Brian Ritchie, chair

David Roper, deputy chair

Dr Peter Knight, director/artistic director

Sia Ahmad, director

Jill Morgan, director

Vivian Lees, director/treasurer

Karen Mahlab AM, director

Brian Ritchie, chair

Brian is the founding bassist/multi-instrumentalist of the seminal American alternative group Violent Femmes. The Femmes have toured the world for over 30 years and played in over 40 countries.

In 2006 he moved to Tasmania and formed the modern Australian surf band The Break with three members of Midnight Oil. The Break have recently released their second album, “Space Farm” on Sony Records.

In 2009 Brian conceived the Museum of Old and New Art Festival of Music and Art, MONA FOMA (MOFO) in Hobart, Tasmania, and approached David Walsh to fund the project.

Each year the MOFO lineup reflects his broad interests in music and art – “ranging from funk to classical to noise music, a little bit of punk and other kinds of rock music here and there.”

Brian has had a lifelong interest in jazz, as listener, performer and curator. His unique perspective on improvising and presenting musical performances will inform his contribution to the AAO Board. Brian goes back a long way with AAO Artistic Director, Peter Knight, who played trumpet in Violent Femmes' Horns of Dilemma on their 1986 Australian tour.

David Roper, deputy chair

David’s background is in design and manufacturing. He co-founded Crumpler, and founded & managed Minuteman Messengers. He is now a director of construction workshop, Supa Dupa Industries, and vinyl record pressing company, Program Records. David is also Chair of Melbourne’s iconic giant puppet company, Snuff Puppets and brings a wealth of experience in small to medium sized arts companies to the AAO.

Dr Peter Knight, artistic director

Peter Knight is an internationally acclaimed composer, trumpeter, and sound artist. He is the recipient of numerous awards including recently the prestigious Albert H. Maggs Composition Award, and the Age/Music Victoria award for Jazz Album of the Year, and a Green Room Theatre Award (with Tamara Saulwick). In 2013 he was awarded an Australia Council Music Fellowship. He is also the recipient of two Bell Jazz Awards, along with nominations for the Australian Music Prize (AMP, for Daughter’s Fever), APRA/AMC Art Music Awards, Green Room Theatre (sound design), Australian Arts In Asia Awards, and AIR Independent Recording. He holds a doctorate from Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University and was awarded 2013 Alumnus of the Year.

Peter was appointed to the board of the AAO in early 2013 when he began as artistic director. Under his leadership the company has won numerous awards including the APRA/AMCOS Art Music Award for ‘Organisation of the Year’ (2014) and in 2016 was nominated for the ARIA for ‘Jazz Album of the Year’ (for Water Pushes Sand).

Sia Ahmad

Sia Ahmad is many things to the Australian artistic landscape - songwriter, artist, improviser, curator and facilitator. For over a decade, she has brought an outsider's eye and DIY punk aesthetic to the way she brings communities together, be it through creative collaboration, producing eclectic performance programs or her work running the highly respected hellosQuare label.

Under her birth name Shoeb Ahmad, she has been commissioned by Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Sydney’s Parramasala festival and the You Are Here festival in Canberra to create mixed-media works for their curated programs whilst as a musician, she has performed throughout Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the UK and the SE Asian region at venues such as Arts Centre (Melbourne), City Recital Hall (Sydney), The Judith Wright Centre (Brisbane), The Street Theatre (Canberra), Cafe OTO (London), Rough Trade East (London) and Pit Inn (Tokyo) with Australian festival appearances for WOMADelaide, Open Frame, Liquid Architecture and TheNOWnow.

Ms Ahmad’s artistic practice has co-existed alongside her various administrative roles at key ACT arts organisations including the Street Theatre, Tuggeranong Arts Centre and Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centre while collaborating with Goethe-Institut Sydney on touring projects. In addition to her role as a member of the AAO board, she was recently named a member of the inaugural Ministers’ Creative Council for the ACT.

Jill Morgan AM

Jill Morgan AM has worked extensively in multicultural and indigenous arts in Australia. Jill is currently interim Executive Officer at Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria, after recently resigning as the Chief Executive Officer of Multicultural Arts Victoria (MAV). Prior to that, she was the Executive Director of Kulcha, Multicultural Arts of Western Australia. She has been an active cultural and community development worker and leader in multicultural arts. Jill has contributed significantly to multicultural arts policy development and strategies locally and nationally. She is committed to ensuring equality of opportunity for all Australians, including newly emerged communities and the right of all Australians to express and share their cultural heritage through the arts. She is passionate and has a strong track record in developing contemporary arts and cultural expression in the sector.

Vivian Lees

In 1982 Viv Lees formed a promoting partnership with Ken West. For the next 10 years they promoted and represented The Birthday Party, Billy Bragg, Brian Eno, Deborah Harry, The Fall, Iggy Pop, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, New Order, The Pogues, The Proclaimers, The Ramones, Run DMC, and Violent Femmes.

Lees & West created Big Day Out in 1992, Viv was the co-creator and produced the Australian festival for twenty years. It has been conducted nationally across the five capital cities (plus Auckland, New Zealand) with attendances of over four million patrons in the 20 years since inception. The festival features the best of international and national contemporary music and has developed the status of “Cultural Significance” in the Australian cultural landscape. Over that period the festival has presented thousands of international musical artists during the creative phase of their career and been instrumentally involved in the building and development of thousands of Australian artists careers. The festival has also had a longstanding and progressive commitment to broadening youth culture in Australia through the inclusion of art and sculptural components, dance and performance art and with environmental, charitable and mentoring initiatives conducted at the shows at festival sites.

Karen Mahlab AM

Karen Mahlab has been an innovator in opening the channels of connection between communities, not-for-profit organisations, volunteers, philanthropy and business. She is a passionate believer in the power of community and connection. Following a career in the corporate sector, she established Pro Bono Australia in 1999 as a for-purpose business. Since then it has developed into the major national "hub for the common Good", with close to one million Australians who want to volunteer, give, get a job or the latest news and information about Australia's civil society using Pro Bono Australia's services.

Karen sits on a wide variety of private and not for profit boards and committees. She was awarded Member of the Order of Australia (AM) Queens Birthday 2015 for contribution to the Australian Not for Profit sector and Innovation in Philanthropy.


Anna Schwartz

Anna Schwartz has owned and directed one of Australia's leading contemporary art galleries for over 30 years.  Initiated in St Kilda in 1982, the gallery opened in Melbourne's CBD in Flinders Lane in what became an art precinct.  Now situated at 185 Flinders Lane, a 1930s industrial building renovated by Denton Corker Marshall, the designers of the new Australian Pavillion at the Venice Biennale, the gallery shows important contemporary Australian and International artists working in all current media: painting, sculpture, video, performance art, sound art and installations of many natures.   A large gallery was built and opened in Sydney's Carriageworks six years ago to present shows by invited curators and large scale exhibitions of international artists.

The gallery has attended numerous art fairs world wide and has supported the attendance of its artists in international Biennales and other significant art events around the world.

Anna Schwartz advises numerous collections, both public and private and has cultivated an audience and a market for the innovative art of our time.  The gallery works in partnership with represented artists and encourages collectors to acquire from this platform rather than from secondary market sources, thereby supporting the current culture and art practice. The gallery specialises in mediating works of art with collectors to establish collections with significance and understanding.  AGS also has a publishing programme, producing monographs of artists.

Anna has supported the AAO since its inception and became a director in 2010 bringing to the organisation the benefit of her wide experience in the world of contemporary art. in 2018 she stepped down from the board to take up a role with the AAO as patron.

Fred Schepsi

Professor Marcia Langton AM

Robyn Archer AO