Octapod is governed by a board which guides the organisation’s strategic direction and financial management.

The board is made up of dedicated individuals with expertise in strategic, financial, marketing and business management, a commitment to Octapod’s values and a passion for our community cultural development work in the region.

Lauren van Katwyk


Lauren works in public galleries and is interested in developing new audiences in the arts. During 12 years in the arts sector, she launched ‘The Art Factory’ at Maitland Regional Art Gallery, interned at the Tate Modern, UK and the Art Gallery of New South Wales and in her current role, developed several successful programs at Newcastle Art Gallery including Last Fridays and the Youth Reference Group. Lauren is currently Audience Development and Visitor Services Coordinator at Newcastle Art Gallery, and has been Chair of the Octapod Board since February 2019.

Karen Stace

Vice Chair

Karen has a Masters in Business Leadership and has worked in the community sector for over 25 years. She is currently the Manager, Sector Operations for National Disability Services, NSW. She has a keen interest is supporting community organisations to manage change and develop sustainable operating models.

Emily Bowen


Emily has a background spanning human resources, management, psychology, coaching, talent measurement and not-for-profit board appointments. She believes that we can best create a space for building culture, making an impact and achieving clever outcomes through people. As Manager of Forsythes Recruitment & HR, Emily leads a multi-disciplinary team, specialising across the executive, human resources and IT consulting niches. It is here that she leverages the connection between leadership, people and technology within organisations and across industries. To support this work and continue to extend her interest in the colliding priorities of people, culture and commerce, Emily actively seeks opportunities to contribute to the growth and development of community-based initiatives. She is particularly passionate about the role that arts and culture play in achieving impact and outcomes in a holistic and sustainable way.

Shaun Serafin


Shaun has experience in financial accounting, management accounting, outsourced CFO services and other consulting services at PwC. He also has experience in achieving commercial outcomes and implementing system improvements at nib. Shaun is passionate about analysing drivers behind financial performance and working with businesses to create sustainable practices.

Zephie Cerny

General Member

Zephie is a retired dentist. She was educated at the University of Sydney where she also obtained her PhD. Zephie worked in academic, private and public dentistry for over three decades. In 1996 she was one of the first two women to be appointed to Sydney University’s Continuing Education in Dentistry committee, and she was also the first woman to chair the Newcastle Division of the Australian Dental Association. She was actively involved in the Newcastle division of the Australian Dental Association from 1995 to 2003, and was Chair of the Organising Committee of 22nd NSW ADA Dental Convention. Zephie was also on the Steering Committee for the new oral health program at the University of Newcastle and is a Fellow of The International College of Dentists, the Pierre Fauchard Academy and the Academy of Dentists International..

Belinda Collins

General Member

Belinda is an experienced communicator, specialising in content strategy, and most recently led a team design and manage content for the NSW Education Standards Authority. Having worked across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, Belinda is keen to use her experience to grow engagement with the work of Octopod and our creative community.

Chanel Egan

General Member

Chanel is a Project Manager at Forsythes Technology and has prior experience in the tertiary and government sectors. With qualifications in psychology, IT and project management, her work involves solving business problems and leveraging new technology to make people’s work-life easier. Chanel is also the Secretary of Hunter Young Professionals and is a keen advocate for celebrating the diverse talent that the Hunter has to offer.

Leah Emmett

General Member

Leah has worked for the Newcastle Permanent for more than a decade. After starting her career as a trainee in the Branch Network in 2006, Leah has worked in various Head Office roles focusing on innovation and regulation in the payments space, and project and resource management. Having recently graduated from the University of Newcastle with a Master in Business Administration (MBA), Leah is keen to support those in creative industries to reach their full potential.

Charlotte Hilder

General Member

Charlotte started her creative industries career in feature films, working on productions such as Spike Jonez feature film ‘Where The Wild Things Are’. In 2003 after working with disadvantaged youth in Melbourne on participatory arts projects, she has been producing, curating and managing arts and cultural initiatives for various government, arts, and community organisations. Charlotte also has worked closely with migrant, refugee and Aboriginal communities and artists for over 15 years on cultural initiatives, including working with Multicultural Arts Victoria, The ‘Yirramboi’ – First Nations Arts Festival in 2017 and the Asia TOPA triennial Festival in Melbourne. Charlotte has qualifications in fine arts, multimedia design and community cultural development. She is passionate about cross-cultural and cross-platform creative initiatives, and mentors emerging artists from diverse backgrounds.

Stuart Slough

General Member

Stuart has 20 years experience in cultural and arts strategic planning and project management with a focus on multi-disciplinary, site and collaborative based projects. Stuart’s experience includes work within consultancies, NGOs and local government.

Susan Withycombe

General Member

Susan is an experienced lawyer who advises on compliance and regulatory matters relating to work health and safety (WHS) and heavy vehicle road transport. She regularly assists clients in the management of workplace incidents and advises on WHS obligations and potential liability under the relevant laws. Susan also advises and represents clients at coronial inquests and inquiries, and assists clients with building defect claims under the home building legislation.

Jenna Blayden

Ex Officio

Jenna is an interdisciplinary artist, whose practice spans two decades working across the spectrum of sound, light and performance. She has been performing and producing works for Theatre, Festivals, street corners, municipal cultural and community events (even a cave!) for many years. Highlights include Casio Gloria at Vivid (2016), The Bohemian Love Theatre (2006-2010), Original Music for Buchner’s Woyzeck (2018), Roald Dahl’s The BFG (2013), The Twits (2012) and Orwell’s 1984 (2012). Jenna is one of the longest standing members of Newcastle Punk Rock collective Unfit for Human Consumption (Violin since 2007). She has been involved with Octapod in many capacities since 2005, including volunteer gallery invigilator, party host, bar wench and previous Chair. She now invests energy in the next generation of Artists, Performers and Creative Industrialists in the Hunter; returning the favour