Our Board

Our Board

Cr Elly Bird
Lismore City Councillor

Elly is a Councillor on Lismore City Council, and has a strong arts and cultural development background. Elly has been involved with LightnUp and the Lismore Lantern Parade since 2003, directing the fiery finale for most of that time, and currently directs the opening ceremony at Woodford Folk Festival. Elly is also an experienced events manager, working on numerous arts, music and community events and more recently in her work with Lock the Gate and Gasfield Free Northern Rivers.

Steve Pickering | Treasurer
Clarence Valley Councillor 
Steve Pickering has been heavily involved in the arts in the Clarence Valley, both as a gallery owner and also a committee member on the Clarence Valley Cultural Committee. As president of Ulmarra Village Inc (the Ulmarra progress association), he organized community events which were a fantastic way to bring the community together during the days of COVID. He opened the Coldstream Gallery in the historic river-port village of Ulmarra, with his partner, in 2017. As an advocate of local artists and creatives he realises the importance of the creative arts and associated industries within the Northern Rivers. Steve has been an invited judge at art competitions including the Jacaranda Art Exhibition, Wild about Wooli, the Maclean Show and the Lilli Pilli Art Show, amongst others. As a first term councillor on the Clarence Valley Council, he wants to strengthen the focus of arts, culture, heritage and youth within the Clarence Valley and Northern Rivers region. The importance or arts and culture in repairing and rebuilding communities can not be underestimated, arts are the glue that brings communities together.

Cr Peter Westheimer
Byron Shire Councillor

Musician, producer and artist Peter Westheimer lives in Northern NSW and has previously been on the Arts Northern Rivers board. He has composed music for feature films, television documentaries, installations & multimedia whilst his personal album releases span  many genres – world, electronica, chill, ethno-ambient, dance, new wave, neo classical, synth-pop.  He has extensive theatre experience as an actor/codirector and was the musical director for a large multimedia event ‘Cyberspace’, at the Epicentre, Byron Bay. In 2012 he showcased the album Tranzworld Express with multimedia performances at Splendour in the Grass festival and Byron Bay Community centre theatre whilst the opening track Change Now. was awarded Best Australian Independent Music Video of the year. He has been a board member of Screenworks and was the major driver of the $1.5 million repair and refurbishment of the Mullumbimby Civic Hall during his previous term on Byron council. Positive personal, environmental and political change are integral to Peter’s way of working/creating.

Cr Sama Balson
Byron Alternate

Sama is a Creative Director, Designer & Producer with an international body of work in the performing arts industry. Working collaboratively with teams in leadership roles and behind the scenes, she comprehensively oversees productions through from conceptual stages to completion. Sama is the founding Director of IPAN International Performing Arts Network & WISE Women In Screen and Entertainment.

Sama is passionate about social activism, as reflected in the shows she produces and directs. Sama brings vision and heart to all her work, she is a passionate campaigner for equality, diversity, social justice and an advocate for women’s leadership to bring about social change.

Janet Wilson
Kyogle Shire Councillor 


Patrick Deegan 
Richmond Valley Councillor 

Patrick Deegan lives and works in Casino. He has lived and worked in the region his whole life and is deeply entrenched in the community.  As a councillor for Richmond Valley he actively sits on not only the Arts Northern Rivers board but also Toys Change Lives and Family Support Network.

Chris Cherry | Chair
Tweed Shire Mayor

Chris Cherry is currently Mayor of Tweed Shire and served as Deputy Mayor from  2016-2018 and 2019-2020. 

She is a trained biophysicist, having studied at Sydney University and UNSW and  worked in plant membrane research into salinity in Adelaide University and UNSW. 

She grew up in the Tweed Shire and more recently spent ten years managing a  holiday park in the Tweed. 

She is an independent Councillor and has focussed her attention on community led  decision making.

Ashleigh Ralph
Lismore Regional Gallery Director | Lismore Alternate

Ashleigh Ralph is the Director of Lismore Regional Gallery. Before this, she has been Assistant Director, Development and Operations at the Institute of Modern Art, Assistant Curator at UAP and has worked at Griffith University Art Museum, Edwina Corlette Gallery, and the University of Queensland Art Museum. She is also the Founder and Director of Innerspace Contemporary Art. Ashleigh holds a Bachelor of Arts, Art History with First Class Honours from the University of Queensland.

Brett Wiley
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade | Co-opted

Brett has 18 years of experience working in international affairs and representing Australian interests abroad. He has worked at Australian High Commissions and Embassies in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji and Japan, and was most recently a Counselor at the Australian Embassy in South Korea. He is passionate about advocacy, cross cultural communication and using people to people links to deepen relationships and advance common interests. Brett is a fourth generation Northern Rivers local. He was born in Lismore, raised in Mullumbimby and has recently returned home to Rosebank.

Emily Berry
CEO, Northern Rivers Community Foundation | Co-opted

Emily was previously the CEO of Northern Rivers Community Foundation and prior to this she was Executive Producer and General Manager of NORPA (Northern Rivers Performing Arts). Emily has over 25 years experience in business and financial management, operations and production, across theatre, documentary film, events, hospitality, and humanitarian aid. Namely St.George OpenAir Cinema Sydney, RICE restaurants & events New York, BroadOak documentary film Brisbane and Paris, RiverGarden Hotel, Siem Reap Cambodia, and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sarah Gurich
Grafton Regional Gallery Director | Clarence Alternate 

Previous to her appointment at the Grafton Regional Gallery, Sarah has worked in a number of roles in the regional gallery sector, including Director of Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (BRAG), Curator at BRAG, and inaugural Exhibitions Manager at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre where she oversaw development of the new City Art Gallery. In 2017, Sarah was the NSW Exhibition Team Leader at the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Sarah is an experienced creative producer motivated by creating new opportunities for engagement, extension, and collaboration to support and promote regional artists including developing new platforms for connecting the community through art and culture.

Sarah Nash 
Community Projects Officer | Clarence Alternate

Sarah Nash is an officer of Clarence Valley Council; she is responsible for the programming and
marketing of the annual plunge Arts & Culture festival which is a month-long program of community
run events across the Clarence Valley. With a background in national and regional media Sarah has
helped engage community and grow the festival to more than 175 events each year including
workshops, exhibitions, performances and installations. She also works at the Grafton Regional
Gallery to create public programs, and to develop public art and cultural partnerships across all
creative industries in the Clarence Valley.
In her 5 years at Clarence Valley Council Sarah has also worked with the Grafton Regional Gallery, as
Youth Development Officer, Safe Communities Officer and with Clarence Care and Support aged and
disability services. She is a volunteer for Mullum Music Festival, Bello Winter Music Festival, Byron
Writers Festival and the secretary for the Clarence Valley Cultural Committee.


Sharon Davidson
Richmond Alternate

Sharon has enjoyed a successful career spanning almost 35 years in journalism, internal communications, marketing, and public and government relations. Since joining Richmond Valley Council nine years ago, she has been responsible for the organisation’s communications and engagement, events and tourism, and public art. Sharon’s passion for her community drives her to create positive change. Sharon has overseen a number of exciting public art projects, including the El Gronda, Simpson Parade and Coraki Pool murals. Two major projects underway include the painting of the Casino water tower and the installation of three hand-carved totem poles adjacent the Evans Head River. 

Shannon Carruth
Tweed Alternate

Born and raised in Lismore, Shannon is now Manager, Inclusive and Creative Communities at Tweed Shire Council and has responsibility for the award-winning Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre, Tweed Regional Museum, Libraries, Community Wellbeing and the activation of community halls and auditoria. With a career spanning almost 30 years across local and state government, non-profit and corporate sectors, Shannon is passionate about creativity, inclusion, innovation, collaboration, and engagement. She has managed many successful, innovative, cross-sector partnerships and projects including Music for Health, a partnership between health fund, MBF and the Sydney Symphony; ING Australia’s innovative Dreamstarter program supporting start-up social enterprises across Australia and Starlight Childrens Foundation’s 50 Towns in 50 Weeks national tour and television documentary.