arts centre melbourne’s ceo awarded a member of the order of australia (am)

The CEO of Arts Centre Melbourne, Claire Spencer AM has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to the field of performing arts in the 2020 Australia Day honours list.

Claire said, “When I arrived in Australia 21 years ago this week, I could never have imagined this honour.  I am truly humbled by it.   I have never been more honoured to have first become an Australian Citizen (2004) and then second to serve the Australian performing arts industry and community.”

“I thank the Governor General for this honour.  I also acknowledge that all of my opportunities for services to the performing arts and the community have happened on the lands of the Eora and Kulin Nations and I pay my respect to elders past and present.”

Claire’s performing arts career included leadership roles at Sydney Opera House before taking up the role of CEO at Arts Centre Melbourne in 2014.  Claire took Arts Centre Melbourne and its team on a journey of transformation which saw ACM achieve financial stability and its contribution grow significantly to the vibrant, cultural and artistic life in Victoria, Australia and overseas.

Claire continues, “Many share this award.  Primarily the extraordinary team at Arts Centre Melbourne and my family.  As do the people and organisations that have collaborated to realise the productions on our stages, mental health and wellbeing within the industry and opportunity afforded so thousands of Victorian children experience live performance  – examples of initiatives that have been created during my time at Arts Centre Melbourne.”

Reflecting on public service and its positive impact Claire said, “Many of our community are facing, fighting or recovering from bushfires across our states.  It is a time to reflect on public and community service and to challenge ourselves in the response effort.”

Note to Editors

Under Claire’s leadership and collaboration Arts Centre Melbourne has created the following initiatives:

Arts Wellbeing Collective

Claire has been instrumental in leading the conversation about mental health in the performing arts with the ground-breaking Arts Wellbeing Collective, established in collaboration with sector partners, to provide a program that better supports the wellbeing and mental health of performing arts workers throughout Victoria and more broadly in Australia and internationally.

Through this program Arts Centre Melbourne has shone the spotlight on the serious mental health issues that are prevalent in the performing arts sector in response to the shocking results in a 2016 Victoria University and Entertainment Assist research report that revealed arts workers were more than twice at risk of suicide.

Asia TOPA

Under Claire’s collaborative approach, Arts Centre Melbourne has taken the lead on large scale consortium projects such as Asia TOPA – Asia Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts, connecting neighbouring countries, fostering cultural exchange, welcoming new cultures and commissioning and bringing more new cultural works to Melbourne and Victoria. 

Tech Connect

Providing more opportunities for regional communities is a driving force for Claire and under her leadership the Regional Technical Training Program TECH CONNECT was piloted in 2019. This nationally accredited technical training pilot program offered much-needed training to emerging and established theatre technicians to help strengthen capacity of performing arts centres across regional Victoria.

Australian Music Vault

The Australian Music Vault, opened in 2018 in partnership with the Contemporary Music Industry is another significant collaboration. 

Resident Companies

The ongoing partnerships with our Resident Companies – The Australian Ballet, Opera Australia, Melbourne Theatre Company and the Melbourne Symphony – continue to thrive.

Pinnacle Foundation

Claire’s contribution to the community also includes volunteering her time as a Board Director of the Pinnacle Foundation, supporting LGBTQIA+ students who are marginalised and disadvantaged through university with the scholarships and mentorships.

Chief Executive Women

She also dedicates her time to mentor emerging arts leaders who are female and is a member of Chief Executive Women which represents Australia’s most senior and distinguished women leaders.

In 2019 Claire was a finalist of the Human Resources Institute Australia Awards in the Lynda Gratton CEO category and IPAA Victoria Top 50 Public Sector Women in Established category. Arts Centre Melbourne was the 2019 Winner of Human Resources Institute Australia Martin Seligman award for Arts Wellbeing Collective, and was a VicHealth Award finalist for consecutive years in the 2017 and 2018 Improving Mental Wellbeing category.

Claire is also a member of the Australian Government’s Australia–Singapore Arts Group.

Claire as a leader and innovator, regularly presents at major events including delivering keynote speeches as part of Tessitura’s Innovator Series (Orlando, USA 2018)