Skip to main content

Leadership and diversity – Challenging Assumptions

Guest Blogger: Mowenna Collett

In Australia there are often discussion about the lack of diversity in leadership positions across the country.

There are several groups that are generally underrepresented and solutions often turn to setting targets or quotas to increase under-represented groups. One such group that would benefit from being prioritised, not to mention one with a lot of untapped capacity, are people with disability.

1 in 5 Australians experience disability yet this ratio is not currently reflected in our workforce let alone in our governance and leadership roles. Given their high presence within our population, people with disability are very much an under-utilised resource especially when we consider the significant contributions they make. Indeed, sometimes the experience of exclusion and (lack of) involvement experienced by people with disability has made some of our strongest and most effective leaders. But the medical-model attitudes held by many in society has led many disabled people to doubt themselves so deeply that their leadership potential is unrealised.

The Australia Council for the Arts is bringing UK based thought leader Jo Verrent to Australia to present a series of public forums to explore reasons for this current phenomenon. These forums will appeal to anyone from leadership , business, the arts or disability sectors.

Through her forums, held Australia-wide, Jo will examine the barriers that are faced by people with disability in achieving their peak performance and how these issues can be addressed. More importantly, Jo will talk about why we should care about all of this and what people with disability have to offer in terms of leadership.

As the Disabiltiy Coordinator of the Australia Council, I am proud that we are bringing Jo to Australia to share her knowledge and raise awareness of these important issues. These events align well with our organisation’s Disability Action Plan and commitment to improving access to the arts for all Australians.

Jo speciailses in the development of diversity and access. She is an artist, consultant and producer with disability, and is the cofounder of Sync, a training program that focuses on the interplay between leadership and disability. The Sync model provides fresh perspectives, challenging deep seated thinking about leadership. Jo is also the Senior Producer for the Unlimited Festival in London, that undertakes a 3-million pound commission programme for disabled artists from the UK.

Jo will also be a keynote speaker at the annual Marketing Summit – “The Arts of Connectivity” being held in Hobart on 30 June and 1 July. She will be returning to Australia again in October to run the Sync Leadership Program for Australian leaders with disability (more details on how to apply at the Australia Council website) and address the biennial Arts Activated conference as a keynote speaker in Sydney (28-29 October). Between her Australian visits, Jo will be working on London’s 2014 Unlimited Festival.

(In other Unlimited Festival news, South Australian choreographer/dancer Michelle Ryan will be presenting her work “Intimacy” at this years festival – the first Australian work to be presented at this festival. Good luck Michelle!).

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear Jo speaking in Adelaide on Wednesday 9 July 2014, 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM at Adelaide Festival Centre. If you wish to attend it is essential to RSVP by email to to confirm your attendance. Please RSVP by Friday 28 June 2014.

Morwenna Collett is the Disability Coordinator at the Australia Council for the Arts and is responsible for the development and implementation of the organisation’s Disability Action Plan. She has previously been the Program Manager of both the Music and Business Development Sections at the Australia Council, and has also worked as an Arts Development Officer for the Dance and Music section at Arts Queensland. Morwenna holds Masters and Bachelors degrees, as well as the University Medal, from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University and is a keen flautist. Morwenna also identifies as a person with disability.

Country Arts SA brings it all together

A photograph of two hands rummaging through a pile of tifts of hair in a variety of colours.

Photography by Helen Crawford

Country Arts SA and Country Health SA Local Health Network Mental Health are pleased to announce the launch of ‘Bringing it all together – Guidelines for Arts and Mental Health Projects‘.

As part of the roll out of this new resource in July 2014, Country Arts SA and Country Health SA Local Health Network Mental Health are offering workshops across regional South Australia to unpack the guidelines it offers. These workshops are for artists, mental health workers, occupational therapists, non-government and not for profit organisation working in mental health and will assist in the planning and delivery of arts and mental health projects.

Participants will learn about the symbiotic relationship between arts and mental health, planning and managing projects and meet others from different sectors to broaden their knowledge and generate new ideas. Examples of case studies will be used to promote interactive learning. Workshop participants will also be given a kit of resources for future reference and support of practice and projects.

Artist and project facilitator, Helen Crawford, and Country Arts SA’s Mental Health Development Officer Simone Gillam will be running the workshops which will be offered in WhyallaMount Gambier and Berri. Further workshops will be delivered in Adelaide during September, dates yet to be confirmed.

The resource development was led by Country Arts SA’s Arts and Mental Health Development Officer, Simone Gillam, and was informed in consultation with an extensive network of Arts and Mental Health professionals over a two year period.

It is envisaged the workshops will foster connections between artists, arts workers and health workers resulting in project ideas and collaborations.  Country Arts SA staff will be at the workshops to provide advice about grant opportunities. The next Country Arts SA funding round closes 15 August. Further information on funding opportunities available from the Country Arts SA’s website.

If you have any questions about the workshops or the resource, contact Simone Gillam, Arts and Mental Health Development Officer by phone: 8639 7907, mobile: 0427 800 157 or email:

If you are interested in attending, further information can be found on the Events page.

The resource and workshops have been developed with funding assistance from Arts SA‘s Community Arts Sector Development Initiative, Country Health SA Local Health Network Mental Health and Country Arts SA.

Cultural Shift Increasing Disability Leadership

Leadership in disability and arts is a hot topic for discussion right now.

The Australia Council for the Arts is bringing  Jo Verrent to Australia to speak in each capital city on the topic and is inviting applications for the Sync leadership program. Now Arts Access Australia’s CEO, Emma Bennison wants to hear from artists, arts workers, policy makers and, emerging and current arts leaders, with or without disability, to find out the focus areas of interest in disability leadership that will inform her upcoming research tour of the UK, supported by an Australia Council Executive Leadership Grants.

Emma is researching successful disability leadership models, and the ways in which they can be used to further opportunities for people with disability to take up leadership roles across the Australian arts sector. She want to consult with a range of people to make sure her research is relevant and driven by the arts and disability sector in Australia.

To take part in an open discussion about her research topics, Emma will be hosting a series of teleconferences before travelling to the UK. This will be an opportunity for you to get an overview of her research proposal and to have your say about what the focus areas of Emma’s research should be.

How to get involved

In order to give as many people as possible the opportunity to participate, three teleconference sessions will be held as follows:

  • Tuesday June the 24, at 2 PM EST;
  • Tuesday June 24, at 8 PM EST; and
  • Thursday June 26, at 10 AM EST.

If you would like to join one of these sessions, please RSVP by Friday June 20, 2014, by emailing: with “Leadership” in the Subject line, detailing any access requirements.

A copy of the dial-in details for the teleconference will be sent to your RSVP is received.

If you are not able to attend one of these sessions but would still like to contribute your ideas about the project, you can contact me on the details below, to arrange a suitable time for a conversation via phone or E-mail. Call or text: 0419 201 338 or email:

GAME OVER! Monster Hunting with James

In response to our post about the final exhibition in the Breakaway odradekaeaf series at the AEAF, artist James Kurtz shared the Monster Hunter video artwork he created in collaboration with Celeste Aldahn. We hope you enjoy the work as much as we did.

If you are in Adelaide check out James and Celeste’s work, exhibiting until 28 June 2014 at the AEAF gallery in the Lion Arts Centre, North Terrace, Adelaide.

Sync Leadership Training

The Australia Council is inviting applications from Australian cultural leaders and influencers with disability to participate in an intensive leadership development residency being held take place in Sydney from 22-26 October 2014.

Sync Leadership residency is a programme for up to 12 people with disability designed to take the Sync thinking and learning deeper. The training will take place over a five-day period of full day activity, looking at leadership theory and coaching principals in relation to leadership.

Sync leadership pairs leadership learning and one-to-one coaching. Participants will be given access to leadership training, including five full days of face-to-face development work as a group.

Following the residency each member will be offered a limited number of personal coaching sessions over the following six months with Jo Verrent, course leader and/or Sarah Pickthall (co-creator of Sync) with options ranging from face to face, by telephone, email or msn.

Sync is a training program that focuses on the interplay between leadership and disability. It provides fresh perspectives and also challenges deep seated thinking about leadership and disability. Designed to be radically different to any other training program for people with disability, it takes its inspiration and name from syncopation – the emphases on an unusually un-emphasised beat.

The Sync Leadership residency will be presented by Jo Verrent, a UK based artist, producer and consultant with disability who specialises in the development of diversity and access, currently Senior Producer with Unlimited ( Jo Verrent is the co-founder of Sync –  and its sister programme in the south-east of the UK.

The Australia Council will be covering the costs of the program, including course materials, travel, accommodation and living costs for successful applicants. Costs associated with any access requirements relating to a successful applicant’s participation in this program will also be supported. The final format of the course will be determined once attendees access needs are known to ensure it is accessible.

Further information can be found on the Australia Council website.

If you would like to discuss your application, please contact:
Terese Casu
, Director -Arts Organisations by phone: 02 9215 9008 (toll free: 1800 226 912), via 
National Relay Service: 1800 555 677
 or email

Applications must be submitted online. Applicants please note :

Because there is no funding attached to this initiative, you will need to specify $0 in the ‘Grant amount’ field in the online application.

To access this application in the Australia Council’s online system, you must navigate in the first instance to the Expressions of Interest section (not Grant Applications).