28 March
Katherine Giles with staff from the Arnhem, Northern and Kimberley Artists (ANKA) organisation and artists and staff from the Warlayirti Artists arts centre, Balgo, Western Australia. The photograph was taken during a 2006 outreach trip.

A Return to Arts Law

In December 2022 I returned to Arts Law in the new role of Head of Legal and Operations. I have now worked at Arts Law several times, starting off as an Administration Officer while I finished my law degree, before coming back to Arts Law in 2004 as a Solicitor and then a Senior Solicitor. In 2008 I left Arts Law to work in the in-house legal team at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), then as a Senior Associate at MinterEllison from 2016 – with a little bit of teaching at UNSW as a Teaching Fellow on the side. In 2022, during a post-COVID lockdown re-set, after juggling working from home and assisting my kids with remote schooling (where I realised one of my kids needed a bit of extra help), I did a short stint in the legal team at a profit-for-purpose carbon farming start-up.

From the time I left Arts Law in 2008, until my return in December 2022 I tried to keep up my support as a pro bono volunteer lawyer whilst also juggling work and kids. When the role at Arts Law came up, I was really thrilled to return once more and have the opportunity to work again with Robyn Ayres, Arts Law’s CEO, and Suzanne Derry, Arts Law’s Head of Innovations, Growth and Engagement. It also meant I could get to know the rest of the committed and enthusiastic team at Arts Law and the amazing board members.

The path from Arts Law to in-house at the ABC is a well-worn one, but coming back to Arts Law means I have come full circle. In fact, more than a few people have said to me, ‘wow, you really have come full circle!’

The new role is a mix of working with the legal team who deliver Arts Law’s legal services and managing operational matters that span funding, budgets, office space, and payroll. Since I started, I have survived moving to a new office and have developed a strange new fascination with Excel – so things are going well. I also still provide IP, Entertainment and Media law advice and education to artists and arts organisations, whilst getting to work on more operational aspects like developing pro-bono and stakeholder support.

I’m really excited to return to Arts Law and I’m extremely passionate about our mission to empower creators and creative organisations through the law. It is an exhilarating time to be back here. The Federal Government’s new National Cultural Policy ‘Revive: A Place For Every Story, A Story For Every Place’ (Revive) presents an exciting opportunity for the arts community and those who work in it to reflect on its five pillars. This means putting ‘First Nations First’ (Pillar 1) and respecting the ‘Centrality of the Artist’ (Pillar 2). As Prime Minister Anthony Albanese sets out in the introduction to Revive, the policy represents an exciting chapter for the future of the arts, Australia’s creative workforce, and how Australians share unique stories across different mediums. It truly is an exciting time.

It is a great honour to return to Arts Law in the role of Head of Legal and Operations, and to work with the dedicated Arts Law team, the amazing creators and creative organisations, and the communities that Arts Law advises and engages with every day. I look forward to speaking with and advising many creators and organisations and travelling around Australia to meet with them, including on outreach trips. During 2005 and 2006, when I was working at Arts Law, I had the opportunity to go on outreach trips to Balgo in Western Australia as well as Katherine and the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory. Those trips were life-changing, immersive experiences. We live in an amazing country where arts, culture, stories and songlines go back tens and thousands of years and it is an honour to return to Arts Law, where I have the privilege of working with the creators and creative communities that continue to create these stories, and new creators who will create new stories!

Katherine Giles, Head of Legal and Operations