Constructing the first Australian archive of disability arts

Project dates: 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2023

Why it matters

Australian disability arts is recognised globally for its innovation and impact. However, the historical legacy this celebrated contemporary work builds on is largely undocumented – because conventional libraries, archives, and research methods still find it difficult to distinguish between mainstream work and work by artists with disabilities themselves, difficult to trace work that takes place outside arts institutions in schools, residential care facilities, asylums, and the rich community networks that exist around them, and difficult to appreciate work that is presented in languages such as Auslan.

Project Overview

This project aims to address this gap by studying archival records, conducting oral history interviews, and then co-designing an online disability arts archive with artists and other stakeholders. In doing so, this project will create the first archive documenting, analysing and theorising the evolution of disability arts in Australia over the last 50 years.

It will benefit students, scholars, arts organisations, artists and government by creating a comprehensive, curated, culturally respectful record to inform present and future policy initiatives designed to make the arts industry more inclusive of people with disabilities.

Project Outcomes



  • Bree Hadley. (2021). What’s in a Name?: The Politics of Labelling in Disability Performance. The Oxford Handbook of Politics and Performance. Edited by Shirin M. Rai, Milija Gluhovic, Silvija Jestrovic, and Michael Saward. Oxford University Press. View on ePrints

Project Team

Chief investigator

Associate Professor Bree Hadley

Other Team Members


  • Australian Council for the Arts
  • Arts Access Victoria


Funding / Grants

  • Australian Research Council (ARC) Grant 'Special Research Initiative for Australian Society, History and Culture' (SRI20) [$227,131] (2020 - 2023)