2014 Year in Review

By Robyn Ayres on 19th December 2014

It’s that time of the year when Arts Law reflects on what we have achieved during the year. 2014 also provided us with the occasion to look back on our 30 year history of empowering Australia’s artists and arts communities. 


Key events

It would be an understatement to say that 2014 was busy. There were a number of highlights but the 30th birthday gala dinner at Parliament House with its art auction and our Simon Tedeschi concert at Sydney Grammar are stand-outs. These events enabled Arts Law to connect with our broader community, have fun and raise money, all at the same time. We hope you have enjoyed these special occasions with us and we appreciate your support in helping Arts Law to do more to help Australia’s artists.

Service delivery

In 2014 Arts Law delivered services to over 5000 artists and arts organisations nationally. This was achieved through providing:

  • 2239 telephone legal advices (TLAs)
  • 948 document review services (DRSs)
  • 134 wills for AITB clients
  • 11 face to face legal advice outreach clinics provided in Canberra, Melbourne (4), Perth (2), Darwin , Alice Springs, Hobart and Innisfail
  • our mediation service, and
  • our education program.

Artists in the Black (AITB)

Arts Law visited 27 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over the year. We also caught up with a whole lot more artists and art centre staff at Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF), Darwin Art Fair, Desert Mob in Alice Springs and the Revealed Emerging Aboriginal Artists event in Perth. In all we provided legal services to 1379 AITB clients and education to 452.


It was a tense wait for us for the first half of the year as to whether our core AITB funding from the Attorney General’s Department would be confirmed so we were delighted when it was announced in June we had funding for the preceding year and through to 30 June 2015. This enabled us to eventually appoint Jacqui Cornforth as our new AITB coordinator. Whilst Jacqui is very new in the role already she has visited Erub Art Centre in the Torres Strait, Yarrabah Art Centre in Far North Queensland where she worked with me in providing rights education to the artists, helped with taking instructions for artists’ wills and assisted in the legal advice sessions with the art centre artists and staff.


Funding support

For the third year in a row Arts Law was pleased to receive funding from all States and Territories, most of whom signed the national funding agreement, this process being managed by the Australia Council. In addition to core funding, Arts Law also received an unfunded excellence grant from the Australia Council in 2014 enabling Arts Law to consolidate some programs such as the Document Review Service, develop initiatives such as education packages for tertiary institutions and local Government, enable AITB travel to regional and remote Australia, update our publications, and redevelop the Arts Law and Artists in the Black websites which will be launched in January 2015.

We were delighted that a project to provide legal advice to independent Aboriginal artists in Alice Springs, who are vulnerable to exploitation, was funded by the Ministry for the Arts. We were also pleased to have continued support from Department of Aboriginal Affairs WA, Copyright Agency, Phonographic Performance Company Australia (PPCA) and Film Victoria. However we were very disappointed to lose our Screen Australia funding after 25 years of delivering legal advice services to filmmakers and screen communities nationally.

Holzer artwork on Mirvac’s 8 Chifley Square building

It was a thrill to see the writings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors light up Mirvac’s new building at 8 Chifley Square in Sydney. For Arts Law this was a best practice project whereby we initially provided best practice advice on the Mirvac contract with the Indigenous authors to ensure it properly respected the authors’ rights and then provided Indigenous authors with legal advice about participating in the Holzer artwork. Indigenous songs, poems, stories, autobiography and other texts are now embodied in a massive electronic display fitted to a four-sided, 19-metre steel column at 8 Chifley Square. For more information about the project see http://www.8chifley.com.au/landmark-artwork-for-sydney-by-jenny-holzer and http://www.istaybyjennyholzer.com/.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)

Because of limited access by artists to ADR our Deputy Director, Delwyn Everard, with the assistance of volunteer lawyer, Monique Hennessy, have been working at developing better alternative dispute resolution processes for artists who find themselves involved in disputes. Arts Law has convened a working group of interested representatives from the entertainment industries with the aim of trialling an ADR project in 2015.


As noted above Arts Law had another bumper year for education and professional development workshops with 103 sessions delivered in 52 locations nationally. The map below shows the incredible reach of this program. In 2014 we also increased access to our education program through the delivery of 8 webinars nationally.


This year through the dedicated efforts of Senior Solicitor, Suzanne Derry, Arts Law developed new education packages for tertiary institutions and local government. Whilst the introduction of new subjects into university courses is a lengthy process, we had considerable success with our programs for local government and plan to further develop this initiative in 2015.


Arts Law continues to develop publications to assist the arts community understand and manage the legal and business issues affecting their creative businesses. In 2014 we focused on updating these to incorporate relevant new media and online issues, also increasing the revenue we earned from our publications. We now have a suite of 410 publications & online resources.

Raising our Profile

As noted above our big events for the year were the Simon Tedeschi concert at Sydney grammar with an audience of nearly 1,000 and $35,000 raised towards Arts Law’s programs, especially Artists in the Black. 


The 30th birthday gala dinner held on 3 September at NSW Parliament House was hosted by MC Andrew O’Keefe with trademark charisma and humour. The guests were treated to performances from David Campbell, international performer and recording artist and Krista Pav, an up and coming Indigenous blues and roots artist. Bronwyn Bancroft, director of Boomalli Cooperative, spoke on her experiences as an artist using Art Law’s services, giving examples of Arts Law’s “exemplary contribution directly to the well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”. Unable to make it on the night, the Hon Michael Kirby, Arts Law’s first President, also shared some thoughts on Arts Law’s journey via video. Rupert Myer, Chair of the Australia Council for the Arts, toasted Arts Law at the conclusion of the evening.

Watch Michael Kirby’s speech for Arts Law’s 30th birthday here Our Hearts for Arts Law fund-raising committee held two events in 2014. On 8 April the Laughs for Arts comedy night was sold out and in October the Band Together for Arts Law gig night held at Fbi social. 



Arts Law continues to comment on current issues in the media throughout the year, primarily related to copyright and censorship matters, this included numerous interviews about how Rolf Harris’ public artworks should be managed following his convictions.

Facebook and twitter continue to be a great way of interacting with our arts and legal communities with 2587 likes on Arts Law’s Facebook page, 597 likes on Artists in the Black and 2157 fellow tweeters following us on @ArtLawOz.

Pro bono Support

Arts Law is incredibly proud of the fantastic level of pro bono support we receive from the legal community which we value at approximately $2 million per year. In 2014, 220 lawyers were actively involved in helping Arts Law deliver our services. In recognition of outstanding pro bono contributions, each year we present 30 lawyers with a pro bono award, a limited edition print commissioned by Arts Law. This year’s print, Body Conglomerate, was by Lotte Smith, an artist in her honours year at the National Art School in Sydney - See more at: http://www.artslaw.com.au/news/entry/arts-law-recognises-valuable-pro-bono-contributions-to-the-australian-art-c/


The Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) continues to support Arts Law through a secondment program. Throughout 2014 senior lawyer, Donna Robinson worked at Arts Law one day/week until she went on long service leave in November. In December we were delighted to welcome Snezana Vukovic from AGS 2 days/week. In addition to the secondment, AGS also supported Donna Robinson to assist on a wills and education trip to Central Australia in September.


Arts Law and the Artists in the Black service continued to receive significant support from DLA Piper being one of the firm’s international Signature Projects. In 2014 DLA Piper lawyers, Carrie Follas, Robert Tobias and Emily Christie accompanied Arts Law on wills trips.

The AITB wills trips were also supported by Telstra lawyers, Adrienne Lyle and Nadine Courmadis and Gaden’s Matthew Geary and Eleanor Wheelhouse.

Adopt a lawyer

Through the Adopt a Lawyer project, Arts Law pairs a law firm with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander art centre for a three year partnership. We now have five Adopt a Lawyer partnerships in place. Read more about the experience of Lander & Roger’s lawyer Jess Easton in Warmun community.


Advocacy work

In 2014 Arts Law continued to advocate for the arts community around issues affecting their rights, including freedom of expression, the ability to earn an income from their work and the need for better protection of Indigenous cultural and intellectual property. Some key advocacy work included:

Staff and Board

Thanks to the leadership of our president Justice Margaret Beazley and her fellow Board members, Arts Law significantly increased our fund-raising activities in 2014 with great results. Arts Law is extremely fortunate to have a Board of such high calibre helping us achieve as much as we do for Australia’s arts communities. We were very sorry to say goodbye to our long-term Treasurer Steven Miller, who has provided Arts Law with a steady financial hand over the 9 years he has served on the Board. Similarly we were very sad to farewell Peter Griffin, who served on the Board for 8 years. We wish both Steven and Peter every success in the future. We also welcome to the Board Michelle Gibbings, our new director who is based in Victoria.

I pay tribute to the wonderful staff at Arts Law who all work incredibly hard to deliver our services to Australia’s artists and their organisations. In particular I thank Mary Egan, Arts Law’s Administration and Finance Manager, who wears about 10 hats and took on a huge amount of additional work with this year’s fund-raising efforts and Delwyn Everard, Arts Law’s Deputy Director, who brings her awesome legal skills to lead the legal team and ensures that we are delivering the best service we possibly can. There have been a small number of comings and goings in the team over the year but as we end 2014 I would like to recognise the dedication of the rest of the staff – Suzanne, Trudie, Jenny, Anika, Morris, Maiko, Rose, Belle, Jacqui, as well as all the lovely students, interns and other volunteers who have worked with us throughout the year.

Last but not least I celebrate Australia’s artists who have the courage to pursue their creativity enriching our lives in so many ways.


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