] The Australian gold rushes beginning in the 1850s provided funds for the construction of grand theatres in the Victorian style. A theatre was built on the present site of Melbourne's Princess Theatre in 1854. The present building now hosts major international productions as well as live performance events such as the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. [43]

The Melbourne Athenaeum was built during this period and later became Australia's first cinema, screening The Story of the Kelly Gang , the world's first feature film in 1906. Mark Twain, Nellie Melba, Laurence Olivier and Barry Humphries have all performed on this historic stage. [44] The Queen's Theatre, Adelaide opened with Shakespeare in 1841 and is today the oldest theatre on the mainland. [45]

After Federation in 1901, theatre productions evidenced the new sense of national identity. On Our Selection (1912) by Steele Rudd, told of the adventures of a pioneer farming family and became immensely popular. Sydney's grand Capitol Theatre opened in 1928 and after restoration remains one of the nation's finest auditoriums. [46]

In 1955, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler portrayed resolutely Australian characters and went on to international acclaim. That same year, young Melbourne artist Barry Humphries performed as Edna Everage for the first time at Melbourne University's Union Theatre. Humphries left for London in his early 20s and enjoyed success on stage, including in Lionel Bart's musical, Oliver!. His satirical stage creations – notably Dame Edna and later Les Patterson –– became Australian cultural icons. Humphries also achieved success in the USA with tours on Broadway and television appearances and has been honoured in Australia and Britain. [47]

The National Institute of Dramatic Art was created in Sydney in 1958. This institute has since produced a list of famous alumni including Cate Blanchett, Mel Gibson and Baz Luhrmann. [48]

Construction of the Adelaide Festival Centre began in 1970 and South Australia's Sir Robert Helpmann became director of the Adelaide Festival of Arts. [49] [50] The new wave[ clarification needed ] of Australian theatre debuted in the 1970s. The Belvoir St Theatre presented works by Nick Enright and David Williamson. In 1973, the Sydney Opera House, which had been based on a design by Jørn Utzon, was officially opened. [51] Opera Australia made its home in the building and its reputation was enhanced by the presence of the diva Joan Sutherland.

The Sydney Theatre Company was founded 1978 becoming one of Australia's foremost theatre companies. [52] The Bell Shakespeare Company was created in 1990. A period of success for Australian musical theatre came in the 1990s with the debut of musical biographies of Australian music singers Peter Allen ( The Boy From Oz in 1998) and Johnny O'Keefe ( Shout! The Legend of The Wild One ).

In The One Day of the Year, Alan Seymour studied the paradoxical nature of the ANZAC Day commemoration by Australians of the defeat of the Battle of Gallipoli. Ngapartji Ngapartji, by Scott Rankin and Trevor Jamieson, recounts the story of the effects on the Pitjantjatjara people of nuclear testing in the Western Desert during the Cold War. It is an example of the contemporary fusion of traditions of drama in Australia with Pitjantjatjara actors being supported by a multicultural cast of Greek, Afghan, Japanese and New Zealand heritage. [53]

See also

Related Research Articles

Culture of Sydney

The cultural life of Sydney, Australia is dynamic and multicultural. Many of the individual cultures that make up the Sydney mosaic are centred on the cultural, artistic, ethnic, linguistic and religious communities formed by waves of immigration. Sydney is a major global city with a vibrant scene of musical, theatrical, visual, literary and other artistic activity.

Australian art is any art made in or about Australia, or by Australians overseas, from prehistoric times to the present. This includes Aboriginal, Colonial, Landscape, Atelier, early-twentieth-century painters, print makers, photographers, and sculptors influenced by European modernism, Contemporary art. The visual arts have a long history in Australia, with evidence of Aboriginal art dating back at least 30,000 years. Australia has produced many notable artists of both Western and Indigenous Australian schools, including the late-19th-century Heidelberg School plein air painters, the Antipodeans, the Central Australian Hermannsburg School watercolourists, the Western Desert Art Movement and coeval examples of well-known High modernism and Postmodern art.

Indigenous music of Australia music of Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders

Australian Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander music includes the music of Aboriginal Australians and social, cultural and ceremonial observances of these people, down through the millennia of their individual and collective histories to the present day, and has existed for 40,000 years. The traditional forms include many aspects of performance and musical instrumentation which are unique to particular regions or Indigenous Australian groups; there are equally elements of musical tradition which are common or widespread through much of the Australian continent, and even beyond. The culture of the Torres Strait Islanders is related to that of adjacent parts of New Guinea and so their music is also related. Music is a vital part of Indigenous Australians' cultural maintenance.

Corroboree event where Australian Aborigines interact with the Dreamtime through dance, music and costume

A corroboree is an event where Australian Aboriginals interact with the Dreamtime through dance, music and costume. "Their bodies painted in different ways, and they wore various adornments, which were not used every day." The word corroboree was coined by the European settlers of Australia in imitation of an east coast local Aboriginal Australian word caribberie.

David Fielding Gough Boyd was an Australian artist, and a member of the Boyd artistic dynasty.

Stephen George Page is the Artistic Director of the Bangarra Dance Theatre. He is descended from the Nunukul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh tribe from southeast Queensland. In 2015 his directorial debut film Spear was shown at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

The National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) Dance College was established in 1975 to train Indigenous Australians in dance.

Australian Aboriginal culture includes a number of practices and ceremonies centered on a belief in the Dreamtime. Reverence for the land and oral traditions are emphasized. Language groupings and tribal divisions exhibit a range of individual cultures. Australian Aboriginal art has existed for thousands of years and ranges from ancient rock art to modern watercolor landscapes. Aboriginal music has developed a number of unique instruments. Contemporary Australian aboriginal music is predominantly of the country music genres. Indigenous Australians did not develop a system of writing.

James Penberthy AM was an Australian composer and journalist.

Christian Thompson (artist) Australian artist

Dr Christian Andrew William Thompson is an Australian artist.

Australian folk music

Australian folk music is the traditional music from the large variety of immigrant cultures and those of the original Australian inhabitants.

Contemporary Indigenous Australian art is the modern art work produced by indigenous Australians. It is generally regarded as beginning in 1971 with a painting movement that started at Papunya, northwest of Alice Springs, Northern Territory, involving artists such as Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, and facilitated by white Australian teacher and art worker Geoffrey Bardon. The movement spawned widespread interest across rural and remote Aboriginal Australia in creating art, while contemporary indigenous art of a different nature also emerged in urban centres; together they have become central to Australian art. Indigenous art centres have fostered the emergence of the contemporary art movement, and as of 2010 were estimated to represent over 5000 artists, mostly in Australia's north and west.

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair is an arts and cultural event in the northern Australian city of Cairns that brings together indigenous art centres, commercial and public galleries, artist collectives, studios and arts organisations to sell and exhibit the art work of Queensland's recognised and leading emerging Indigenous Australian visual artists.

Anelia Pavlova, also known as Annael, is a Bulgarian-born Australian artist. She was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1956, and in 1993 moved to Adelaide, South Australia. Her best known image is the Semillon label for the Semillon wine in the Peter Lehmann Wines "Art Series" range.

Coreeda is a style of folk wrestling practiced in Australia and is based on Aboriginal combat sports that existed in the pre-colonial period before the 19th century.

Guypunura "Janet" Munyarryun is an Aboriginal dancer, choreographer and tutor. She was a founding member of the Bangarra Dance Theatre.


  1. 1 2 "Australian painters". Australian Culture and Recreation Portal. Australia Government. Archived from the original on 5 February 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 February 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-23.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. Hutchison, Michelle (18 June 2015). "2015 Careers in Australia Report". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  6. Aboriginal Australia - Rock Art Archived 31 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine , Tourism Australia. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
  7. Kleinert, Sylvia (2000). Namatjira, Albert (Elea) (1902–1959). National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  8. Henly, Susan Gough (6 November 2005). "Powerful growth of Aboriginal art", The New York Times . Retrieved 20 November 2012.
  9. Grishin, Sasha (8 December 2007). "Next generation Papunya". The Canberra Times. p. 6.
  10. Claire Armstrong, ed. (2006). Australian Indigenous Art Commission: Musee du quai Branly. Eleonora Triguboff, Art & Australia, and Australia Council for the Arts. ISBN   0-646-46045-5.
  11. Croft, Brenda, ed (2007). Culture Warriors: National Indigenous Art Triennial 2007. Canberra: National Gallery of Australia. ISBN   978-0-642-54133-8
  12. Robert Hughes; The Art of Australia; Penguin; Revised Edition 1970
  13. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 October 2009. Retrieved 2011-01-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  14. "Video Overview The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) on ASO - Australia's audio and visual heritage online". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  15. "Video Overview In the Wake of the Bounty (1933) on ASO - Australia's audio and visual heritage online". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  16. "JEDDA". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  17. "Video Overview Kokoda Front Line! (1942) on ASO - Australia's audio and visual heritage online". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  18. "film". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  19. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-23.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  20. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  21. Seal, Graham (1989). The Hidden Culture: Folklore in Australian Society. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. p. 50. ISBN   0-19-554919-8.
  22. "Comedian Anh Do wins indie book prize". ABC News. 15 March 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  23. "Oodgeroo Noonuccal." Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Vol. 27. Gale, 2007
  24. Dance in Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, Volume 1 pp. 255–7
  25. Ballet, The Australian. "Our History". The Australian Ballet. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  26. Ballet, The Australian. "Our History". The Australian Ballet. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  27. Mitchell, Tony (1 April 2006). "The New Corroboree". The Age . Melbourne.
  28. "The Man must make his music". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 March 2007.
  29. "Waltzing Maltida a little ditty, historians say". ABC News. 5 May 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  30. "How to Do a Bush Dance". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  31. "The Bushwackers - The Australian Band". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  32. 1 2 3 4 Oxford, A Dictionary of Australian Music, Edited by Warren Bebbington, Copyright 1998
  33. Davidson, Jim. Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 13 December 2018 via Australian Dictionary of Biography.
  34. "John Antill : Represented Artist Profile : Australian Music Centre". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  35. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 23 October 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  36. Sturma, Michael. Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 13 December 2018 via Australian Dictionary of Biography.
  37. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 January 2009. Retrieved 8 October 2009.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  38. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  39. Dave" Laing, "Slim Dusty: Country singer famous for A Pub With No Beer", The Guardian (UK), 20 September 2003
  40. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-23.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  41. 1 2 "The Recruiting Officer & Our Country's Good - Stantonbury Campus Theatre Company, 2000" . Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  42. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 October 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  43. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-23.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  44. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-23.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  45. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  46. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-26.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  47. "The man behind Dame Edna Everage". BBC News. 15 June 2007.
  48. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-23.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  49. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  50. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 February 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  51. Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Sydney Opera House". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  52. "About". Sydney Theatre Company. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  53. "Review: Ngapartji Ngapartji, Belvoir Street Theatre". Retrieved 13 December 2018.