OzAsia Festival – History

OzAsia Festival was established by Adelaide Festival Centre’s CEO and Artistic Director, Douglas Gautier AM, in 2007. Presented annually in spring by Adelaide Festival Centre, OzAsia Festival has grown to become Australia’s leading contemporary arts festival engaging with Asia, attracting audiences of up to 200,000 each year.

2015 - PRESENT

In 2015, Joseph Mitchell became the OzAsia Festival Artistic Director. He shifted the program rationale from focusing on a single country each year and instead threw it wide open to showcase the best contemporary art and artists from across Asia, including the Middle East.

Mitchell’s expansive and boundary-breaking programs consistently include numerous Australian and World Premieres across theatre, music, dance, visual art, film and literature. Other achievements include a major outdoor element, the OzAsia Festival hub (called the Lucky Dumpling Market since 2017); commissioning the giant Hong Kong Dragon Lantern, which requires 40 people to carry it through the Moon Lantern Parade; and introducing a satellite event of the Jaipur Literature Festival as the official literature program.

Since 2015, several major OzAsia Festival commissions have received national and international acclaim, including Scary Beauty, a chamber opera by Keiichiro Shibuya featuring a robot with AI accompanied by the Australian Art Orchestra; Sk!N an immersive theatre/dance experience by TerryandtheCuz; Music in Anticlockwise by Gaybird Leung and Zephyr Quartet; Close Company, a dance collaboration between Alison Currie and RAW Moves; and more. 

OzAsia Festival has evolved to become one of Australia’s leading and most influential international arts festivals and it continues to play a significant role in introducing new contemporary arts from Asia to Australian audiences.

2007 - 2014

OzAsia Festival began when Douglas Gautier approached the then-Chairman of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission, now His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, Governor of South Australia and inaugural OzAsia Festival Patron, with the intent to establish an international arts festival that recognised the important relationships between Australia and countries throughout Asia. Their aim was to showcase the cross-cultural dialogues, exchanges, and artistic collaborations in the region.

The inaugural OzAsia Festival was held 21 September – 7 October 2007. Its program was built on four key pillars: performing arts, visual arts, cultural debate, and community involvement; and included the free Moon Lantern Parade in Elder Park– the first of its kind to be held in Adelaide.

The first OzAsia Festival program was put together by Executive Director, Nick Skibinski, who was succeeded by Jacinta Thompson the following year. From 2010 – 2015, the festival undertook a country of focus initiative, each year emphasising a particular country to grow stronger cultural ties between Australia and key countries in the region. 2010 it was Korea; 2011, Japan; 2012, India; 2013, Malaysia; and 2014, Thompson’s last program, China.