Multi Arts peers

Yvette Walker

Yvette Walker, QLD – Multi Arts Peer

If you were to encourage a colleague to become a Peer – what would you tell them…

About the time commitment required?

The time required to assess the applications preceding your time in Sydney with the rest of your peers can be significant. The insight you gain from reviewing projects, individuals and/or organisations from the Australian arts sector is an incredible honour that will educate you and offer you an invaluable scope and awareness of who is out there and what projects/opportunities practitioner's are feeling are of value in the present arts landscape. 

I strongly encourage my peers from the First Nations arts sector to put their hand up and submit to be an Australia Council for the Arts Peer.  It's important to have diversity represented on the panels to ensure that a comprehensive and healthy portrayal of opinions and expertise are enfolded into the process and personified in the outcomes.    

You have learned about your sector?

Our sector is evolving.  It continues to be severely challenged in some instances, but it remains diligent in fighting for support and opportunities.  The commitment of arts makers and artists to continue to push the envelope in their practices and not become complacent in previous or present (inherited or otherwise) successes and/or losses, is inspiring.  I would encourage everyone to be as bold, colourful and ambitious as possible with their grants.  Don't unnecessarily inhibit the financial needs of your project, particularly the needs of artists/arts workers because you want to present a more competitive application (assessment is not based on financial viability).  Let the vision and soul of your idea or work be reflected in the application, and call [Council] to pick their brains and gain their advice and recommendations.            

Does everyone agree in the assessment meetings? What should you be prepared to do?

Not always.  As everyone is unique to their own area/s of expertise and are employing their own critical thoughts and experience into the process, it makes for a vigorous exchange of views.  It is essential in maintaining integrity in the process, which is facilitated by Council, that every voice in the room is received and considered without prejudice, with respect. In by doing so there is an opportunity for peers to express key perspectives about each application that may be driven from an objectivity that then influences the context of the application.  Which is why it is important to be thorough in your assessments.  In preparation to your required time with the panel, it is valuable to consider why you are reaching certain evaluations, take time to explore and interpret your pathway of thinking and be ready to express that with your peer group.  

What have you enjoyed most about being a peer?

Being a peer was a wonderful privilege that imparted many positive experiences onto me.  Having an opportunity to connect with peers from around the country and to observe their level of knowledge as well as be immersed in their particular viewpoints and experience was greatly beneficial.  They were also very keen and supportive in learning more about my background and arts journey, which contributed to a space of respect and understanding.  It was equally wonderful to meet some of the staff (at Council) and have an opportunity to converse in person and ask questions in order to enrich my understanding of the funding process/s.  I felt welcomed, respected and supported in participating in my first Peer Assessment Panel.  But of course the most rewarding and enjoyable part of the process was being entrusted with the care, responsibility and protocol of receiving and assessing.

Jeremy Hawkes

Jeremy Hawkes, NSW – Multi Arts Peer

If you were to encourage a colleague to become a Peer – what would you tell them…

About the time commitment required?

You have learned about your sector?

I would certainly recommend, and indeed have done so, any of my peers to take part in an assessment panel for many reasons. I have been aware of many criticsms levelled at such panels over the years, in particular that they are urban-centric and that the majority of the funding goes to artists or organizations with well-established careers who are funded year in year out. I have found it really important to be a voice for artists and arts workers who live in regional or rural Australia and to speak to the unique challenges that face us.

The time commitment to the assessment process is considerable if it is to be done in a fair and considered manner. I really believe that each application should be given equal time, and be approached with an open mind with no preconceived ideas based on personal tastes or industry reputations. I have participated in a number of different panels, and the amount of applications can vary drastically. You may have 20, or you may have 80. It’s essential to give them equal time and not have to race through them to meet a deadline. I have found it best to begin early and work through them consistently and thoroughly – a few a day is my recommendation. I have often found that the further I proceed, the more it can be necessary to revisit some of them in light of applications having similar content or context.

It’s an incredible opportunity to expand your knowledge of what is occurring nation-wide in your particular sector, and in a broader cultural context. The insights the assessment process gives you is invaluable in so many ways: identifying cultural trends, increased understanding of how differing art forms are delineated and defined, broadening your understanding of the funding opportunities, and what makes a good application stand out.

It’s also a unique opportunity to meet other peers who may be working in vastly different fields yet there are commonalities of cultural concerns and networks.


Does everyone agree in the assessment meetings? What should you be prepared to do?  

I would be really worried if all the peers agreed all of the time! Certainly, there are projects that all the peers support for funding, just as there are applications, which are unanimously turned down. However, it is the discussions and exchanges concerning the ‘why?’ that are the most invaluable and insightful. I have often found myself being in the position of being the only panellist who supports a project, or conversely, doesn’t support an application which the other assessors have unanimously approved. This is where it gets interesting and it’s an incredible learning curve. Of course, not everyone is going to agree but I have found the process to be well facilitated and respectful. Other peers can address issues you may not have considered, be more familiar with the specific art form, have knowledge of the arts practitioners, have a greater understanding of the cultural and political context of the proposal, identify strengths and weaknesses in the application that you may have overlooked etc. I find these discussions to be the highlight of the whole process and perhaps the most interesting conversations I will have all year about cultural development and artistic practices!

Be prepared to change your mind. Be prepared to be flexible, to learn from your peers, to be willing to defer to their greater knowledge of a particular arts sector or arts practitioner. Be prepared to frame your arguments well and in light of what your insights might be. The panellists are all equal and everyone is given an opportunity to speak. I have witnessed some amazing moments where a previously ‘unfundable’ application has ultimately been successful following a robust discussion and a willingness to be flexible from the peers. I have also found it important, and at times quite challenging, to defer to the majority despite strong personal feelings about an application. A really important lesson I have learnt is that even if you don’t particularly like or resonate with the proposal – if it’s not to your artistic taste or sensibilities – be prepared to suspend that judgement in light of a well written and supported proposal.

What have you enjoyed most about being a peer?

Without a doubt, it is the panel discussions themselves, which are the most insightful and enjoyable. I cannot recommend it highly enough to any artist or arts worker who feels strongly about the cultural landscape in Australia and wants to see policy implemented directly. It’s an incredible opportunity for broadening your understanding of what is occurring in the arts across the board. Meeting fellow peers is also a major highlight in so many ways…. not the least of which is the opportunity for professional networking and negotiating possible collaborative projects.

I cannot recommend being a peer assessor for the Australia Council for the Arts highly enough, and would specifically encourage anyone from a diverse background to participate.

Exit off canvas
Real Time Web Analytics