Deborah Ely recognised for service to visual arts

Deborah Ely, photograph by William Yang.

Deborah Ely, photograph by William Yang.

Deborah Ely’s love for visual arts started with a “childhood obsession and passion”. 

The North Nowra resident has been recognised for her significant service to the visual arts through leadership roles with art galleries, and to children's art education programs and has been welcomed into the Order of Australia as a member (AM).

Ms Ely is the CEO of the Bundanon Trust and has worn many hats in her extensive career, including but not limited to, Watershed Media Centre former visual arts director, Centre for Contemporary Photography founding director, Arts New South Wales visual arts and craft manager and Australian Centre for Photography former director. 

Ms Ely said she had always wanted to work in roles that allowed her to share her passion. 

“You always want to work in roles that allow you to share your passion and I’ve been able to do that in communicating the value of art to people,” she said. 

Ms Ely first started working in Britain and Europe and was fortunate enough to run galleries at a young age, which she said was a “very exciting time”. 

In 1988 she moved back to Australia and began the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne. 

Ms Ely also had the opportunity to look after all the regional art galleries of NSW before moving to Nowra in 2006 to take on the role as CEO of the Bundanon Trust. 

“Bundanon has a huge art collection and has hosted hundreds of artists who come here and make art,” she said. 

Ms Ely has also worked to develop art programs for children at Bundanon over the past 12 years. 

“Art really allows children to have a confidence in their own creativity,” she said. 

“I think it really enhances their sense of self, encourages their learning in other areas and encourages them to take risks and ask questions.” 

Ms Ely said one of the most “unusual” jobs in her extensive career was selecting the artworks to be displayed in the NSW Premier’s offices. 

“I had a lot of fun and a lot of interesting conversations about what the Premier liked looking at,” she said. 

Ms Ely said another career highlight was working with the Boyd collection at Bundanon.

Shocked by the honour, Ms Ely said she was very grateful to her peers for nominating her. 

“I have no idea how it happened but I feel very humbled,” she said.

“It’s great to see people in the arts recognised, this isn’t just recognition for me, but for all artists.” 


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