Embassy of Australia

Art and Culture

Australian art and cultural activities reflect Australia's unique blend of diverse cultures, new influences and old traditions. They are the product of a millennia-old landscape that is home to both the world's oldest living cultural traditions and a rich mix of immigrant cultures.

Today Australia presents a vibrant arts and cultural scene, where all forms of art expression, including music, theater and dance, have a strong following.

Australian tourism and culture

Visual arts

Visual artists play an important role in shaping Australia's image. Since the early 1970s, artists of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin have attracted international attention to their art and culture.

Australia's visual arts tell a different story of the country - works that reflect the conflicts facing contemporary Australia, including environmental issues, the break with the urban environment and changes within the community.

Performing arts

The Australian performing arts scene is full of energy, originality and diversity.
 Companies such as Circus Oz and the Australian Chamber Orchestra and indigenous groups such as the Bangarra Dance Theatre and the Aboriginal and Islander Dance Theatre are acclaimed around the world for the quality of their productions.

Australian dance is renowned for its variety and exuberance. Major companies, such as the Australian Ballet and the Sydney Dance Company, tour regularly, with a diverse repertoire of both Australian and international works.

Australian music has been greatly enriched by post-World War II immigration and encompasses an impressive artistic range. Kazakhstan-born virtuoso guitarist Slava Grigoryan experiments with Argentine tango and Brazilian bossa nova, while the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and the Australian Chamber Orchestra enjoy worldwide status. Performers such as violinist Richard Tognetti and pianists Roger Woodward, Geoffrey Tozer and Simon Tedeschi, along with violinist and conductor Nicholas Milton, and flutist Jane Rutter, are familiar faces on Australian stages and in international concert halls.

Opera Australia, the national opera company, ranks third in the world in number and frequency of performances and is based at the spectacular Sydney Opera House. The legacy of operatic legends such as Dame Nellie Melba and Dame Joan Sutherland (decorated with the Order of the British Empire) has been picked up by the likes of Deborah Riedel, Lisa Gasteen and Ivonne Kenny.

Australia is well known for its original style of rock and pop music, with a solid base of popularity already established by contemporary artists such as Silverchair, Natalie Imbruglia and Kylie Minogue, along with INXS and AC DC in their peak years. New artists such as Missy Higgins, Jet and Ben Lee are also beginning to gain international acclaim.

Every Australian state has a major theater company and also has smaller but well-known ones. Much effort is put into developing audiences, touring regional Australia, educating young people in the theatrical arts, getting disabled people to access and participate in these disciplines, and developing new talent in the areas of writing, acting and producing.

The Australian government provides an annual average of $4.9 billion in funding for a wide range of arts, cultural and cultural heritage purposes. The Australian arts and related industries sector totals $3.18 billion and more than 2.9 million Australians are involved in arts, culture and leisure related work.

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring regional communities develop a vibrant and sustained cultural life that strengthens the identity and wellbeing of each community and encourages broad participation.

Australia's unique, diverse and vibrant cultural heritage can be found today in the many facets of the nation. It is expressed through customs, folklore, languages and traditions that are reflected in both the natural and manufactured environments, and captured in the objects created and collected.


Australian filmmakers and actors continue to routinely move between home and abroad. Directors like Peter Weir (Master and Commander, The Truman Show, Green Card, Dead Poets Society, Witness), Philip Noyce and Scott Hicks (Shine, Snow Falling on Cedars), along with actors like Nicole Kidman, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce, Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts, Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill, Mel Gibson, Hugh Jackman and Toni Collette are just a few of the more prominent names among a long and distinguished list of Australians who have forged film careers for themselves in Australia and abroad. The same goes for Australian-based New Zealanders such as Jane Campion (The Piano, Portrait of a Lady) and Russell Crowe, winner of a 2001 Hollywood Oscar for Best Actor. It's a great achievement for an industry that was virtually at a standstill when an injection of government money revived it in the early 1970s.

Australian writers: a unique breed

National literature has a typically Australian style - witty, wry, laconic, laconic and impassive in its outlook on the world and what it has to offer.

It is not surprising that the earliest Australian literature that remains popular consists of short stories by Henry Lawson: tales of rural life in the 1890s, of survival and humor, in a stripped-down style that is now curiously modern. Any literature that claims to be at least passable will always be about love and death. But the added Australian ingredient to these themes is the establishment of European civilization in the southern hemisphere, in a totally alien milieu, among indigenous peoples at first barely understood and then only gradually understood. Writers there have much to assimilate, for Australia - which as a state has only been in existence for a hundred years - has had to take a crash course in nation-building. Australia has a Nobel laureate in literature: the stern, bitingly comic yet epic novelist Patrick White, who won the prize in 1973. The Australian novelist of the moment is Tim Winton. His novels are full of verbal freshness and are ambitious, sophisticated in structure and scope. His characters are vividly plausible, his portrait of life on Australia's west coast is virtually exhaustive, and his theological underpinning is rich and integrated. Recommended classics and contemporaries are A.B ("Banjo") Paterson, Henry Lawson, Les Murray, Helen Garner, Robert Dessaix, as well as writers who go on to be critics and commentators on contemporary life such as Germaine Greer, Shiley Hazzard, Robert Hughes, Clive James or Peter Porter. They are dazzling, cultured, funny, eccentric, and can sometimes express great humanity.


Australia's reputation as a vital and individualistic nation is perfectly exemplified in Australian fashion, a delightful and colorful melting pot of exuberant styles. One can start with the intensely beautiful cultural fusion of Akira Isogawa's aesthetic. A constant fixture on the international circuit is Collette Dinnigan, the queen of the red carpet. With such high-profile followers as Naomi Watts, Sara O'Hare, Helena Christensen and Charlize Theron, her lace-bordered gowns, spiky layered skirts and beaded embroidered satin gowns are found in more than 80 top-tier stores worldwide.

Then there's the new guard. This rebellious generation takes its inspiration from Australia's surf culture, graffiti, art and childhood dreams and then creates its unique sense of style, with a completely different set of rules. Tsubi, an incite brand based near Bondi Beach in Sydney, is well known for its use of battered denim and runway antics. Add to the list sass&bide, the partnership between the dynamic duo of Heidi Middleton and Sarah Jane Clark, who parade their whimsical creations imbued with bohemian spirit in both Australia and New York. Then there's Willow, the lingerie line that recently debuted on international runways, with its sequin-splashed confections. All three of these labels are going down quirky and creative paths, proving that you don't have to have an established name to stand out.

Unsurprisingly, Australians have also made their mark on the international swimwear market. The beach is an undeniable inspiration for designers as different as Zimmermann and Tigerlily, with their tropical print bikinis and sculptural tights. There is much merit in the spirit and diversity of Australian fashion. Brisbane native Easton Pearson has built his label on romantic country style, while the two Melbourne brands Maticevski and Scanlan & Theodore showcase innovative tailoring interspersed with feminine, playful and thoughtful designs.

 Ultimately, what has united this group of creative leaders is the pursuit of their personal satisfaction, indifferent to what the industry dictates. But, as with all things Australian, a sense of adventure is always to be expected. 

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