Victoria Marles, Chair
Victoria is currently the CEO of Trust for Nature (the Victorian Conservation Trust), a position she has held since late 2009. Prior to assuming this role, Victoria was Victoria’s Legal Services Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Legal Services Board. As a lawyer Victoria specialised in media and communications law and policy and was the Deputy Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and prior to that the Deputy Director of the Communications Law Centre.
Victoria has a background in the arts having graduated in drama from the Victorian College of the Arts. She has held various board positions including the Victorian Arts Centre, the Victorian Women’s Trust and the Melbourne Writers Festival. Victoria was chair of the Circus Oz Board for fourteen years. Victoria is currently a board member of the Consumer Action Law Centre and a director of the Australian Advertising Standards Council.
David Laidlaw, Deputy Chair
David Laidlaw is a partner with a major Melbourne law firm. In his practice, David acts in a wide range of large scale tort, contract and corporate litigation matters. His Board appointments have included Asian Law Centre Board University of Melbourne, Law Institute Council, the Federal Attorney General’s International Legal Services Advisory Council, the ADVOC Asia Board and Inter-Pacific Bar Association Council and as a foundation member and Chair of the University of Melbourne’s Alumni Council.
David has a keen interest and involvement in the arts which stretches back to his days as a national student arts leader. He has served on a number of arts boards and as CEO of his firm, was instrumental in fostering his law firm’s support of Australian artists, including its sponsorship of artists selected to represent Australia at the Venice Biennales. He was also responsible for the establishment of the Maddocks’ Art Prize for emerging artists in the visual arts. In addition to his legal qualifications he has participated in leadership training with Harvard Business School and has completed Wharton Business School’s Advanced Management Program.
He and his wife Megan also run black cattle on their farm property in Western Victoria.
Ros Abercrombie is the the Executive Director (CEO) at Regional Arts Australia, facilitating cross-sector, multi arts and intergenerational connections across the arts and creative industries in rural, regional and remote Australia. Ros has over 20 years’ experience in the arts and creative industries working as a CEO, consultant, and program and festival director. She was Program Director of Moomba Festival, for eight years, CEO Shepparton Arts Festival, Visual Arts Director Midsumma Festival, as well as consulting with local city councils on events and festivals. Ros’ Board appointments have included Shepparton Arts Festival Inc and Midsumma Festival.
Since retiring from a successful 148 game AFL career highlighted with the achievement of an AFL Premiership with the Essendon Football Club in 2000, Justin has spent the past 12 years working within the commercial property industry. Justin commenced his property career with top 50 ASX listed property company, The GPT Group. He held various positions during this time in both the retail and commercial office sectors including Marketing Executive, Retail Manager, Centre Manager and Regional Manager in Victoria.
Currently Justin is the Director of Shopping Centre management for Vicinity Centres. Vicinity is a market-leading retail property group owning and managing circa $20 billion in retail assets. Justin is responsible for the strategic management Vicinity’s shopping centre management function in Australia including the country’s leading outlet brand (DFO).
Ms Heggie has extensive executive and non-executive experience. In addition to her role as a Director of Abbotsford Convent, she is also the Chair of Peninsula Health. Her previous non-executive roles have included; Director of the National Heart Foundation, Chair of the Heart Foundation(Vic) Director of Toorak College, Vice President of NDS and President of Cerebral Palsy Australia. Executive roles have included; CEO of the Heart Foundation (Vic)CEO of Scope, and CEO of the EW Tipping Foundation.
She originally qualified as a physiotherapist in 1987 from Trinity College Dublin, but quickly moved into people management roles in the not for profit sector. She believes strongly in the development of staff and volunteers, and that leadership is about empowering others to do great things. She is also a passionate walker, a green skier, and loves to spend time with her family.
Ruth Jones is Director, Global Markets, for AVPN, a funders’ network based in Singapore. Prior to this, she was CEO of the Social Venture Partners Network and held senior roles at Community Foundations of Canada and Philanthropy Australia. She was Chief Executive of the Australian Film Institute before moving to the field of philanthropy.
Stuart Kells is an award-winning author whose books have been published around the world. Stuart wrote a history of the Abbotsford Convent, which was published by the Miegunyah Press in 2020. He is Adjunct Professor at La Trobe Business School, and an independent member of the Audit and Risk Committee of Banyule Council. He has had a diverse career in government, academia, consulting, publishing and bookselling.
Tim is an entrepreneurial owner and operator of a number of hospitality venues in inner Melbourne, building all of his businesses from the ground up and brings nearly 30 years’ experience in the hospitality and live music sectors. His Director appointments include Board Director and Chair Person of Music Victoria, the peak NFP body for contemporary music in Victoria. Tim is a keen guitarist and enjoys golfing and surfing.
Hannah is an urban planner, entrepreneur and strategist. Since completing her Masters of Urban Planning (2013), Hannah has worked as a freelance consultant where she has launched, engaged with and consulted for a diverse range of social enterprises, NFPs, and business both in Australia and internationally. Prior to returning to Melbourne, Hannah lived and worked in Tel Aviv where she founded Study Israel, a start-up founded to reinvigorate the Israeli tertiary education market. Her Board appointments include Board Member and Secretary of Schoolhouse Studios.
Michael Sokulski is a chartered accountant and finance professional. Michael has worked at Medibank and previously worked 10 years with Ernst & Young where he accumulated significant experience in the accounting field, including the delivery of financial assurance projects, internal audits, compliance work, financial reporting analysis and accounting advice across a broad spectrum of private and public clients. He has advised on a variety of transactions including IPOs, acquisitions and business divestments. Michael has also chaired the Young Professionals’ Panel for the Institute of Chartered Accountants, promoting the interests of young members and driving engagement with the broader community.
Antonia Syme AM
Antonia Syme AM is the Director of the Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW) in Melbourne. She has worked for many years cultural sector as a director, consultant, conservator and curator. She was Director of Artbank, for ten years, and worked in federal and state cultural institutions and as Co-Director of Syme Dodson Gallery in Sydney. Board and committee memberships have included the Federal Government’s Taxation Incentives for the Arts Committee, NSW National Trust’s Museums and Collections Committee, Craft Australia, the Heritage Council (NSW) Maritime Archaeological Advisory Panel, the Sydney College of the Arts Board, the Camden Park Preservation Committee.
Judy Williams has extensive arts management experience, having previously worked at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) for almost two decades. From 2004 – 2014, she was Head of Foundation & Fundraising, where she was responsible for the development and implementation of the NGV’s fundraising strategy, including bequests, legacies and annual giving. As part of her role, she developed and implemented the NGV’s 150th Anniversary fundraising campaign – Masterpieces for Melbourne. Prior to this role, Judy was the NGV’s Manager of External Relations & Events, where she oversaw the planning and delivery of events for the opening of the Ian Potter Centre and the re-opening of NGV International.