Elevating Victoria’s profile as a hub for artists, makers and creators to thrive

An Artist at the Rare Trades CentreThe UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.

For more than 15 years, Victoria has been involved in UNESCO’S Creative Cities Network – an international program that recognises culture and creativity that contributes to sustainable development. The UNESCO designation is both a statement of intent and an international marker of quality.

As the only state in the world to hold four UNESCO Creative Cities designations – Melbourne (Literature), Geelong (Design), Ballarat (Crafts & Folk Art) and Bendigo city & regions (Gastronomy), Victoria is considered a global creative leader.

Victoria’s creative industries contribute more than $38 billion to the state’s economy. Creative workers make up almost 9% of Victoria’s total workforce. The state’s creative industries play a hugely significant role in Victoria’s social and cultural reputation.

In 2008, Melbourne was recognised as UNESCO’s second ever City of Literature as an acknowledgement to the breadth, depth and vibrancy of its literary culture, including its iconic libraries and bookstores, events, and publishing industry.

Melbourne is home to an array of literary organisations, including Australian Poetry, Express Media, the Emerging Writers’ Festival, the Melbourne Writers Festival, the Small Press Network, Wheeler Centre and Writers Victoria.

Victoria’s second largest city, Geelong, followed in 2017 as City of Design for its commitment to creating a thriving, prosperous and socially inclusive city, through its reimagination of urban spaces.

Each year, Geelong hosts Geelong Design Week as a celebration of the power of design. Last year, the new Geelong Arts Centre opened, connecting regional Victoria with world-class multi-arts experiences and a space for local creatives to thrive.

More recently in 2019, Bendigo and its surrounding regions joined the network as the City of Gastronomy in recognition of its commitment to addressing areas such as sustainability, food production, climate change, primary production, First Nations food and fibre, and innovation.

In the same year, Ballarat – known as home to acclaimed artists and creators – was recognised as the City of Crafts and Folk Art for its commitment to celebrating traditional crafts and protecting lost and forgotten skills.

In 2022, the city opened the Centre for Rare Arts and Forgotten Trades, a space dedicated to allowing the nation’s artisans to pass on their unique skills through workshops and master classes.

The Victorian Creative Cities Network (VCCN) works collaboratively to progress local, regional and international opportunities that provide economic, social, environmental and cultural benefit to the cities of Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.

In April, a new campaign, Creative State of Mind, was launched to celebrate Victoria’s four UNESCO Creative Cities, capturing the State’s creative spirit and encourages Victorians, Australians and global visitors alike to explore and experience the Creative Cities Network.

Image: An Artisan at Ballarat’s Centre for Rare Arts and Forgotten Trades