The peak body protecting and promoting the Australian visual arts sector

Artists Working with Children

Laws exist in every state governing the conditions under which artists can work with children. In 2009, the Australia Council was required by the government at the time to develop an extra set of protocols for artists working with children in art. These are still in force.

skipping girls
The Skippy Girls

Australia Council Protocols

From January 2009, all Australia Council grant winners have been obliged to abide by a set of protocols as a condition of grant. The protocols apply to artists and arts organisations who work with children and deal with:

  • Creation of an artwork or project
  • Exhibitions and performances
  • Distribution - by publication, in promotional material or through digital media - of images that depict a real child under the age of 18
  • Websites of Australia Council funded organisations.

Working With Children Protocols.

Following the controversy over the work of artist Bill Henson and the condemnation of his work by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the Arts Minister at the time, Peter Garrett was tasked with requiring the Australia Council to develop a set of protocols for artists working with children.

NAVA is opposed to these extra conditions being imposed over and above the requirements of the law. In our view, while it would be useful to harmonise the different state laws, there is no evidence that the imposition of the extra requirements detailed in the Australia Council protocols provides better protection for children. Rather it is viewed by the industry as an extra time consuming exercise that artists, organisations and publications have to go through to secure funding. The only benefit is for those who feel the need to get their work classified in that there would be no extra cost if this was done under the Australia Council grant umbrella.

Before the protocols were developed, NAVA wrote a submission to the Australia Council asserting that the protocols were unnecessary and obstructive to artists and could compromise freedom of artistic expression. When the protocols were reviewed in 2010, NAVA recommended their abandonment or if not, asked for major modifications. At this stage they were only very slightly changed.

The Australia Council commissioned the Arts Law Centre of Australia to produce plain English explanations of state by state laws related to working with children. Read them here.