Disability and the Performing Arts in Australia: The Last Avant Garde

The Last Avant Garde is an ARC Linkage project exploring artistic innovation and the work of disability artists in Australia.

two people high-fiving

What is the project?

We are a team of deaf and disabled and non-disabled researcher artists, performers, writers, arts managers and theatre makers who have been mapping disability arts practice across the nation. The project is funded by the Australia Research Council and is part of a long-running collaboration between Arts Access Victoria, and the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney. The project is investigating the creative and aesthetic strategies of the Australian Disability Arts sector.

What are we interested in?

This project is interested in speaking to artists with a disability and the organisations that support them are working to build an inclusive arts sector, free from barriers, where people with a disability can participate on an equal basis. We are speaking with artists about their art and art making process. We think that Australian society benefits when the wider community understands and values the creative contribution of artists with a disability and their cultural aspirations.

The goals of our project

  • To collaborate with deaf/disabled artists in order to celebrate their creative practice and explore the role of artistic experimentation in contemporary arts and disability practice in Australia by inviting contributions and provocations from the artists themselves
  • To co-design accessible strategies for collaboration and making art, for use by future artists, the disability community and cultural policymakers
  • To increase critical recognition, employment and funding opportunities for artists

Outcomes / activities

This project will result in a series of academic and policy-related publications. Key examples published or contracted to date include:

  • Martin, F. Dreams of Flight: Mobility and Gendered Subjectivity Among China’s Student Transmigrants, monograph under contract to Duke University Press, forthcoming 2020/ 2021
  • Martin, F. and Dragojlovic, Ana (eds.,). "Gender, Mobility Regimes, and Social Transformation in Asia," special issue of the Journal of Intercultural Studies 40(3), April 2019
  • Martin, F., Qin, Can; Douglass, Caitlin; Megan, Lim M. and El-Hayek, Carol. Intimate attitudes, knowledges and practices: Chinese-speaking international students in Australia, The University of Melbourne and The Burnet Institute, Melbourne, June 2019

Project details


ARC Linkage Project funding commencement: 2016 (active)

Research partners

Arts Access Victoria
The University of Sydney

Project team

Kath Duncan – Research Associate and Project Chair
Dr Eddie Paterson – Lead CI
Professor Gerard Goggin – CI
Caroline Bowditch, Executive Director, Arts Access Victoria
Sarah Austin, Research Assistant
Madeline Little, Research Assistant

Steering Committee
Bree Hadley
Veronica Pardo
Gaelle Mellis
Katie Ellis


Dr Kath Duncan
Dr Eddie Paterson

More information

The Last Avant Garde Research web page