Editorial: Creative Leadership

‘tomorrow’s tertiary leaders must take charge of developing much more sophisticated, dynamic and relevant public reports of what is being done and achieved. Demystifying higher education will unleash productive futures which prevailing discourse or practice are unlikely to realise.’

While this advice, offered by Professor Hamish Coates from the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education, may be targeted towards the top echelons of the university, it has particular resonance with those charged with leadership in tertiary creative arts.

As science and technology appears to be achieving greater primacy, at least in government rhetoric and funding allocations, the role of public reporting and demystification of the contribution that creative arts brings to national productivity and societal cohesion remains an ongoing leadership task.

But do we currently have enough creative artists in formal academic leadership positions to carry out this important advocacy?

Between 2012 and 2017, creative arts disciplines in over 60% of Australia’s public universities have experienced some form of regrouping of their schools and faculties  continuing the reshaping that took place in the aftermath of the Dawkins reforms (Frankham, 2006; Roennfeldt, 2007). Typically creative arts have been subsumed into broader conglomerates of humanities and social science headed by colleagues without a detailed understanding of the specificities of creative arts practice, teaching and research.

Although we have a host of talented colleagues in Head of School, Dean or Director positions, it is perhaps unfair to expect them to take sole responsibility for the critical leadership role of advocacy. If we are to secure a better national understanding of the importance of creative arts, it is a task that needs to be embraced by every creative arts academic.

In this edition of NiTRO, we are fortunate to have the wisdom of those with experience and expertise to help us understand the increasingly complex nature of creative arts leadership and the tasks that are required in the years ahead.  

Vice Chancellor, Steve Chapman (ECU) views the creative arts from his perspective as university leader in an article with the wonderful title ‘Because you are worth it’

Annika Harding, Executive Officer of the Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (ACUADS) canvassed the views of their membership on how leadership has changed and will change in the future;

Anna Reid (Sydney Conservatorium, University of Sydney), draws a convincing analogy between the musician’s identity and leadership characteristics;

Barbara de La Harpe (USQ) and doctoral candidate Thembi Mason (RMIT) draws upon empirical research from Thembi’s soon to be conferred PhD to examine the features shared by tertiary creative arts leaders in Australian universities;

Ian Howard (UNSW) looks back on his twenty plus years as a leader in UNSW’s College of Fine Arts and Griffith University’s Queensland College of Art to share his experiences and advice for new and aspiring leaders of creative arts; 

Kate Cherry (NIDA) who has recently moved from a position of artistic leadership for Black Swan Theatre to take up the role of Director of the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) shares a little of her background, experience and views on the similarities and differences of these two leadership positions;

Megan Burslem (Monash) captures the essence of creative arts leadership in her interview with Monash University’s new music school head Professor Cat Hope.


Coates, H (2017) Making Universities Worth it. Pursuit. University of Melbourne. https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/making-universities-worth-it 

Frankham, N. (2006). Attitudes and trends in Australian art and design schools. Paper presented at the ACUADS (Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools) 2006 Conference. Monash University and The Victorian College of the Arts Melbourne, Victoria. http://acuads.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/frankham1.pdf

Roennfeldt, P. (2007). The genealogy and anatomy of the Australian tertiary music sector: How far have we come and where are we going? Paper presented at the NACTMUS 2007 conference. Brisbane, Griffith University. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Peter_Roennfeldt/publication/29466342_The_genealogy_and_anatomy_of_the_Australian_tertiary_music_sector_How_far_have_we_come_and_where_are_we_going/links/09e415112d55087d59000000.pd