12 July 2022

New faces and Chair for cultural facilities board

| Ian Bushnell
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Canberra Theatre Photo: Michelle Kroll

Canberra Theatre Centre is one of the key arts establishments the Cultural Facilities Corporation manages. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Three new members have been appointed to the board of the body that manages the ACT’s cultural facilities, including Canberra Theatre, and Chair Justice Richard Refshauge has been replaced.

Arts Minister Tara Cheyne, who could be seen as putting her stamp on the board of the Cultural Facilities Corporation, has chosen not to renew the appointments of Justice Refshauge and Vicky Darling, whose terms end on 30 June, and Julian Widdup, whose term is up on 31 December.

Ms Cheyne has promoted Deputy Chair Helen O’Neil to Chair, and brought in Dr Rachael Coghlan, from Cultural Strategy and Experience at Australian Parliament House, and formerly of Craft ACT; Michael Sollis, of Musica Viva and The Griffin Ensemble; and Tim Lo Surdo, of social enterprise advisory service Mill House Ventures.

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Dr Coghlan will be the new Deputy Chair.

The new appointees join existing board members Genevieve Jacobs and Shad Sears.

CFC CEO Gordon Ramsay announced the changes and thanked the departing board members for their service.

Mr Ramsay said Ms O’Neil was extremely well positioned to take on the important role of Chair at the CFC.

“Under her leadership, the organisation is well poised to live out the vision of being a leader in this creative city and playing its central role in the Minister’s Statement of Ambition for the Arts,” Mr Ramsay said.

Helen O'Neil

New CFC Chair Helen O’Neil. Photo: NSW Government.

He praised outgoing Chair, Justice Refshauge, for helping to lay the foundations for the CFC’s growth and innovation.

“Richard has brought great wisdom, deep thinking, and a highly collaborative spirit to his role over the past three years,” Mr Ramsay said.

He said the new appointees would bring expertise in arts practice, strategic transformation, innovation, collaboration and sound governance.

“The board is very well placed for the CFC’s integral future in Canberra’s ongoing creative and economic development,” Mr Ramsay said.

“I’m grateful to the outgoing members for the contribution of their time, energy and wisdom, particularly through the difficult period of the last few years. In addition to the direction, support and guidance they provided during this time, they have helped to position the CFC for growth.”

The CFC is responsible for the Canberra Theatre Centre, Canberra Museum and Gallery, and ACT Historic Places, and aims to drive growth in the contribution of the arts to the ACT economy, support local artists and attract visitors locally and from interstate.

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“With people’s increasing confidence to get out and connect in community and have rewarding social and cultural experiences, the CFC is seeing patrons return enthusiastically to the theatre for live music, comedy and musicals, to historic Lanyon homestead for its ghost tours and bush food talks, and to CMAG to absorb the iconic Sidney Nolan collection,” Mr Ramsay said.

Last October, Ms Cheyne set out her long-term vision for the arts to be a key economic driver for the city’s future, and for Canberra to become the arts capital of Australia.

She wants Canberra to attract and retain arts-based tourism, events, research and creative industries.

In November, it was announced that Mr Ramsay, a former Barr Government minister who lost his seat in the 2020 election, had been appointed CEO after a national search following the departure of longstanding CEO Harriet Elvin.

The CFC will play a major role in the promised redevelopment of the city’s cultural precinct, including a new Canberra Theatre, which will be central to the city’s performing arts future and for the tourism, night-time economy, hospitality and accommodation sectors.

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