Kent is a Barkindji man, a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts and an alumnus of the Wesfarmers Indigenous Arts Leadership Program. He has over 20 years experience as a practising artist and curator and has specialist knowledge of, and connections within, the Indigenous Australian arts and culture industry. Kent has a strong interest in the educational and healing potential of the arts and in 2011 joined The Torch to design, develop and deliver the Indigenous Arts in Prisons and Community program.
Susannah is a Martu woman, originally from WA, living in Naarm (Melbourne) since 2016. Susannah has worked for sixteen years in cultural program management, arts programming, and producer roles, predominantly within small to medium arts organisations. Recent roles have included Head of Programs & Operations at Brunswick Mechanics Institute managed by Next Wave, Dance Massive Coordinator for City of Melbourne and Producer of The Blue Room Theatre. From 2019-2021 she held the role of Program Manager of The Torch, and in June 2022 stepped into the newly created role of General Manager, leading the strategic vision and operations of the organisation.
Sharn is a Bundjalung woman originally from Grafton NSW with a diverse professional background. From studying Graphic Design at Billy Blue to gaining over fifteen years’ experience in ecommerce fulfilment. Her creative love is contemporary jewellery and has worked with a variety of materials; from producing resin jewellery for Dinosaur Designs, to metals and silversmithing. Sharn was a participant in the inaugural year of the Koorie Heritage Trust’s Blak Design program. Drawing from her expertise in logistics, she then became Program Coordinator for Blak Design. Creating environments for artists so they can create is a culmination of Sharn’s working experience, culture and passion for empowering First Peoples artists.
Sean is a Gamilaroi man who brings a diverse range of art practices to The Torch having worked across a range of mediums over the past 30 years. Sean was a finalist in the 2016 Indigenous Ceramic Art Awards and his ceramics have been acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria and Shepparton Art Museum for their collections. In 2020 he won the Emerging Artist Award at the Koorie Art Show hosted by the Koorie Heritage Trust. In 2022 Sean won the South-East Australian Aboriginal Artist Award at the Shepparton Art Museum’s Indigenous Ceramic Awards. In 2023 he was accepted into the Koorie Heritage Trust’s Blak Design course and exhibition in ceramics. Sean provides art, cultural and mentoring support to First Nation participants within community through murals, commissions and public art. Sean has also done the graphic design layout for The Torch’s Confined catalogues since 2016.
Matthew is a proud multi-clan nations man, a descendant from the Wemba-Wemba, Neri-Neri, Yiti-Yiti, Mutti-Mutti, Wuradjuri, Yorta-Yorta, Watti-Watti, Barapa-Barapa and Gubbi Gubbi tribes. He also has ancestral ties to the Maori Iwi’s of New Zealand. Matthew developed an appetite, a desire and a dream for the arts when he was young and realised that he could draw, paint and create. Matthew lives in Culture every day through his art practices that include painting, weaving, photography, Smoking Ceremonies, dancing and digital art. Matthew has worked for 11 years for Community in Housing, Admin and AOD work. Matthew works with The Torch’s male participants in prison as well as in community.
Paul is a Gunditjmara man with a broad set of skills & experience ranging from screen-printing, Dj-ing, and cultural tourism which involved raising awareness of cultural biodiversity & geological information in the community. He also worked extensively as a community convenor for government agencies and high-platform sporting clubs. Paul brings a strong cultural connection through practices he learned growing up on Country in Framlingham and is still actively engaged in traditional dancing and community events. Paul’s art and cultural practice includes stone and acrylic paintings, artefact and necklace making, drone photography, along with making and performing the Yidaki. Paul is joining the Torch for three days per week and will be supporting the in-prison and in-community participants of the Barwon South region.
Bianca is a proud Gunnai-Kurnai woman from Bairnsdale who has experienced firsthand, the potential art can have in strengthening community connections. Having previously held roles in community healthcare, sports and youth events, Bianca joins the Torch with a passion for community engagement and Indigenous rights. Bianca has also been heavily involved in the Theatre industry in the past, working with Indigenous organisations to create campaigns for Indigenous safety and wellbeing. She is currently studying a Bachelor in Social Science with a major in Behavioural Studies and has completed her Certificate 4 in Aboriginal Health Worker Practitioner.
Bianca’s art practice includes painting and jewellery making, where she explores her connection to Country, healing journey, and the importance of family. Bianca joins The Torch team as an Indigenous Arts Officer supporting both In-Prison and In-Community participants and is responsible for all the female participants in the program.
Clare Williams is a Wiradjuri woman with a passion for art and Indigenous advocacy. Clare grew up on Meanjin Country (Brisbane) and received a bachelor’s in Contemporary Australia Indigenous Art from Griffith University in 2011. Through her studies, Clare explored her Identity as an Indigenous woman and artist living in an urban environment. Clare’s contemporary art practice explores the notion of identity and femininity using watercolour paintings, drawing and photography. With a background in graphic design and youth work, Clare joins The Torch team as an Indigenous Arts Officer supporting both In-Prison and In-Community participants.
Dion is a proud Wiradjuri/Ngiyampaa man from Wagga Wagga in New South Wales with a strong commitment and passion to empowering his people and community through cultural support. He practises art and culture when he can which has been an essential part of his healing, a journey he’s been on for the last 6+ years. Art has been an essential practise for him to tell his story and express himself which has contributed to him being a positive role model and inspiration in the community, here and back home. He has a background in helping men heal from their struggles and trauma and is bringing these skills and experiences across to help the Artists participating in The Torch program.
Chris is a Keerraaywoorrong man from the Gunditjmara Nation of south western Victoria. Chris is immensely proud of his culture and has found creating art and sharing stories has given him direction in his life. After over 30 years in and out of prison, Chris has now been In Community for over four years. He is an inspiration and has such an amazing amount of lived experience and cultural knowledge to support our In Prison and Post Release artists.
Chris worked for many years in the field of First Nations cultural heritage at the Koorie Heritage Trust and Museum Victoria, including managing cultural collections, curating exhibitions, and researching and producing resources. In 2015 she moved to The Torch to research and produce program resources and assist with the management of artworks and exhibitions. She now provides administrative and operations support to the Executive Team and the Board.
Joel is a Pakana and Koori artist, academic, historian, writer and filmmaker. Joel has a multi-ethnic heritage that also includes Romani and European, and was raised on Peramangk and Kaurna Lands (Adelaide Hills, South Australia). Joel has a BA in Indigenous Studies from University of South Australia, a Master of Fine Arts at Monash University, and recently completed a PhD at Monash University, specialising in decolonising colonial narratives, documentation and literature.
Nicola has experience working for an arts collective based in Mutitjulu Community, representing over 900 Indigenous artists from the Western and Central desert region of Australia. She then went on to successfully manage the local community art centre. During her time in the desert, Nicola facilitated an impactful volunteer art therapy project at the community primary school. Nicola is inspired by the multifaceted healing potential of art, and driven to create sustainable, impactful opportunities for Indigenous artists.
Sarah Barrow joined The Torch in 2018 building on years of experience in the arts and culture sector, in positions spanning arts facilitation, project management and collection management. She also has experience working alongside remote Indigenous communities, where she supported the development of creative enterprises. Sarah holds a Master of Art curatorship. As Art Development Director, she is focused on audience development, creative partnerships, and building economic-participation opportunities for Torch artists.
Sarah Hall has joined The Torch after working for a not-for-profit arts collective that represents over 900 Indigenous artists from the Western and Central desert region of Australia. In her role as Art Manager she will draw from her experiences supporting arts practice in remote communities, as well as her broader experience in theatre and the arts sector. Sarah provides exhibition management as well as overseeing collection management, art sales and licensing. She also leads the Art team staff members and continues to develop art sales and licensing opportunities for Torch participants.
Gabrielle is a recent graduate of the University of Melbourne where she completed a Master of Arts and Cultural Management and Graduate Certificate in Cultural Material Conservation. She has experience in collection management, conservation and art support in non-profit arts organisations including Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association and Arts Project Australia. Gabrielle facilitates licensing agreements, oversees artwork commissions and supports exhibition planning.
Melissa Petty has over 16 years experience working in the arts, including working for Arts Project Australia for close to 12 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Majoring in Fine Art – RMIT, a Diploma of Arts – Illustration (NMIT), and has studied Collection Management at Melbourne University.
She has depth of experience in arts administration, front-of-house customer support and sales, curation, communications, collections management, and arts program development and facilitation.
Danielle has worked in the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) sector for over a decade. Her experience in archives and arts spaces is wide ranging including roles at the State Library of Victoria and non-profit Arts Project Australia. She co-founded the Women’s Mural Documentation Project alongside Sally Northfield, producing the award winning “Re-imagining the Women’s Mural: a virtual tour”, a collaborative community arts project with Her Place Women’s Museum and artists Eve Glenn and Megan Evans.
Melissa is a Gunditjmara/Yorta Yorta artist from Cummeragunja who first joined The Torch in 2016. Melissa paints to maintain storylines and to connect to her Country. Melissa’s artwork has been purchased by the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, the County Koori Court and Respect Victoria. She has also worked as an exhibition installer on The Torch’s Confined and Future Dreaming exhibitions. Melissa has been working as a part-time Art Support Assistant since March 2022. She is responsible for supporting the packing and sale of artwork, collection management and assisting the art-team with exhibitions.
Ash is a Yorta Yorta/Wiradjuri man who was born in Shepparton who first joined The Torch in 2016. Ash has a lifelong passion for art and now practices his art on Wurundjeri Country. His artwork is detail-oriented and represents a strong connection to his identity and culture. His artworks are proudly hung in Moorabbin Court and the City of Melbourne art collection and he was the recipient of the 2019 Chroma Art Award. Ash has been working as a part-time Art Support Assistant since May 2023. He is responsible for supporting the packing and sale of artwork, collection management and assisting the art-team with exhibitions.
Stacey is a Taungurung/Boon Wurrung woman who first joined The Torch program in 2017. Stacey describes herself as a grandchild of the Stolen Generation and has been living in Melbourne. Stacey is exploring and reclaiming southeast Australian designs through her paintings, referencing concentric diamond designs from traditional shields and clubs from South-Eastern Australia. Stacey has been working as a part-time Art Support Assistant since August 2023. She is responsible for supporting the packing and sale of artwork, collection management and assisting the art-team with exhibitions.
Leroy is a Yorta Yorta artist from Echuca who first joined The Torch program in 2014. Leroy paints to share his story, and feel pride in having created art that others will enjoy. He states: ‘When I paint, all my problems go away, I lose myself in my art’. In 2017, Leroy exhibited at Museum Victoria in the exhibition ‘Yannae Wirrate Weelam: The Journey Home’, and in 2019 he was awarded the St Kilda Art Supplies Award presented by The Torch. Leroy’s 2018 artwork ‘Dingo’ was selected to be the first limited edition artist print released by The Torch. Leroy has been working as a part-time Art Support Assistant since Oct 2020. He is responsible for supporting the packing and sale of artwork, collection management and assisting the art-team with exhibitions.
Felicity Chafer-Smith is a Ngarrindjeri woman from South Australia, who is currently studying for a Bachelor of Business with Swinburne University. She is also an artist who enjoys sharing personal memories of growing up with her family though her acrylic paintings on canvas. Felicity was first introduced to The Torch during a term of imprisonment at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre. Upon release and reintegration, Felicity has begun working as the Accounts and Operations Assistant with The Torch.
Sophie has worked across the social justice sector for over 10 years. Over her career, Sophie has worked as a social impact consultant, within large and small not-for-profits, on a Taskforce led by the Commission for Aboriginal Children and Youth People and the Department of Justice, and within the philanthropic sector. She has recently been drawn to the unique impact that comes from community development work alongside the healing powers of the arts. Sophie manages the fundraising and development work at The Torch.
Bobby has a love of all things digital and their transformative potential. He has a Bachelor of Business and has been working in digital marketing for over five years. Born in New Zealand, he has called Australia home for over two decades. Amidst his journey, he’s been inspired to deepen his comprehension of First Nations culture, recognising its rich heritage and significance. His role at The Torch is to oversee IT, CRM, Systems and Digital Marketing.
Jessie Walton is a Gunaikurnai artist with a passion for all things art. He first joined The Torch program in 2022. Since April 2023, supported by the Wadamba program, he has been working as an Art Support Assistant. In this role, he is responsible for supporting the packing and sale of artwork, collection management, assisting the art team with exhibitions, and restoring and repairing damaged paintings. With his art, he likes to explore the human condition and capture emotion in portraits.