Jill Smith AM

For decades, Jill Smith has promoted the arts and Australian playwrights at the Playbox Theatre and through government and arts funding bodies.

Honour Roll

Born in Melbourne in 1948, Jill Smith studied economics at Monash University and then completed a MBA at Monash and Bath Universities. Her career was initially in the banking and finance sector. In 1979, Jill followed a personal passion and made the leap into arts administration, becoming General Manager of the Playbox Theatre Company in Melbourne.

When a fire devastated the Playbox building in Exhibition Street in Melbourne's central business district, the future of the theatre company looked bleak. Jill set about the task of fundraising for a new contemporary theatre centre, at the same time maintaining the extensive touring and Melbourne seasons of Playbox. Funds were raised, sponsorship secured and the historic malting plant in South Melbourne was purchased and converted.

The CUB Malthouse Theatre Complex officially opened in 1990 - a long awaited dream for the company to have its own home was realised. The opening plays typified the Playbox's approach to contemporary Australian theatre: 40 Lounge Café by Greek-Australian writer Ted Lyssiotis and Robyn Archer's Café Fledermaus - a bold Australian look at European theatre. The opening season also included the premiere of renowned Australian playwright Hannie Rayson's Hotel Sorrento, which was subsequently made into a successful film.

Jill has supported and influenced the Playbox Theatre's policy of strong multiculturalism with Timorese, Greek, Italian, Malaysian, Indonesian, Japanese, Koori, Vietnamese, Philippine and Chinese co-productions or themes extensively explored. She has also played an important role in Australian theatre by mentoring many successful arts administrators who have worked with her at the Playbox. In 1992 she helped instigate Melbourne's first Arts House, adjacent to the CUB Malthouse Complex, to house small arts companies. In 2002 the Ngargee building opened providing a home for the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) and Victoria's flagship contemporary dance company, Chunky Move, with set construction and storage facilities provided at the Playbox.

Jill has been a member of various state and federal government boards and committees including the Victorian Council of the Arts and the Theatre Board/Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council. In 1995, Monash University recognised Jill's achievements and inspirational leadership with a Distinguished Alumni Award. The same year the Australia Council awarded her the inaugural (and only) Arts Administration Fellowship. She is a Trustee of the Victorian Actors' Benevolent Trust, a Director of Stable Productions and a Member of the Rex Cramphorn Memorial Committee.

Jill Smith's vision and determination ensured the growth and survival of Australia's leading contemporary theatre the Playbox. Thanks to her efforts Victoria has an outstanding arts complex for contemporary performance and visual art. She has given a generation of young writers and artists wonderful new opportunities, both here and overseas.