Thank you, and goodbye.

Dear colleagues and clients,

In 2017 when we began our work, Audio Description was only available for a few select shows in Melbourne each year. For a city and state that pride themselves on being centres of culture in Australia and the world, this was an unacceptably limited situation.

Description Victoria was founded with a plan and a vision. We wanted to see a new generation of Describers who were trained and supported in their practice, and who were paid what they were worth. We wanted to see artists and organisations welcome a new audience which had previously been excluded. And we wanted to see blind and vision impaired people access works they might never have considered before.

We’ve faced significant challenges and obstacles on the path toward that vision. While many artists and venues quickly saw the value of our work, we were not able to secure the ongoing organisational investment which would have allowed us to grow our service. The arts and the blind community are not served best by practitioners who are fuelled solely by their individual passion within the relentless precarity of freelancing in the arts. To fully realise its aims, Description Victoria needed to be a safe harbour for describers and blind audiences – a place where people could trade knowledge and develop their craft.

Without external support, the uncertain and stressful nature of delivering our services within the COVID-normal live event industry took a financial and personal toll. Despite these challenges, we believe we’ve gone some way toward achieving what we set out to do. In just six years, the state of live Audio Description in Victoria has completely changed. We’ve collaborated with venues small and large, described dance, theatre, opera, digital content, and experimental works which defy categorisation.

We have trained people, run workshops, and centred the voices of blind arts audiences as experts in their own experience. We have disrupted the inertia of a status quo where everything was done for blind people, rather than done with blind people.

Artists and arts organisations are now broadly more educated about Audio Description and tactile tours, and enthusiastic about access and inclusion. And audiences have enjoyed the quality and consistency of the service we provided, which has shown how good live Audio Description can and should be.

So it’s with mixed feelings that we’re writing to tell you that the entity of Description Victoria will soon be retired. We’re sad to see the end of a brand with a reputation like the one we’ve built. And we’re disappointed that the business model we proposed – one that offered security and stability to employees – ultimately proved not to be viable in the current climate. But we’re happy to see the results of our hard work, and to understand that we’re about to conclude only one chapter in a larger story.

The end of Description Victoria won’t mean the end of description in Victoria. In June alone we’ve seen 5 Audio Described shows delivered by a major festival, and chosen in consultation with our community. And we know of many more in the pipeline for the rest of 2023, including some to be delivered at Malthouse Theatre by our founder Will McRostie.

Just a few years ago, the idea of so many described experiences, in such a variety of venues and art-forms, seemed like a big dream. We’re very proud to know that we played a huge part in making that dream a reality.

We’ve created some valued resources, like our guide to inclusive meetings and presentations, which we’re determined should outlive us in a new home.

For now though, we’d like to thank you all for working with us over the last few years. As audience members, clients, or collaborators, you’ve helped us bring about genuine change in difficult times. We appreciate the support we’ve received from everyone who attended a show, helped us deliver one, or assisted us behind the scenes.

We hope this is just a small end within a larger beginning, and we look forward to seeing what happens next.

Best wishes, and farewell from

The board of Description Victoria Inc.

Lauren Clelland
Jonathan Craig
Zach Iaali
Bernadette Jolley
Nadia Mattiazzo
Will McRostie
Dr Kevin Murfitt AM