I see the arts as a way of communicating across and through difference; intolerance and misunderstanding.
Tell us a little about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you are doing today?
I went to Monash University where my love of education and learning finally started, completing a Bachelor of Arts in 1990 and a Master of Arts (First Class) in 1994. I subsequently completed a Graduate Certificate of Museum Studies in 1998 and a Graduate Diploma Arts and Entertainment Management in 2000, both from Deakin University. I began at Museum Victoria as a volunteer when I was researching my Masters and quickly picked up part-time work. I ended up there for over nine years and I was the first Producer of the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Centre, Melbourne Museum. Working in a major cultural institution which houses extraordinary collections was inspiring but eventually I wished to be based in the communities from where the collections originated. This led to me working as an art centre manager in the remote Indigenous communities of Ernabella, central Australia for three years and Ramingining, Arnhem, Land for four years. I have remained interested in leadership and management opportunities and have been fortunate to have participated in various short courses including "Strategic Leadership: The Transformational Process" at Melbourne Business School in 2009 and "Leadership for the 21st Century: Chaos, Conflict and Courage" at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University in 2011. I also completed the Asialink Business Leaders Program in 2015. So while I feel like I have never had a direct plan or pathway looking back at what I have written it appears to have been more calculated than it felt at the time!
What do you love about what you do?
People and ideas. Learning new things. The energy and the stimulation I receive from conversations and new experiences. Living in regional Australia is important to me. I have lived in remote Indigenous communities and am now based in Darwin. I find it important to acknowledge that Darwin sits in a region and we need to look up and around – not simply down. I am passionate about developing working models that have a commitment to genuine cultural exchange and the creation of long term partnerships for future collaborations and presentation opportunities. As an arts worker, I am personally motivated by the need to work to connect and strengthen communities. I believe that the arts are fundamental to creating, sustaining and inspiring our regional communities. I see the arts as a way of communicating across and through difference; intolerance and misunderstanding. The arts have the power to stimulate and challenge; to promote empathy and tolerance as well as to entertain and inspire. As a society these are all elements we need more and more in our lives.
Where do you derive your inspiration from?
I believe one of the things that Artback NT does really well is offer options and pathways through the arts. Seeing this taken up, seeing lives changed through this inspires me enormously. Being able to facilitate opportunities for the amazing artists we work with. Seeing work come to fruition from an idea in a remote community to a main stage in a national venue. Seeing people walk taller from the respect shown to them through arts development and touring opportunities.
How has your practice change over time?
Hopefully I have learnt and grown. I believe that leadership is actually an art which requires creativity and imagination, rather than a singular set of well-honed practices which are used, regardless of the situation an individual or organisation may find itself in. I believe that I am good at encouraging debate and difference but I do need to keep learning not to be so suspicious of change.
What has been a seminal experience?
My first Asialink Residency in 2013. When I think of the Baucau Music and Art Festival, Timor Leste (2013), I think of the magic that can happen when one person in one country has a dream; and one person in another country has a mad idea. They just have to meet and then, all of a sudden, they are working on a project together. This is how the Baucau Festival came about. Complimented by traditional dance, an art fair and an expo the three day festival was set up to inspire youth, facilitate cultural exchanges between Australia and Timor and allow generations to connect and share stories. On a personal and professional level this is the best thing with which I have ever been involved. It was a privilege to lead a cross cultural experiment which genuinely engaged all parties. Apart from the significance of the event itself, key outcomes included capacity building, music workshops and activities, event management mentoring, cross cultural teams working together across four languages and the intangible but so important benefit of the bringing together of a community to work and realise a shared goal.