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Franchesca Cubillo

(Senior Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, National Gallery of Australia)

Franchesca Cubillo is a Larrakia, Bardi, Wardaman and Yanuwa woman from the ‘Top End’ of the Northern Territory. Until recently, she was senior curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the National Gallery of Australia (2009–12), where she led the curatorial team in developing eleven purpose-built Indigenous Australian art galleries, the largest display of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in the world. She has over twenty years’ experience working in state and national cultural institutions.

Franchesca worked on the major exhibitions Petroglyphs (2003) and Colliding worlds: first contact in the western desert, 1932–1984 (2006) and was co-editor of the book for the National Gallery of Australia’s second National Indigenous Art Triennial, unDisclosed, which is currently touring Australia.

In 2006, she undertook a Churchill Fellowship to investigate international responses to the repatriation of the ancestral remains of indigenous nations worldwide. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Aboriginal Affairs and Honours in Anthropology from the University of Adelaide and is currently undertaking a PhD at the Australian National University.

Franchesca was senior curator of Aboriginal Art and Material Culture at the Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory (2006–09), where she developed the collection, curated several Indigenous art exhibitions and delivery the prestigious Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Islander Art Award. Previously, she held positions at Tandanya, National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, and the National Museum of Australia. Franchesca was curator of Aboriginal Anthropology at the South Australia Museum for eight years, where she assisted in the redevelopment of the Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery in 2000.

She has worked with many Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory as well as in communities in the western and eastern Kimberley region, the lower Murray River region of South Australia and parts of north Queensland. Franchesca has presented many lectures and represented Indigenous culture at national and international forums, particularly in United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Japan.

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Claire Summers
DAAFF Executive Director

Claire Summers was born in Melbourne, Victoria and has a keen interest in social enterprises and economic development strategies for unprivileged communities in the third world. After completed her double degrees in Business (Management/Marketing) and Arts (Sociology and Behavioural Studies) at Monash University, she travelled up to Maningrida, Arnhem Land to gain experience working in Aboriginal communities. She quickly realised that there a great deal of work to be done on improving the sustainability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities without looking abroad.

From 2005 to 2010 Claire worked various roles at Maningrida Arts & Culture (Arts Administrator, Assistant Director and Director) and also was the business developer for the Territory and National award winning “Arnhem Land Eco Cultural Tours”. It 2007, Claire was also tasked with the development and delivery of the 1st Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair – it was a concept that had been born from the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, and give to Maningrida to bring to life! From 2010-2012 Claire managed the Babbarra Women’s Centre which involved the development of 7 micro businesses that supported the employment of Indigneous women. One of these businesses was a flourishing textile design workshop!

Claire managed the DAAF event in 2007 and 2008, and then joined the events steering committee in 2009-2011. She was elected as a board member of the newly established  foundation in 2012. In April 2013, Claire contracted to DAAFF as the event manager and worked as the sole part time employee until new funding enabled Claire to take on a full time role as DAAFF’s first Executive Director in March 2016.

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Philip Watkins
DAAFF Deputy Chair

(Chief Executive Officer of Desart)

Philip Watkins was born and raised in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, and is part of large extended Arrernte and Larrakia families.

In August 2011, Philip was appointed the Executive Officer of Desart. Desart is a peak body that advocates for the independence of remote Aboriginal Art Centres in Central Australia, fostering some forty-four Art Centres.

Prior to his appointment at Desart, Philip was employed as the Artistic and Cultural Director of the National Aboriginal Cultural Institute – Tandanya (2006-2011). This followed on from a range of positions held at the Central Land Council over a twelve year period.

Currently, Philip is a Fellow of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (South Australia) and is a Board Member of the Indigenous Art Code of Conduct Ltd.

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Cecilia Alfonso
DAAFF Treasurer

(Director of Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation)

Cecilia Alfonso was born in Chile and emigrated to Sydney,  Australia with her family in the early 1970s. She has  also lived in the United States of America, Africa and Hong Kong in pursuit of her passion for art.  Cecilia achieved First Class Honours in History from the University of New South Wales, and a Masters of Art Administration from the College of Fine Arts, UNSW.  While living in the United States of America she completed an internship with National Portrait Gallery at the  Smithsonian Institute.

Cecilia has been working at Warlukurlangu Artists in Yuendumu since December 2001. Warlukurlangu Artists is Indigenous owned and operated and represents more than 500 artists from the communities of Yuendumu and Nyirripi. It is one of the largest and most successful Art Centres in Australia.


Stephanie Hawkins
DAAFF Secretary

(Independent consultant for tourism and regional development)

Stephanie Hawkins has a long affiliation with the Northern Territory with a strong focus on community development. From working at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, in 1999 Stephanie moved to the NT to manage Munupi Arts and Crafts on the Tiwi Islands. After moving to Darwin in 2001 she worked with ANKAAA as Industry Development Officer then as Executive Officer. Stephanie moved into the public sector in 2006 to manage the Indigenous Art Strategy for Arts NT. In 2008 she combined her passions of nature and culture as the Director of Indigenous Tourism Development with Tourism NT. This position recently moved into the Department of Regional Development and Women’s Policy. Stephanie’s qualifications include Bachelor of Arts (Art History and Curatorship), Graduate Diplomas in Applied Science in Heritage Management and in Public Sector Management and is currently studying Law part time at the CDU. Stephanie is also active in the community as President of the RSPCA Darwin Regional Branch; a Director on the RSPCA National Board and most recently a Board member for the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation. She will also be a Judge for the 2013 Brolga Northern Territory Tourism Awards.


Christina Davidson
DAAFF Public Officer

(DAAF Public Officer, Board Member)

Christina Davidson is the Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Northern Kimberly and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists (ANKAAA) Aboriginal Corporation – the peak advocacy and support agency for over 5,000 Indigenous artists and 49 Aboriginal owned art centres and artist groups in the regions of: Arnhem Land, the Kimberley, Tiwi Islands and Katherine/ Darwin. Christina works for the all Indigenous board elected from across the ANKAAA regions which cover over 1 million square kilometres of country in Northern Australia. Before joining ANKAAA in late 2007, Christina had appointments lecturing in contemporary art and art theory at the universities of Sydney and Melbourne.

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Russell Smith
DAAFF Board Member

(Building Bridges Founder)

Russell Smith is an Aboriginal man from South Australia, well-known among Indigenous Australians and key politicians. He has extensive experience in the corporate and philanthropic sectors, in government and non-government organisations, and with educational and sporting institutions. He has been contracted by successive governments and prime ministers, and previously worked for The Myer and Telstra Foundations. In 2004, he authored the Australian Indigenous Guide to Philanthropy, and in 2011, he founded Building Bridges.

Russell’s career as an Indigenous ambassador and advocate provides the platform for Building Bridges’ education programs and organisational liaison. He has lectured on Aboriginal Culture in Primary and Secondary schools in Australia and overseas, and has directed initiatives for the Foundation for Young Australians. His passion as an educator derives from his philosophy of community engagement and cross-cultural dialogue. Russell’s personal history and life experience shapes our programs in a practical and powerful fashion.

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Hayley Birchley
DAAFF Board Member

(Tjarlirli Art Manager)

Hayley grew up in Brisbane, studied a Bachelor of Photography at the Queensland College of Art and L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Belgium before establishing a career in Melbourne based in communications, arts and community development.

Since 2015, Hayley has been managing Tjarlirli Art, an Indigenous owned and operated Art Centre representing over 200 artists from the communities of Tjukurla, Western Australia and Docker River, Northern Territory. In August 2016, Tjarlirli Art opens their second art centre, Kaltukatjara Art, in the neighbouring community of Docker River to expand access for all artists in the region to regular art making and skills development. Together with the Board of Directors, Hayley has managed this expansion and transition for the Art Centre, solidifying long-term sustainability for the business. Hayley also works very closely with the members of the Western Desert Mob alliance representing artists from the Ngaanyatjarra lands to develop exhibition opportunities, engage youth and deliver more effective outcomes for our artists into the future.