The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) opened as a non-collecting public gallery in Dallas Brooks Drive, South Yarra, in 1984 following an initiative of the 1982 Victorian Labor Policy for the Arts. The Centre was established to foster public interest in the work of contemporary Australian and international artists.
In 1991 an affiliation with Monash University was arranged by the Board of ACCA and the Ministry for the Arts to strengthen ACCA's funding base and to enhance its role as an independent contemporary art space. Monash University provided staffing assistance which supplemented the principal operational funding derived from the State and Commonwealth governments. In September 1998, Monash University announced its intention to withdraw from the affiliation agreement with ACCA by the end of 1999. ACCA changed its legal status from an incorporated association to a company limited by guarantee.
In 1996, ACCA combined with the Melbourne Playbox Theatre Co. to develop a contemporary arts precinct in the area now known as the Malthouse Plaza bounded by Sturt, Dodds and Grant streets, South Melbourne. A public competition was held to select an architectural design for the new premises for ACCA, rehearsal studios for the new contemporary dance company Chunky Move and workshop facilities for Playbox. The concept design of the award-winning firm, Wood Marsh with Pink, was selected, the design process completed in 1999 and the Southbank premises opened in 2002.