Change is critical – now is the ideal time to reinvent Circus Oz

For almost 20 months, Circus Oz has undergone a comprehensive internal review that examined different robust business and artistic models.

Circus Oz Executive Director, Penny Miles, explains that the company has prototyped new approaches and worked closely with the circus sector, government agencies and other partners to consider the needs and opportunities for Australian circus – especially for its artists and audiences.

“It was obvious we needed to change and do things differently. The forced pause of the pandemic has allowed us time to focus on reinvention, before we rebuild. This period has been the perfect time to think deeply, be bold and bravely tackle many tough questions. We’ve navigated the possibilities of significant change and are now ready for an optimistic future,” said Miles.

This week Circus Oz launched their new program (an experiment to test the market) called the Circus Arts Incubator. It will utilise the enormous custom-built home base at the Circus Oz Collingwood headquarters, which includes large rehearsal spaces, music studios, various offices, outdoor performance areas as well as wardrobe and props-making facilities.

“We are in a very special position to actively impact the development and profile of Australian circus arts across the country and internationally. Our approach should focus on nurturing and enabling the circus sector. As a major Australian arts company with so much knowledge and experience, this is our foundation – we need to give back.

“Circus at its very heart is about people doing extraordinary things. The sector needs access to space and permission to explore the next unbelievable as well as ongoing support for the next generation who dare to go beyond the imagined. New programs like our Circus Arts Incubator donates major resources to this artistic cause,” Miles explained.

Through consultation with 20 different circus artists and creative representatives from independent companies, the Circus Arts Incubator was designed in response to their feedback and the need for ongoing support and space.

Currently, the Circus Arts Incubator includes two aspects – a Fellowship program offering five $40K stipends to support circus artists to develop their artistic practice and leadership over 6 months; and an Associate program for performers to utilise the Collingwood headquarters for purposeful and accidental collaboration. Expressions of interest for these programs close on Monday, 12 July 2021.

Since 2019, Circus Oz recognised it needed to respond with new artistic and programming development models that would draw on learnings from former artistic directors and address unresolved challenges of the past.

“Given the considerable uncertainty post COVID-19 and based on the significant shifts in the Australian circus sector since Circus Oz was established in the 1970s, we acknowledge we need a new operating model that is responsive, flexible and scalable.

“Circus Oz needs to look different. It is now a critical time to create and embrace the next era. We have reinvented before; have always been pioneers and innovators; and we will definitely harness the spirit of reinvention again,” said Miles.

Throughout the pandemic, Circus Oz scrutinised the importance and priority to reform a logical artistic and program leadership framework.

Following the appointment of Fellowships as part of the Circus Arts Incubator, Circus Oz will then move into the first phase of recruitment for a new artistic lead. An expression of interest will seek responses to the company’s new strategic direction and also provide opportunity to shape what is required of the role to lead and support a thriving contemporary circus scene in Australia.

“Our aim is to lay a new cornerstone that will attract the right person to be part of our change and be open to what the future may hold,” Miles concluded.

Information about the Circus Arts Incubator is available at

Circus Oz will make future announcements as the rebuild process develops.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

One thought on “Change is critical – now is the ideal time to reinvent Circus Oz

  • This all sounds great, but why has the current team at Circus Oz buried the history of the company? Why has there been no announcement of all the people who lost their jobs over the last 20 months? Founding members with 40 years of history with the company let go with no farewell or recognition even in a facebook post. No history of the company or former shows recognised in their website. =Just disappeared as if they never happened. And how has this major arts company for well over 2 years had NO artistic director? Since when did administrators dictate the artistic vision of an arts company?


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