Humanities 21 was set up in 2012 by a group of people who believed humanities education is undervalued in businesses and underfunded by policymakers. Our advocacy programs and events encourage critical thinking and engagement with issues from a range of perspectives. This in turn promotes humanities education, which prepares people for the rapidly changing world of work – in which new problems are best confronted with flexible thinking and an understanding of context.
Committee of Management
Peter Acton (President)
Peter Acton has a degree in Classics from Oxford University and an MBA from Stanford University, where he was a Harkness Fellow and an Arjay Miller Scholar. Peter’s own experience has convinced him that the contribution a humanities education brings to commerce, as well as to life more generally, needs to be better appreciated. After working in industrial relations in the UK, he spent 20 years with The Boston Consulting Group in Europe and Australia and was Managing Partner of the Melbourne office from 1995-1999. He is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and of the Australian Institute of Management, a member of the Peter McCallum Research Board and a Director of the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation. In 2010 he was awarded a PhD in Ancient History by the University of Melbourne. His book, Poiesis, on manufacturing in classical Athens, was published by Oxford University Press in 2014.
Jan McGuinness (Vice President)
Jan McGuinness is a University of Melbourne Arts graduate (English and Politics) and journalist with more than 30 years’ experience. Career highlights include writing features and a daily column for The Age, running The Bulletin‘s Melbourne bureau, reporting and producing for ABC TV’s 7.30 Report and producing and initiating ABC TV arts programming as the Commissioner for Arts and Entertainment. Jan subsequently formed her own production company to create award-winning programs and documentaries in co-production with the ABC. Jan has also worked in the corporate sector providing strategic communications advice, and is a published author. She currently teaches feature writing to Monash University masters students in the School of Journalism and is writing a biography of the Australian writer Shirley Hazzard. Jan is a former board member of Artists and Industry, the Australian Art Orchestra and the Melbourne Writers Festival, where she served as Chair from 2004-2010. She is currently on the governing council of Janet Clarke Hall, University of Melbourne.
Deborah Cordingley is a principled contrarian: drawing on her background in Western philosophy and literature and passion for classroom teaching, Deborah employs critical and analytical thinking into both academic endeavours and every day life. Deborah see’s the Humanities as the gateway to robust civic involvement and a greater understanding of our collective values. That is, Humanities illuminates our exit from Plato’s cave.
Marcus is the Chief Executive Officer of Australia’s Property
Exchange (PEXA). A Master of Science, Statistics, and Neuropsychology at La Trobe University set him on the path for a career in strategic management and financial analysis. After starting out at the Boston Consulting Group, Marcus moved on to hold senior positions at several financial institutions in Australia. He founded the Property Exchange Australia in 2010, an innovation which has facilitated easy communication amongst shareholders within Australia’s property market. Marcus has educated his staff using the Humanities 21 Corporate Lecture Series since Humanities 21 was founded in 2013. Marcus believe these training programs foster creative problem-solving, strategic thinking, and innovation in a far more effective way than other professional development courses.
Craig has worked with some of Australia’s largest companies in the areas of marketing, communication, presentation; media issue management and business development. As the Non-Executive Director at Schools Connect, Craig matched leading companies with underprivileged schools, which in turn provided programs designed to lift students’ performance and improve their employability. Craig continued his work with underprivileged schools as the Independent Director of the Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN), a not-for-profit organisation that provides students with mentoring programs that help students to make sound educational, personal, and vocational choices. Craig’s most recent role as been as the Co-Founder and Director of Act3, an organisation that helps individuals and businesses to think creatively about their future, including creating a meaningful retirement for many clients. Craig believes Humanities 21’s advocacy is an important step in gaining recognition within the community of how important a broad education is to creating meaningful work.
Sue Hamilton began life as a classicist and philosopher, with a Masters in Classics from Oxford University, but has also undertaken post-graduate studies in law and art history. After arriving in Australia in the mid-70s, she had a long career as a senior executive for governments at federal, state and territory levels, in a wide variety of policy and operational settings. Her particular interest over that time was how different forms of communication between government and the community can improve policy and service outcomes. Although she left government employment three times before her final departure in 2012, she has always been lured back by the endless fascination and variety of government work and the potential to make small but significant changes for the better. Her last full-time role for government was at the State Library of Victoria where she spent 8 years as a member of the executive team, latterly as acting Chief Executive Officer and State Librarian.
Peter McLennan studied Civil Engineering at the University of Melbourne and has a post-graduate Diploma in Development Economics from Cambridge University. After working in construction in Canada, he established a consultancy that advised industry and government on strategic issues. Assignments ranged from R&D strategy for government to start-up feasibility to the impact of technology on workplaces. He also consulted widely on environmental strategy. He has always valued the art of effective reporting, and is committed to the value of the arts in business, particularly in today’s environment where there are such big uncertainties. The arts are, or should be, subversive, and certainly disruptive, and therein lies much of their potential contribution to business and everyday life. Peter’s contribution to Humanities 21 is informed by this belief. He was a member of the Arts+Industry group and is on the board of Australian Book Review, and has contributed to the Melbourne Writers Festival.
Jeff Richardson has a Bachelor of Arts and a Diploma of Education from the University of Melbourne, a Graduate Diploma of Languages from Deakin University and a Masters of Education from Monash University. He worked as Director of Student Services for Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, and was a lecturer at Monash University and a research fellow at RMIT. Jeff was introduced to Ancient Greece as an undergraduate, and it’s a place he has never really left. After decades working in programming, robotics and pioneering online learning, he has returned to undergraduate study of Ancient Greek. Jeff is also a member of The Coodabeen Champions, a comedy troupe that has been performing, recording, publishing and broadcasting for over three decades.
Alasdair West (Treasurer)
Alasdair is a Chartered Financial Analyst, and co-owner of McGregor West Chartered Accountants and Advisors. Alsadair’s wealth of knowledge has assisted Humanities 21 greatly in managing its finances.
Tracy West completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a Diploma of Education at the University of London, and a Graduate Diploma of Educational Administration at the University of Melbourne. Her teaching career, in both theUK and Australia, has spanned 39 years. She taught English and Literature at VCE level and Literature for the International Baccalaureate at Presbyterian Ladies College for 21 years, where she was Head of Literature, and most recently taught at Melbourne Girls’ Grammar School for eight years. Tracy is currently a principal examiner of Literature for the International Baccalaureate. Over the years she has attended a variety of educational conferences and examiners’ meetings related to both the VCE and the IB, both in Australia and the UK. Her main interests are in literature, sailing and cycling. She is now retired, and is also a mother and grandmother.
John Armstrong was born in Glasgow, educated in Oxford and London and moved to Australia in 2001. He is the author of seven books, including In Search of Civilisation (2009), Love Life Goethe (2006) and The Secret Power of Beauty (2004) – all published by Penguin. He was Philosopher in Residence at the Melbourne Business School and is currently Senior Advisor in the Office of the Vice Chancellor, University of Melbourne. His latest book, How to Worry Less About Money, came out in May 2012 and has been translated into fourteen languages. He lectures widely, is a regular commentator on ABC radio and contributes to several major international newspapers and journals. He is a colleague of Alain de Botton and is heavily involved in the School of Life.
The Hon. Barry Jones AC
Barry Jones was a Victorian MP for five years, Federal MP for nearly 21 years, Minister for Science 1983-90, represented Australia at UNESCO and the World Heritage Council in Paris 1991-96 and is the only person to have been elected to all four of Australia’s learned Academies. His books include Sleepers, Wake! (1982), a best seller which ran into 27 impressions, an autobiography, A Thinking Reed (2006), Dictionary of World Biography (revised 2016, ANU, on line and as a book) and The Shock of Recognition (2016). He led the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty and was the first Australian politician to raise the issues of the information revolution (1982) and climate change (1984). He was chair of Vision2020Australia 2002-14, of the Port Arthur Historic Site 2000-12, a board member of CARE Australia for 20 years, and a Visiting Fellow Commoner, Trinity College, Cambridge 2000-01. He was awarded an AC in 2014 for ‘his services as a public intellectual.’
Maeve Martyn completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at Monash University, with a double major in History and Italian. She wrote her honours thesis on Holocaust testimonies, including Primo Levi’s Se questo è un uomo. She has lived in Italy three times and now speaks Italian fluently. Her passion for Renaissance art and pasta encourages her to read Italian novels when she is not working at Humanities 21. She has experience in direct marketing and relishes her role as an advocate for the humanities.
Humanities 21 Advocacy Committee
Our Advocacy Committee is a bright team of students and recent graduates who volunteer their time to help us with our advocacy efforts. This includes our events series and our communications. Humanities 21 supports its volunteers with professional development opportunities.
Arts at Work Program Director
Ilaria Bigaran is in her second year of a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne, majoring in History and Politics/International Studies. She is an avid humanities enthusiast, and believes that the discipline provides not simply knowledge but also a comprehensive set of skills integral to understanding the world – past, present and future. She tutors in English and is currently learning French, and in her spare time she enjoys reading classic novels. She hopes that though her role with SEAC she can help change the common misconceptions surrounding the humanities and expand Humanities 21’s reach to current undergraduate students.
Festival Program Developer
Nicki is a graduate from the Bachelor of Arts (International Relations) at RMIT. She now works at HotDoc, a startup company that prioritises ethical practise in healthcare. Nicki is dedicated to helping people in her community and believes her Arts Degree fostered a curiosity and a world awareness in her. Nicki speaks French and in addition to her travels around Europe, Nicki has spent time in India volunteering in rural communities.
Emma is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) at RMIT University. Areas of particular interest to Emma include global security, migration, and post-colonial cultures. Through her degree, she has continued her studies of French and Japanese, but in 2016 took a semester abroad in the Netherlands, where she learned how to say the necessary phrases such as een koffie alstublieft (one coffee, please). Through Humanities 21, Emma envisages raising awareness of the benefits of humanities-based education in society. She anticipates this will be through advocacy activities that showcase language, culture, literature, history, and other aspects of the humanities. Emma firmly believes that people can gain a wholesome and critical understanding of the world we live in through the kinds of education and activities Humanities 21 promotes and provides in the community.