Australia’s performing arts provide performance opportunities, training, and avenues for people to engage with heritage and culture. A culture that includes equity and diversity principles in music and other performing arts can improve capability and generate new ways of providing equal opportunities for all people to participate — including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people from diverse cultural backgrounds, people with a disability, age and gender balance.

The National Aboriginal Health Strategy (1989) states that “Health encompasses the social, emotional, spiritual and cultural well-being of the whole community.” According to Article 27 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being…” according to the Constitution of the World Health Organisation. Equity and diversity in performing arts is related to Australian anti-discrimination legislation which aligns with the Australian Human Rights Framework 2010. The quality of health services for performing arts industries is informed by the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights 2008.

The field of equity and diversity covers many different aspects of the performing arts, such as: disability access to performance spaces; ethics of recruitment and selection processes; and explanations of how human rights principles can apply to improving opportunities for all people to actively engage with heritage and culture through music and other performing arts.

A self-audit has been developed that can be used by music and other performing arts organisations to evaluate how close their services/programs come to meeting the recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Framework and other leading conventions and legislation.

Once the music and other performing arts organisations have audited their own services/programs, we can pool the data which will be available for strategic planning of future directions in the sector. I can assist performing arts organisations with the service evaluation and planning process as a consultant, and suggest adaptations and actions that may be appropriate for improving the level of social inclusion. The findings should also be useful to people from target equity groups, to inform them of available support services and resources. Organisations can identify themselves as equal opportunity employers, and premises can be listed that are accessible to people with a disability – just to name a couple of potential applications.


Sandra Kirkwood. First entered into knowledge base 24 October 2011.

Editor’s Note

Sandra Kirkwood based this article on a presentation on Equity, Diversity and Access to Performing Arts: Managing Social Inclusion in New Frontiers of Healthcare to the Australian Society of Performing Arts Healthcare (ASPAH) Conference on 22 October 2011, at the University of Sydney.
She is a Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Occupational Therapy, and Master of Philosophy living in Ipswich, Queensland. Her master’s thesis, (Frameworks of Culturally Engaged Community Music Practice for Rural Ipswich, Australia (Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, Brisbane 2009)) discussed two local music projects: (1) an investigation of the music history of Purga in rural Ipswich following the establishment of Purga Music Museum in 2003, and (2) a study of contemporary music in rural Ipswich that resulted in community consultations and the development of a Music Action Plan for the area (abstract here).

Sandra Kirkwood has worked in the health, education, and disability sectors for the last 25 years as an occupational therapist, disability project officer, allied health consultant and equity and diversity consultant. In 2009 Sandra completed a Research Higher Degree at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University. Sandra has completed a number of music projects with communities in Ipswich that were funded by Ipswich City Council and Arts Queensland. Information on current music projects is available at

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