Deborah Ely

Fellow of the University of Wollongong

Citation orated by Dr Peter Robertson

Chancellor, I present Deborah Ely.

Deborah Ely AM is an outstanding and visionary leader who has worked tirelessly to enrich the artistic fabric of society – both in our region, and on a national and international scale.

Born in Melbourne, Deborah trained as a painter and art historian in the UK in the late 1970s. Returning to Australia in 1988 after six years with Watershed Media Centre in Bristol, she convened the inaugural Experimenta Festival of Film and New Media and was Founder and Director of Melbourne’s seminal Centre for Contemporary Photography. She relocated to Sydney in 1992, first as Director of the Australian Centre for Photography and then as Visual Arts and Craft Program Manager for Arts NSW (now Create NSW).

Since 2006, Deborah has been Chief Executive Officer of Bundanon Trust, a Shoalhaven cultural icon that supports arts practice and engagement through residency, education, exhibition and performance programs. Her inspiring vision for Bundanon Trust has elevated it as a national site of Indigenous, environmental and art historical significance, and a regional hub for cultural and creative interaction and scientific endeavour.

Under Deborah’s leadership, Bundanon Trust has delivered a diverse program that is simultaneously challenging and accessible, highlighting established and emerging Australian artists and creating a rich cultural resource for local communities and visitors alike. Its global reputation for excellence has attracted many scholars and arts professionals to the Shoalhaven.

Deborah’s ambitious masterplan for Bundanon Trust attracted an eight and a half million dollar NSW Government grant in 2019. The expanded facility – her proud legacy – is expected to more than double visitor numbers and secure its future as a leading attraction and unique educational facility. Determined to take Bundanon Trust to the world, Deborah is leading her team to develop a new digital platform and curate touring exhibitions for regional centres and national institutions.

Deborah has curated and published widely on modern and contemporary art and is a vocal champion for arts education. She has sustained a mutually beneficial relationship with the University of Wollongong, providing countless opportunities for teaching and research staff, professional staff, students and community members to contribute to the global arts dialogue. In 2011, the University of Wollongong and Bundanon Trust formalised an already long-running partnership that supports creative arts and environmental stewardship while developing the next generation of creative thinkers.

Deborah has been an Honorary Professorial Fellow in the University of Wollongong’s Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (previously the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts) since 2014, and in 2018 was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her significant service to the visual arts and art education.

Chancellor, Deborah Ely has dedicated her life to advancing the arts, and to creating genuine educational, cultural and social opportunities for the Shoalhaven and beyond.

I am delighted to present Deborah Ely AM to be admitted as a Fellow of the University of Wollongong.