05 Mar 2024
390 Minutes
Free, bookings essential

Women in the Arts – Leadership Forum

International Women's Day

Western Sydney University’s Western Sydney Creative in partnership with Penrith Performing & Visual Arts present a leadership forum for women in the arts. The forum is open to emerging, mid to senior level women, trans, non binary and gender fluid women working in the arts to further develop their managerial and strategic skills and to explore new approaches to inclusive leadership that resonates with women.

The forum is being held in connection with International Women’s Day 2024 and the exhibition, Women (seen), which draws from Western Sydney University’s art collection and loans from artists or their estate. It celebrates 20 women artists connected to Western Sydney through work, study, family, or home.

The full day forum will include keynote speeches and panel discussions about leadership in the arts and the future of leadership, a hands-on opportunity to learn about different leadership styles as well as encouraging and supporting women to create new paradigms of leadership.

Penny Miles, Executive Officer, Senior Associate,

Jessica Oliveri, Co-Artistic Director, Utp
Hannah Donnelly, Co-Artistic Director, Utp
Tian Zhang, Co-Founder + Co-Director, Pari
Sandi Woo, Executive Producer, Contemporary Asian Australian Performance
Lilian Nicol-Ford, Fashion Designer, Nicol & Ford, Development Manager, University of Sydney’s Chau Chak Wing Museum
Monica Davidson, Director and Doyenne, Creative Plus Business
Bina Bhattacharya, Writer, Director and Creative Producer – Youth and Emerging, PYT Fairfield
Sara Mansour, Lawyer, Writer and Co-Founder and Director, Bankstown Poetry Slam
With Lisa Finn Powell (Facilitator), Dolla Merrillees (Facilitator) and Augusta Supple (Emcee)

Welcome speech by Ms Susan Templeman MP, Special Envoy for the Arts, Member for Macquarie

Stay tuned on our website and socials for more information on the speakers and panellists. Please note this event is held at Whitlam Institute within Western Sydney University.

5 March 2024
10am – 4.45pm

9.30am Arrival and registration

10am Introduction and Acknowledgement of Country
Emcee: Augusta Supple
Acknowledgement of Country from Sharidan Kearney

10.10am Introduction and Welcome
Margaret Hancock

10.15am Welcome speech by Ms Susan Templeman MP, Special Envoy for the Arts, Member for Macquarie

10.30am – 11.05am Keynote Speaker: Penny Miles

11.05am – 11.20am Q&A

11.20am – 12.20pm Panel 1 – Finding Your Voice
Facilitator: Lisa Finn Powell
Panellists: Bina Bhattacharya, Lilian Nicol-Ford, Sandi Woo

12.20pm – 1pm Women (seen) exhibition tour guided by Margaret Hancock & Lunch

1.30pm Keynote + Exercise / Workshop – Future of Work + Wellbeing led by Monica Davidson

3.30pm – 4.15pm Panel 2 – Future Leadership
Facilitator: Dolla Merrillees
Panellists: Hannah Donnelly, Jessica Oliveri, Tian Zhang

4.15pm – 4.45pm Reflection with poet-in-residence led by Sara Mansour

4.45pm Networking drinks

About the speakers

Keynote Speaker: Penny Miles

Penny (She / Her) is an arts professional with over 30 years’ experience in senior roles in the performing arts, executive leadership, reform and transformational projects, strategic planning, and design of organisation culture, governance and structures.

Penny career spans industry roles and working for all tiers of government including the Australia Council for the Arts and a variety of NSW Government departments managing the major performing arts portfolio, sport infrastructure programs, gambling regulation and health services. Most recently, Penny was the Night-time Mayor of Melbourne, Chairing the economic recovery of Melbourne’s after hours arts, cultural, entertainment and business sectors.

Other career highlights include heading up the Federal Government’s Playing Australia fund, Executive Producer for Circa, committee member for the National Performing Arts Alliance, and CEO of Arts on Tour for over a decade.

Penny’s strategic skills and expertise have been sought after to lead the development of foundational work such as the inaugural Arts and Cultural Plan for the City of Parramatta, the first precinct program framework for HOTA on the Gold Coast, and the Audience Experience Program for regional galleries and performing arts centres.

Penny is currently a Senior Associate at Tony Grybowski & Associates, the Executive Director for the Betty Amsden Foundation and Deputy Chair of the international biennale festival PHOTO Australia.

Finding Your Voice: Lisa Finn Powell (Facilitator)

Lisa Finn Powell (She / Her) is a writer, publicist, producer, musician and TedX speaker. She is the author of The Thin Time (2018) and upcoming Accidental Expat (2025). Her multi-disciplinary international career has spanned three continents as a journalist, columnist, speaker, facilitator, radio show presenter, musician and vocal coach. She is the host of the Women Out West panel discussion series at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre and is the Relationships Manager for Penrith Performing & Visual Arts. She is the former co-presenter/producer of Stories Around the World radio show and podcast and currently sits on the board of Penrith Valley Chamber of Commerce. Her work has been published in the US, UK and Australia and she regularly works across sectors as a public speaker, MC and moderator.

Finding Your Voice: Bina Bhattacharya (Panellist)

Bina Bhattacharya (She / Her) is an AWGIE-nominated feature film writer and award-winning filmmaker from Campbelltown in Sydney’s southwest. Bina was one of eight writers for the anthology film ‘Here Out West’ which was the opening night film of the Sydney Film Festival 2021. She directed the music video for ARIA-nominated Punjabi-Australian singer Parvyn’s single ‘What You See’, which was featured in Rolling Stone India. Bina works as a Creative Producer-Youth and Emerging at PYT Fairfield-Western Sydney’s leading professional theatre company with a focus on youth where she uses her skills as a writer, dramaturg and director to shape new theatre works with multicultural young people from Western Sydney. Her latest play, “Tuân’s Party”, created with the PYT Fairfield 2024 Company, premiered in December 2023 to widespread industry buzz. She runs a production company, Gemme de la Femme Pictures, with her husband, creating narrative and factual content that reflects modern, diverse Australia. Her first feature film as sole writer and director, “From All Sides”, starring Max Brown, Monique Kalmar and featuring Rebekah Elmaloglou, is scheduled for release in2024 with Screen Inc. Bina is also a prolific public speaker, panelist and moderator, having appeared on Weekend Sunrise, the ABC and live events across Sydney. She also works regularly as a script doctor and editor for screen projects in development.

Finding Your Voice: Lilian Nicol-Ford (Panellist)

Lilian Nicol-Ford (She / Her) is an interdisciplinary creative and arts administrator. Together with her partner, Lilian is Founder and Designer behind celebrated Sydney-based emerging fashion label Nicol & Ford, and separately works as Development Manager of the University of Sydney’s Chau Chak Wing Museum, where she works with Director Michael Dagostino to support his strategic and curatorial vision for the newly established institution.

Lilian’s design work has received institutional and media praise for its progressive re-imagining of clothing within the context of gender and sexuality expression, celebrating the rich diversity of her community within traditionally conservative environments via Nicol & Ford’s runway presentations at Australian Fashion Week. Lilian previously worked as Executive Assistant to Dr Gene Sherman AM and curator of the SCCI Fashion Hub at the Sherman Centre for Culture & Ideas, a not-for-profit platform connecting industry with community to promote the cultural and intellectual interrogation of fashion, design and architecture. Lilian was previously a Member of the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ Youth Advisory Committee and is currently on the Consumer Advisory Panel for the NSW Health Gender Servies Survey.

Finding Your Voice: Sandi Woo (Panellist)

Sandi (She / Her) is a creative producer, community development facilitator, and teaching artist with close to three decades experience. She has collaborated with, and worked for, independent artists and small to medium arts organisations in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.

Sandi has a wealth of creative arts and producing experience is passionate about the collaborative power between these two areas of practice to support organisations and artists to thrive in today’s arts landscape. She has developed creative, community engagement projects with marginalised communities and applies these collaborative and creative strategies through an artist-led community-centred approach to all her work. She is currently the Executive Producer for Contemporary Asian Australian Performance (CAAP).

Sandi can be slightly uncomfortable with the word ‘leadership’ – but likes to think it means she’s ‘been around for a while’ and ‘done a few things’. She is super excited to be part of this event and learn from the wonderful conversation and exchange that will unfold.

Future of Work and Wellbeing: Monica Davidson

Monica Davidson (She / Her) is an award-winning expert on the creative industries. She started as a freelance writer, performer, and filmmaker, and after launching her production company, she began sharing her entrepreneurial learnings by mentoring and teaching other creatives. In 2013 she consolidated her knowledge with a Master’s degree in Screen Arts and Business from AFTRS, and shortly after was appointed as Australia’s first Creative Industries Business Advisor. In 2016 Monica founded Creative Plus Business, a social enterprise that educates creative practitioners about business, money and marketing. Monica also continues her own work, releasing her feature documentary/musical Handbagon SBS in 2023.

Future Leadership: Dolla Merrillees (Facilitator)

Dolla Merrillees (She / Her) is a writer, curator, and cultural producer.  She frequently presents at museum and academic conferences and is author of The Woodcutter’s Wife: A Stepmother’s Tale (Halstead Press, 2007).  She brings a wealth of national and international experience to her work having had senior roles in large scale festivals, museums, cultural spaces as well as the tertiary sector.  Merrillees is currently the Director Western Sydney Creative, Western Sydney University and was previously the Director and CEO of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney and the Associate Director, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation.  She is a member of the Sydney Review of Books Advisory Board, the Arts and Cultural Advisory Panel – Western Sydney Parklands Authority and sits on the board of FORM Dance Projects.  Merrillees is listed in Who’s Who of Australian Women and in 2018 she was awarded an Australian Design Honour by the Australian Design Centre.

Future Leadership: Hannah Donnelly (Panellist)

Hannah (She / Her) is an award-winning Wiradjuri curator, writer and Co-Artistic Director of Utp. In 2022 Hannah established the Paul Ramsay Foundation’s First Nations art collection and permanent exhibition at Yirranma Place, she was a curatorium member for the 23rd Biennale of Sydney and editor of BLACKLIGHT, an anthology of First Nations storytelling from Western Sydney. Her practice and curatorial research spans Indigenous Futures, south-eastern Aboriginal art and intergenerational collaborations.

Hannah also brings a unique set of skills to arts leadership with a background working in policy across international human rights law and fee-for-service cultural safety training. She is passionate about standards and policies to implement organisational structures around ICIP protection, benefit sharing and reparations. Hannah’s previous roles include Producer of First Nations Programs at ACE and Curator of Aboriginal Programs at Carriageworks. Her recent publications include essays and poetry in Artist Profile, After Australia, Sovereign Words, Artlink, Acclaim Magazine, Writers Victoria and Cordite Poetry Review. 

Future Leadership: Jessica Oliveri (Panellist)

Dr Jessica Olivieri (She / Her / They / Them) is a BA graduate of the now defunct, always legendary Western Sydney University Art School, undertaking study at the Piet Zwart and receiving a PhD from Sydney University. Prior to this, Jessica had a practice as an artist and curator showing at major institutions like Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney and Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. Jessica’s experience of growing up in an intercultural environment, as well as ten years of house-bound chronic illness and dyslexia, have informed her commitment to intersectional access to the arts.

Future Leadership: Tian Zhang (Panellist)

Based on Dharug Country in western Sydney, Tian Zhang (She / Her) is an independent curator, facilitator, writer and collaborative artist working at the intersections of art, cultural practice and social change. Her practice is underscored by conversation, criticality, solidarity and joy. She is a founding co-director of Pari, a collective-run gallery and community space for Parramatta. She was previously part of the inaugural Artistic Directorate of Next Wave, and Chair and co-director at Firstdraft.

In 2022, Tian participated in Documenta Fifteen as co-facilitator of Gudskul’s collective studies program — living, cooking, eating, cleaning and communing within the Museum Fridericianum for 50 days. Her text ‘A manifesto for radical care or how to be a human in the arts’ was first published online by Sydney Review of Books, with print editions by documenta fifteen’s Lumbung Press and Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Canada.

Poet In Residence: Sara Mansour

For 10 years, Sara Mansour (She / Her) has directed and led significant Australian cultural institutions and events. In 2013, aged 19 years, Sara – a poet and writer herself – co-founded Bankstown Poetry Slam, the first poetry slam in western Sydney. Under Sara’s leadership, it has grown into Australia’s largest regular live poetry event.

Bankstown Poetry Slam won the Special Award at the 2023 Premier’s Literary Awards – the first arts organisation to receive this honour – and the 2016 Western Sydney’s Leadership Dialogue Pemulwuy Prize.

Sara has curated and hosted over 150 poetry events. She’s also coordinated high school programs for young people, established Australia’s first ever National Youth Poetry Slam and directed multiple festivals. She has recently been appointed as trustee of the Sydney Opera House board.

Welcome Speech: Ms Susan Templeman MP, Special Envoy for the Arts, Member for Macquarie

Susan Templeman MP (She / Her) has been the federal member for Macquarie since 2016. In 2022, she was appointed Special Envoy for the Arts by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in the new Labor Government. In this role, she has worked closely with the Minister for the Arts, Tony Burke, to formulate and implement a cultural policy that revives the arts sector and shapes its future.

As Special Envoy for the Arts, she has advocated for the arts community and highlighted the benefits that creativity can bring to Australians’ wellbeing, education, and sense of connectedness. She believes that all Australians should have the opportunity to share and see their stories through cultural expression.

Both before and since becoming a Member of Parliament, Susan has spoken out on issues such as school, TAFE and university funding, support for local businesses and for fairness, and equality and opportunity for the many, not the few.

Prior to her election, Ms Templeman worked as a journalist for a decade before going into business as a media coach and trainer.

She lives in the Blue Mountains, outside Sydney, with her husband, Ron.

Women (seen) Curator: Margaret Hancock

Margaret Hancock (She / Her) is Western Sydney Creative’s Curator: Collections and Cultural Programme. Formerly the Curatorial Director of JamFactory in Adelaide, Margaret has over 20 years of visual arts, crafts and design writing, curatorial and cultural project management experience. She was a peer assessor for the Australia Council for the Arts (2016-2020) and Chair of the Regional Galleries Association of South Australia (2019-2020).

She holds a Graduate Diploma in Art History, a Graduate Diploma in Arts and Cultural Management and a Bachelor of Visual Arts and Applied Design.  In 2023, she received the Vice Chancellor’s Excellence Award for Service Excellence.

Emcee: Augusta Supple

Augusta Supple (She / Her) is a western Sydney based theatre director, producer and writer. She is known for leading large-scale, site-resonant multi-playwright projects; her advocacy for gender equity and underserved communities; feminist arts and cultural commentary and her commitment to supporting artist-led practice.

She has commissioned and produced more than 200 of Australia’s leading and emerging playwrights, pioneering collaborative play generators, new work festivals and creative developments in Australia, Canada and the USA. She has mentored theatre artists through a variety of programs including PACT, Shopfront Arts Coop’s Arts Lab, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Sydney University and The Women’s Club Sydney.

In 2023 she was acknowledged for her work in Western Sydney at the Western Sydney Women Award, winning Western Sydney Women in Performing and Creative Arts Award.

Acknowledgement of Country: Sharidan Kearney



Sharidan Kearney (She / Her) is a 3rd year student at Western Sydney University. She is studying for a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Social Science, majoring in Indigenous Studies, Child & Community at the Parramatta South Campus.

She is currently working with the School of Engineering, Design & Built Environment for the ASPIRE Program as a Project Officer.

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