Ann Tonks, MTC overseeing constructionThis is the embarrassing page ..where very nice people very kindly say nice things about one. So here goes:

“I have known and worked with Ann for 18 years. For the past 5 years, as chair of the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) board I have worked particularly closely with Ann.

Ann has developed a deep knowledge and understanding of what it takes to make an arts organisation work. This knowledge has been derived not only from her role as Executive Director of MTC, but also from her academic research into the management of arts companies, her teaching of a masters of arts administration course at UoM, and her role as a board member of other arts companies.

When Ann arrived at MTC we had accumulated a $4M deficit, we did not have a theatre of our own and our headquarters was a group of barely habitable buildings. Morale was poor and the management team were struggling. During Ann’s tenure we have eliminated the deficit and have run budget surpluses for the past 10 years, we have built a beautiful theatre complex in Southbank and have moved into a new headquarters building. Ann was the driving force in all these achievements. Ann has also created a highly motivated, extremely professional management team and a wonderful “family like” culture in the company.

Ann has managed the development of a number of strategic plans for the company involving extensive consultations with management and the board, which were informed by extensive research and the involvement of specialist expertise where required e.g. consumer and market research.  Ann’s understanding of global arts industry issues and trends, funding models and agencies, and her broad knowledge of how other arts organisations operate, ensured that we created plans that were challenging but achievable.

I would summarise my thoughts on Ann by saying she is that rare individual who combines outstanding management and operational capability with strategic vision and insight. If that isn’t enough Ann is also a delight to work with. She developed respectful, trusting relations with all board members and chairs over her 18 years. Ann is direct and open in her dealings with people, treating them with respect and kindness but able to take tough decisions when required. All in all a consumate arts professional.”

Derek Young, Chairman, MTC Board, Australian Major Performing Arts Board

“Ann Tonks is an extraordinarily gifted strategist and manager, with an acute sense of economy that is not ignorant of the human values and needs of any organisation.  In a 12 year working relationship, I never ceased to admire her capacity to combine stringent fiscal planning with an attention to the personal and familial circumstances of our employees and a deep sense of care for the wider professional community.  As an arts administrator she seasons her dedication to efficient business models with a passion for the art-form, and I’m sure these skills could be applied to any managerial circumstance in which she found herself. She is sharp, witty and level-headed, never wrong-footed, intransigent where required and always fair.”

Simon Phillips, previous Artistic Director, Melbourne Theatre Company and internationally renowned theatre director


“Ann Tonks is among Australia’s most talented and experienced arts administrators.  She combines a deep understanding of the artistic process with a superb armoury of organisational skills.  Ann can oversee construction of a major new theatre or skilfully analyse and run a large budget yet still know just how a set should be constructed while remembering the names and favourite song of everyone on the team.  She is sharp, savvy and impressive.”

Glyn Davis, Vice-Chancellor, The University of Melbourne


I met Ann when MTC was recruiting a new General Manager. MTC, whilst running excellent productions, was deeply in debt to the University, the Russell Street Theatre, its home, on the edge of being condemned and occupying premises in Ferrars Street that had no flat floors and a roof that leaked.

Ann had no direct experience in theatre but was the outstanding candidate. Her performance over ensuing years was truly outstanding. Her financial control enabled the MTC with Simon Phillips artistic direction to operate at a surplus, but more important, Ann embarked on an onerous fifteen year project that resulted in the MTC getting a new theatre and new office/workshop home.

Ann, whilst I had the privilege of being Chairman, played a wide leadership role and was also active in the artistic side participating in programming and often gaining difficult to achieve rights to overseas plays. She ably filled in for Simon during his absences.The explosion in subscriptions and attendances in Simon and Ann’s tenure is well documented and Ann should share the credit for all these achievements.

Finally, no matter how busy she was or what crises were extant, Ann was always available and a pleasure to work with.”

Ralph Ward Ambler, Previous Chairman, Melbourne Theatre Company

“Working for Ann as her CFO for 10 years was an incredibly rewarding experience.  Ann has a leadership style that is genuinely collegiate and supportive, and it brings out the passion and creativity in the team.  It is a rare manager that can create an environment where people feel truly safe to take risks, and the trust it engenders makes for a high performing team.  To be able to come to work each day in such a positive environment is a joy, and the record of achievements under Ann’s leadership makes everyone feel immensely proud of the collaboration.

Ann has an amazing ability to keep the ship steady, no matter the numerous internal or external dramas that can arise in a business built on creativity and passion.  To keep a $20m business profitable for 10 years when it receives net government funding of only 7% is a testament to Ann’s managerial courage and finesse.”

Dale Bradbury, Director, CRM and Ticketing, MTC