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

Spencer 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. “When I arrived in Australia 21 years ago, 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,” she said. “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.”

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