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Richard Murphet

Platform Paper 28

Richard Murphet

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THE VICTORIAN COLLEGE OF THE ARTS was founded in 1972 to provide education and training in all the visual and performing arts within the one institution. It has remained unique in Australia in that charter. Since 2009, however, it has been headline news as a training institute in crisis, a situation fed by government intervention, public commentary and disputes with the University of Melbourne which now administers it. What financial pressures began has now become a deeper struggle about the nature of arts training in the twenty-first century. This period of crisis, writes Murphet, brought to the school a new vitality and purpose, and raised questions that go way beyond the VCA case alone. As the college begins its restoration, he presents the case for repositioning the VCA as a centre of artistic invention, shifting the debate from the maintenance of past traditions to the creation of a new paradigm in arts training for a world in which instability has become the norm.


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About the Author

Richard Murphet retired in 2010 as the revered head of theatre and Postgraduate Studies at the VCA’s School of Performing Arts. As a theatre director he has worked around the world and has been mentor to many Melbourne theatre practitioners.


In 2005, the Federal Minister for Higher Education, Science and Training, Brendan Nelson, introduced a radical reform to tertiary-education funding. He placed all the various areas of study into separate funding ‘clusters’, which would apply across the board in every Australian university. As seems to happen in such moves, funds tended to be ‘equalized’ downwards rather than upwards. The cluster into which the VCA was placed effectively cut the College’s funding from government by 35 per cent, which, as SaveVCA put it, was ‘a devastating blow to an institution whose courses were by nature of the practical training, expensive’