We’d heard rumours on the art grapevine that Sue Doyle of Creative Victoria was seeking to escape the city and was joining us in Gippsland.
Everything was barely unpacked and Sue was getting to know her furry and feathered neighbours when we came calling with the following interview.
Gippslandia: Can you please share with us an insight into your career to the point of joining Creative Victoria?
Sue: After studying history and working in various jobs from telephone kitchen sales (short-lived), writing education materials and a local history project in Hobart, Tasmania, I decided on Museum Studies, which I loved.
I chose the Immigration Museum for my student placement and ended up being offered work in exhibition development after my studies. I also worked at Ansett writing business proposals and was there when everyone was marched out of the building, on its collapse — an unforgettable experience.
I then worked in telecommunications policy with the national regulator. While the policy work often had really interesting aspects, such as payphone policy in Aboriginal communities, I was also yearning to be back in the creative sector. When the role came up in the policy team at (the then named Arts Victoria), I jumped at it.
Please describe your role with Creative Victoria?
My title is Manager, Regional Development. This is a pretty broad catch-all for all things creative industries in regional Victoria and my role is primarily to ensure that Creative Victoria’s strategy, programs and investments meet the diverse needs of the creative sector in regional Victoria. This includes gathering and sharing intel on issues, challenges and opportunities for the sector, as well as contributing to program design and strategy development.
Regional Victoria is a large and very diverse remit especially across all the aspects of the creative sector from First Peoples, to visual arts, to music, design, cultural tourism, fashion etc. so there is strong need to connect people, organisations and other parts of government who can benefit from knowing each other, as well as funding opportunities.
What motivates you as a member of the Creative Victoria team?
I feel this position is a real privilege. There is deep talent, passion and commitment, as well as untapped potential to realise in regional Victoria, with challenges still to overcome. The creative sector has so much to offer regional communities, visitors and audiences more broadly.
I have lots of fantastic colleagues, also passionate about what they do and with great expertise, so I really enjoy being able to share ideas and collaborate on projects together. Creative Vic are generally a fun bunch to hang out with, so I’m missing not seeing people at the office!
Sue, you’ve been involved in projects that utilise the arts to strengthen regional communities or those areas affected by bushfire, for example. How does the arts or creativity achieve this? How can it be an important catalyst for regeneration or resilience?
The role of arts and creativity in strengthening communities and resilience works on many levels. On an individual level it can provide a safe environment for expression, bonding with others, reflection, better understanding and navigating trauma as well as pure enjoyment and celebration of life.
It can also inspire where hope is thin on the ground, and provide opportunities to express culture, beliefs and community. Often, it is participation in creativity that’s so powerful, but it is also meaningful for audiences and plays a vital role in liveability. It’s important that people in regional communities have opportunities to experience the arts and creativity — in addition to sports, which sometimes gets a higher profile.
And of course the arts, whether it be a festival, exhibition or cultural interpretation, is a key driver in bringing in visitors from close by and far away to regional areas. Which has economic benefits for local businesses and ripple effects for those communities. Research has also shown that visitors who’ve had a great experience are very likely to be repeat visitors and to spread the word.
You’ve recently moved to our ‘hood, Gippsland. Specifically, Phillip Island or Millowl. Are you enjoying your new surroundings? What’s your favourite aspect of your new area?
I’d like to acknowledge that I am now lucky to live on the lands of Yallock-Bulluk people of the Boonwurrung clans who are the traditional owners and their land was never ceded. I’m loving being on Phillip Island, or the Island, if I’m going to try to pass as a local.
The flexibility in working remotely brought about by Covid-19 has been a game changer and fast-tracked my plans to live regionally. I particularly love being so close to nature, all the beautiful walks, birds and animals and the idea of being able to swim before or after work still feels too good to be true.
I have this uneasy feeling I’ll have to return to my real home in the city soon. I’m also excited about discovering more of Gippsland, and feel I’ve barely skimmed the surface. I’m very keen to do some road trips now that we can travel again.
Had you had much involvement or participation with the creative scene in the Bass Coast region before you moved?
I know there’s a strong local creative scene in the Bass Coast, and over the years I’ve been to a few events, literary festivals, exhibitions and live music. But I’m looking forward to getting to know the local scene a lot better! I hear Archies Creek is now set up to host live music over summer, so I’ll be keeping an eye on that as well as the Westernport Hotel in San Remo.
In addition to the people who already call it home, I think places with a beautiful natural environment often attract creatives with the mix of inspiration and a more affordable and relaxed lifestyle. But like any regional area with less population and resources, there are also challenges in accessing all the elements that comprise a thriving creative environment. I know from many conversations through my work that people also crave connections with ideas and other creatives beyond their local area.
I’m aware of planning for a Dinosaur Walking Trail in the Bass Coast Shire, which would include creative elements. I think that tourism strategies that really capitalise on the unique strengths of the area and enable creative interpretation forge a much greater chance of success. I’m sure we’ll see cultural tourism in regional areas becoming even more important as Victoria moves into a recovery stage.