The H.C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship

History | Guidelines


H.C. Coombs

H.C. Coombs at the Lapstone Conference in 1948. Source: Wikipedia Commons.


The H.C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship was established in 1964 at the instigation of Dr H.C. Coombs, ANU Pro-Chancellor at the time, to encourage creative work in the arts in Australia. Fellowships were filled by invitation rather than by public advertisement, and fellows selected by the Vice-Chancellor in consultation with an advisory committee. It was hoped other Australian Universities would follow the ANU example and establish similar schemes for the encouragement of creative artists. The fellowship has supported Australian artists such as Judith Wright, John Perceval, Arthur Boyd, Fiona Hall and Robyn Davidson. The invited fellowships are offered to visual and performing artists and writers on a rotation basis.


From its inception, the term creative artist was interpreted quite loosely, musicians and architects being initially the only definite exclusions, and during the course of the fellowship the University has hosted persons such as Don Burrows, Don Banks, Arthur Cantrill, Judith Clingan, George Golla, George Dreyfus, Alan Gould, Rodney Hall, Xavier Herbert, Christina Stead, Penny Tweedie and Clive Scollay, and Judith Wright. (View the full list). Visual artists have included painters, ceramists, printmakers, sculptors, tapestry-weavers, graphic-designers and artists interested in the use of scientific equipment and techniques in artistic creation.

Learn more about the H.C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship on the 50 years of the HC Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship page



The H.C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship allows the recipient to:
  • engage in a period of uninterrupted creative work in residence at the Australian National University, to conduct research and develop new ideas
  • contribute to the fostering of the creative arts within the University
  • interact with the University academic community, staff, students and visitors.
The University envisages that the Fellow’s work and achievements whilst in residence will be represented by some formal legacy; performance, or documentation.


Applicants may be engaged in any discipline in the creative arts such as the visual arts, contemporary craft or decorative arts, music, film/video production, acting, dance, theatre, writing, contemporary design or the creative use of new media technology. To ensure that each area of the arts is equally represented by the Fellowship, a three-year cycle has been nominated as follows: 

  • 2015 Performance (including theatre, music, dance)
  • 2016 Writing (including literature, prose, poetry, script writing)
  • 2017 Visual Arts (including visual arts, new media film & video)
  • 2018 Performance (including theatre, music, dance)
  • 2019 Writing (including literature, prose, poetry, script writing)
  • 2020 Visual Arts (including visual arts, new media film & video)

The Fellowship is intended for experienced artists including artists from traditional backgrounds with recognised professional standing in their community, who are in mid-career and who have an established arts practice, normally a minimum of five years professional practice. This includes aboriginal artists and musicians from traditional backgrounds with recognised standing in their own communities.

Applicants should be Australian citizens, have formal residency status in Australia, or have a strong Australian connection sufficient to demonstrate that the benefits of the Fellowship will contribute to the development of Australia’s contemporary culture.

The Australian National University is committed to the promotion of equal opportunity for all persons, including women, people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island descent, people of all racial and ethnic groups and people with disabilities.


The Fellow is normally expected to be in residence at the University for a maximum of five months at least, half of which should be during the teaching periods.

For performance artists, and others for whom professional practice precludes long-term continuous residency, should demonstrate how shorter or intermittent residency periods could achieve the goals of the Fellowship.


The Fellowship is up to $33,000, which is intended to cover accommodation, travel, living expenses and material costs (associated with the Fellows particular discipline). Funds must be spent in the year the Fellowship is undertaken and funds will not be carried forward. Depending upon the area of practice and individual requirements, the Fellowship will offer study or studio facilities at the University to the recipient. In some cases, these may need to be shared in some form with other practitioners. For applicants proposing intermittent periods of residency, their applications should contain a proposal of how the available funding should be structured to enable their Fellowship to proceed.

In-kind or other assistance may be available from the University for the public programs in which the Fellow is involved: e.g. performances, exhibitions, seminars, public meetings, or workshops. Depending upon the financial requirements of the selected Fellow, a second Fellowship, possibly for a reduced tenure period, may be awarded in any calendar year.

The Advisory Committee

The H. C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship is administered by the Research School of Humanities & the Arts (RSHA) and a H. C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellow Advisory Committee. The H. C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship is administered by the Research School of Humanities & the Arts (RSHA) and a H. C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellow Advisory Committee. This Committee is chaired by the Director RSHA with representatives from the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, the School of Art, and the School of Music. Two independent experts are also included.

Application Process

1. The Committee actively consults widely with University colleagues seeking their interest to nominate appropriate artists for the Fellowship. The nomination will reflect the proposed areas relevance to the three-year cycle.

2. At its discretion, the Committee may advertise externally for expressions of interest.

3. Proposals to be developed must include the following: 

  • Nominate the artist (c.v. to be attached)
  • Indicate the contact person who agrees to undertake the organisational responsibilities in hosting the Fellowship with the Research School of Humanities & the Arts.
  • Describe the facilities available and academic colleagues who may be involved with the Fellow
  • Outline the proposed creative arts program and its duration
  • Indicate the extent of interaction with the University community and any other connections expected to be made
  • Outline of the budget proposed
  • Provide an indication of the likely outcome of the residency.

Nominations must be supported by an academic unit of the University in addition to the Research School of Humanities & the Arts. Written nominations should be submitted by the nominating academic unit of the University on behalf of the nominated person. Fellows will be co-located between the Research School of Humanities & the Arts and the nominating area with office space arrangements determined by the nature of the Fellow's practice.  Upon selection the fellowship process will follow the CASS guidelines for visitor administration including gaining approval from the College Head.

Please note that only hard copy nominations will be accepted. An acknowledgement of the nomination will be sent to the artist.
Applications MUST be sent to:
Suzanne Knight, Executive Officer
Research School of Humanities & the Arts,
Sir Roland Wilson Building, Bld #120
The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200

Closing date for submissions is generally the end of October each year.
Please contact Suzanne Knight for more details:
E: or T: (02) 6125 3901.


Selection Criteria

Fellowship proposals will be assessed by the H. C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellow Advisory Committee in terms of: 

  • the quality of the proposal
  • its likely contribution to the life of the University
  • the capacity of the proposed Fellow to execute their proposal
  • Artistic standing of the proposed Fellow.

Other considerations

  • Demonstrated and active support and infrastructure available from the University academic area interested in hosting the Fellow
  • Quality of the proposed creative work program and its potential for visibility and engagement with the University community.
  • Potential for contact and collaboration with other parts of the University and the community.
  • Feasibility of the program.

The University reserves the right not to award the Fellowship in a particular calendar year.


The Advisory Committee requires a written report providing an account of activities during the course of the Fellowship, outlining the benefits of the residency. Other comments and recommendations on ways in which the Fellowship could be improved within its existing limits for the benefit of future Fellows are welcome.

This report should be completed by the Fellow prior to leaving the University at the completion of the residency period. Final Fellowship payments will only be paid to the Fellow upon the University’s receipt of the Report.


Updated:  30 May 2019/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications