Code of Practice Consultations

Newest Insights into Festivals; Hiring Space; Selling & Commercial Galleries as well as an update on NAVA's callout for writers to co-author the new Code.

Illustration by Emily Johnson.

Image description: a drawing of a desktop computer floats in the middle of a rectangle frame on an orange background. The screen is split into nine frames, each with a head and shoulders drawing of different people attending an online meeting. They have different hair styles, skin tone, are wearing different outfits and sit in front or different coloured backgrounds. None of them have facial features. A small keyboard is tucked under the monitor and a mouse is to the right. Two vases are coloured in different shades of blue to the left-hand side of the monitor. One has a palm leaf type plant coming out of it. On the right side of the monitor is an adjustable blue lamp.

About the Code of Practice

The Code of Practice for the Professional Australian Visual Arts, Craft & Design Sector sets the national best practice standards for the sector, providing a set of practical and ethical guidelines for the conduct of business between art, craft and design practitioners and galleries, agents, dealers, retailers, buyers, sponsors and partners, commissioners, employers and the managers of residencies, workshops, competitions, prizes and awards, and more.

February consultation

The third in a series of preliminary consultation conversations for NAVA’s major revision of the Code of Practice was held in February. Each one-hour conversation focused on different areas of the Code:

• Festivals (guest presenters: Hanna Cormick and Sarah Rowbottam)

• Hiring Space (guest presenters: Nicole Barakat and Don Clark) 

• Selling & Commercial Galleries (guest presenters: James Tylor and Amanda Rowell)


Artists and Organisational NAVA Members, colleagues and stakeholders joined us to contribute their experience and insight to these discussions. Guest presenters opened the sessions with presentations about their experiences and insights to give context to the conversation and offer provocations. The consultation participants were then invited to deliberate in online breakout rooms to discuss best practice approaches to the topic of the meeting and what's missing in the Code of Practice that would be of benefit to the sector.

Graphic recording of the meetings

Graphic recordings by Sarah Firth.


The three consultation meetings indicated that business relationships in the arts are more than a transaction; they tend to be close and collaborative over a sustained period. There are many variations in the needs and expectations between artists and the entities they work with, which include commercial galleries, spaces, markets, festivals and other organisations.

Given these variations and complexities, key terms that were raised during the consultations included transparency, trust, open communication and clear expectations. While a number of different approaches to documenting agreements were discussed, it was largely acknowledged that outlining expectations and establishing a common understanding of the business relationship is vital. The ideal approach is a balance between friendly, comprehensive, digestible and fair.

Another priority in the formation of agreements with artists is a level of flexibility when unexpected setbacks arise and projects need to change course. Accounting for incidents such as change in execution of the work; cancellations due to ill-health; bad weather or a global pandemic; and damage must be built into agreements by way of risk management, contingency plans, condition reports and insurance policies.

Superannuation was also raised as an increasing concern for artists, particularly in regard to confusion from festivals around the legal requirement for payment of wages and superannuation for performance works under the Live Performance Award but not for visual artists. Like all other working people, artists need to save for retirement; to this end, long-term career supporting strategies such as superannuation contributions and stipends are put in place by some commercial galleries.

NAVA warmly thanks all contributors for their insights, which will be used to inform the development of key discussion papers that will guide deeper work through focus groups, interviews and further research over the coming months.

Next steps

We will continue to discuss these topics, encouraging more detailed conversations within focus groups, interviews and further research.

We encourage you to become involved in further consultation, provide feedback and raise any issues regarding best practice that the Code of Practice should address. Please email NAVA's Best Practice Coordinator Holly Morrison via

In the meantime, four discussion papers informed by our consultations in 2020 are currently available online. This set of papers consider Artist self-organisation - ARIs; Exhibiting; Funding; and Loans. The purpose of these papers is to stimulate feedback to further inform the drafting process. The discussion papers are in survey format with space for text responses. If you require the papers in a different format, please get in touch with Holly as above. Feedback is open until 31 March 2021. 


NAVA is developing the new Code of Practice a comprehensive and accessible resource by employing a ‘payment-for-consultation’ model that centres the diversity of our arts communities and pays them directly as advisers, designers and co-authors.

There are opportunities for a number of writers to contribute to sections of the new Code. An EOI for writers closed over the weekend, attracting more than 90 applications from across Australia. Applications received came from a range of people with varied, rich experiences and practices. We were thrilled to hear from so many independent practitioners and arts workers across the sector with a genuine interest in contributing to and promoting best practice standards. 

NAVA is reviewing applications this week and will be getting in touch with writers for upcoming discussion papers in the next few months.


The new Code of Practice, once implemented, will more accurately reflect the contemporary practices and needs of Australian artists and arts workers and further promote the development of a robust arts ecology that can sustain and support artists’ careers while preparing organisations, institutions and policymakers for working with and for artists in financially transparent, culturally competent and ethical ways.

The February consultation process provided valuable insights from our members to ensure the new Code of Practice delivers on that mission.

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Australia Council logo and Create NSW logo

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body, and the NSW Government through Create NSW.