Board of Directors


Leo B Akee - Chairperson

Leo's traditional name is Beizam and he is of the Geuram & Zagareb tribes; two of the eight tribes of Mer. His peoples are the traditional owners of Mer (Murray Island) in the Torres Strait. His Totems are; Beizam (Shark); Galbol (Whale); Bid (Dolphin); Tabo (Snake); Serar (Tern); Deumer (Torres Strait Pigeon) and Waumer (Red chested Frigate Bird).
With 30 years' experience in the arts, his art forms of choice include; artefacts, wood carving, cultural dance, singing, song writing, music composition, and on stage entertainment.
Leo was formerly the District Manager of Education Queensland/DETA, a Councillor of the Torres Shire Council (1997-2000) and Deputy Mayor of the Torres Strait (2000-2004).
He has sat on many national committees and Boards, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council for the Arts, The National Indigenous Advisory Reference Group for the Australia Council for the Arts, JCU Vice Chancellors Business Advisory, National Indigenous Training Advisory Council and joined the Board of UMI Arts in 2008 to share his knowledge and skills of Board governance with young directors and to strategically develop Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultural programming across the region. 

Noel Zaro OAM - Deputy Chairperson

Noel's Totem is Nam (Green sea turtle), and the Womer (Man-of-war hawk). He is a descendant of the Dowareb tribe, part of the Murray Island group. His language is Meriam Mir, the Murray Island language that is spoken in the Eastern Torres Strait.
Noel has a vast experience in the arts and his art forms of choice include teaching and performing traditional Murray Island Dances. His dance group has toured and performed both nationally and internationally.
He was awarded an order of Australia Medal in 2010 for service to the promotion and teaching of Torres Strait Islander Culture through Gerib Sik Dancers.
Noel first became a member of UMI Arts in 2010 to share and represent the views of his people in the region and to share his skills and knowledge in the areas of performance and dancers.

Priscilla Major - Director

 Priscilla's bush name is Ma Cheltrulalie. She is of the Kokoberra – Kokomeranda language group. Her peoples are the traditional owners of the Mitchell River area, including the Aboriginal community of Kowanyama. Priscilla is of the Lightening, Sour Yam and Shark clan group. She was born on Danbar Station via Normanton and has a blood-line connection to the country of Kowanyama and Normanton.
Some of her major life achievements include when she attended the Story Place Exhibition in Brisbane, the Dreaming Festival on the Sunshine Coast and UMI Arts Big Talk One Fire in Cairns along with the Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair.
Priscilla is a fluent speaker in her own and several neighbouring languages and she is knowledgeable in traditional customs and ceremonies. She retains a wealth of knowledge around connection to country.
Priscilla first became a Director of UMI Arts in 2005, to share her traditional knowledge and stories so that our people / communities can work together and engage our younger generations, teaching them and encouraging them to learn the old ways.

Robert Tommy Pau - Director

Tommy is a descendent of the Eastern Torres Strait Islands, Australian Aboriginal, Papua New Guinea, Pacific Islander and Asia. He speaks Torres Strait Creole and Australian English.
He was taught about the need to keep culture strong through cultural practice by his father. He has a strong commitment to keeping old traditions alive and believes that culture must remain true to the past and move with time to exist in the future.
Tommy has vast experience in the arts and his art forms of choice include printmaking, painting and three dimensional sculptures.
Some of his major life achievements include completing a Bachelor of Education and becoming a semi-finalist in the Telstra Art Award.
Tommy first Joined UMI Arts in 2012 to learn Board governance skills and actively participate in the strategic vision of UMI Arts.

Desmond Tayley - Director

Desmond Tayley is a descendant of Eastern Kuku Yalanji/Kuku Nyungkul (on his mother's side) and Kuku Nyungkul/MagarrMagarr Warr clan (on his father's side). Desmond is a former Mayor of Wujal Wujal and has previously worked with Bana Mindilji Aboriginal Corporation and Cape York NRM. Desmond has many years of experience in community engagement and public speaking, and has previously been a Director of the UMI Arts Board.  

Carly Jia - Director

Carly Jia is of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent with heritage links to Badu Island on her Grandfathers side and Mer and Yidinji on her Grandmothers side. Carly has been active in the arts for well over 17 years in a range of roles including Exhibitions Project Manager and Curator at the National Museum of Australia. Carly was also heavily involved in the repatriation of Indigenous human remains from overseas collections and worked intensively on the inventorying of Torres Strait Islander human remains in the United Kingdom. Carly has a passion for the retention and maintenance of arts and culture and understands that artists need to evolve and look outside their chosen mediums for new ways to promote their art to the public.

Carly believes that through fashion and design, new audiences can be reached and engaged on another level by sharing and understanding Torres Strait arts and culture through a new product offering of fashion and design.

Carly has been exposed to a number of experiences throughout her career and strongly believes that she has acquired the skills and expertise to develop fashion and design in the Torres Strait and engage emerging and established artists through the process to build a strong arts economy.

Lisa Michl Ko-manggén - Company Secretary

Lisa is of the Kokoberrin Language Group of Central West Coast Cape York Peninsula in Queensland. In 2001 after participating in ceremony for the death of her Grate Grandmother Lisa was given the bush name Ko-manngén by her grate grandfather to carry on the name of his cousin. After over 16 years as a nationally exhibiting artist Lisa's art forms of choice include printmaking and painting.
In 2005 funding bodies facilitated the Savvy Arts Forum and invited representatives from all over Cape York Peninsula and the Torres Strait Islands. The need for a peak body to govern and Arts and Cultural hub in Cairns was the primary outcome of the discussions. Working with KPMG and an interim board the requirement for the registration of a public company, the business name UMI Arts and constitution was quickly identified. Soon after, an all ATSI board was established and funding was received for the employment of an executive officer. Lisa was a founding member of UMI Arts and was then nominated as Chairperson which continued for a six (6) year term. Over this time she worked with the board and staff to strengthen board governance, develop the operational and strategic plan and policy and procedures manual. During this time UMI Arts also moved to a larger premises to enable the delivery of a whole of culture program and build relationships with key stakeholders and funding partners for the company. Lisa maintains a broad understanding of aboriginal cultural protocols and practices and is a big supporter of engaging ATSI people in arts and cultural programming and creating pathways for them to develop their capabilities, such as small business / enterprise and community programs. "Proper Way". After 10 years of actively supporting UMI Arts Lisa relishes the opportunity to continue working alongside the UMI Arts board and staff to build the company for future generations of cultural practitioners.


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