Our team

Varuna is managed by a team of dedicated staff who are responsible to a volunteer Board.

Our staff

 Veechi Stuart, Executive Director

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Veechi's career has taken her on many adventures, including working as a journalist, writer, editor, publisher and business consultant. Before working at Varuna, Veechi worked as a columnist at the Sydney Morning Herald and as Publishing Manager for Woodslane Press. She is the author of over a dozen non-fiction titles, including bushwalking guides for both the Blue Mountains and Sydney.

Veechi has been a director on several community organisation boards, and has acted as an advisor to many businesses and non-profit organisations for over 20 years. She recently completed her MBA studies, including a research project into the contribution of regional writers’ centres to social inclusion. Veechi was recently nominated as a Cultural Leader by the Blue Mountains Artists Network.

Veechi loves finding ways to make the arts accessible to as many people as possible, and is proud to be part of the creative community in the Blue Mountains.

Contact: veechi@varuna.com.au

Amy Sambrooke, Creative Director

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Amy has worked in the cultural sector throughout her career. Prior to joining Varuna, Amy spent 8 years at the Whitlam Institute developing school and community programs and managing communications, marketing and outreach for the Institute's public policy work and high-profile events program.

Amy has worked as a producer for several programs at 702 ABC Sydney as well as in commercial radio, and has reported for Triple J and ABC Darwin. She has also worked as an arts publicist and media trainer.

Amy has a Bachelor of Media in Writing from Macquarie University, and a Graduate Diploma in Radio Broadcasting from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School.

Contact: amy@varuna.com.au

Vera Costello, Varuna Administrator

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Vera is responsible for administration of residencies, alumni membership and Varuna programs and manages the maintenance of Varuna. She is truly the engine-room of our day-to-day operations, and is the reason why our residencies run so smoothly.

A former language teacher, Vera has lived in Katoomba for 25 years. She is at the Varuna office Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Contact: vera@varuna.com.au

Rebecca Goosen, Programs Co-ordinator

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Rebecca Goosen is Program Co-ordinator at Varuna, working on Varuna’s workshop program, events and the Blue Mountains Writers' Festival. 

Prior to joining Varuna, Rebecca worked for the State Government in the areas of Arts Investment, Policy, Research and Evaluation.  Rebecca has also worked on a range of arts projects both internationally and locally and served on an array of committees such as Music NSW’s Indent Panel, Regional Arts NSW’s Regional Arts Fund Panel and Blue Mountains Council’s City of the Arts Trust Advisory Committee. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Masters of Arts Administration.

Rebecca is a Blue Mountains local, devoted yogi, and in the office Mondays and Tuesdays. 

Contact: rebecca@varuna.com.au

Kathy Dobson, Accounts

Kathy is Varuna’s bookkeeper, and has worked in the Varuna office for over 20 years. A true legend, we do not know where we would be without her!

Kathy can be found in the office on Fridays.

Contact: accounts@varuna.com.au

Sheila and Luke Atkinson, Caterers (for evening meals)

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Sheila is Varuna’s chef extraordinaire and has become legendary in Australia’s writing community for her wonderful meals for Varuna guests. While running her restaurant in Katoomba many years ago, she was asked to cater for meals for Varuna guests. For two years she did both jobs, eventually selling her restaurant because she loved the Varuna job more. Sheila's many professional lives have included being a makeup artist for television, an organiser of arts festivals and a restaurateur.

Luke Atkinson, Sheila’s grandson, has been coming to Varuna with his mother (Jane) and grandmother (Sheila) for as long as he can remember. Luke now helps Sheila, coming to Varuna two evenings a week to help prepare our evening meals.

Rod Dark, Gardener

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Rod Dark, grandson of Eleanor and Eric Dark, tends the two-acre grounds of Varuna twice a week. Under his care, the heritage orchard is flourishing, flowers can be found throughout the garden all year round, and our drystone walls are being restored. The garden has always held a very special place in the hearts of the Dark family and indeed for all visitors to Varuna. 

Joan Okey, Housekeeper

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As our housekeeper, Joan Okey makes Varuna feel like home to the many writers who stay here. From ironed sheets to jars full of choc-mint biscuits, we have Joan to thank.

Our board

Jennifer Scott, Chair

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Jennifer has practised as a lawyer since 1981, specialising in environmental and planning law. She is also an arbitrator and nationally accredited mediator. Since 2005 Jennifer has focused on providing facilitation and dispute resolution services to private and government organisations, and to the courts and tribunals. She is also an active Rotarian who presently sits on the Rotary International Election Review committee and is Vice Chair of the Rotary International Leadership Development and Training Committee.

Susan Hayes, Deputy Chair

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Susan Hayes has worked in arts administration for over 30 years. Posts have included: State Literature Officer for Western Australia, Director of the National Playwrights' Centre, Manager of the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund and Director of the Literature Board of the Australia Council for the Arts. She is on the Boards of Varuna and the Blue Mountains City of the Arts Trust. Susan is a Churchill Fellow and has an MPhil in Australian Studies.

Louise O’Halloran, Treasurer

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Lou now consults to the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network which brings together philanthropists focused on solving some of Australia's most urgent environmental challenges.

Prior to this she worked in senior management roles in the arts - in Sydney as General Manager of Belvoir Street Theatre, General Manager of the National Playwrights Centre and Conference, and Development Manager at the Art Gallery Society of NSW. She also spent many years working outside Australia in Los Angeles (LA Festival), Washington and New York (arts consulting), Edinburgh (Edinburgh Festival, Assembly Rooms) and London (Institute of Contemporary Arts).

She has a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism), an MBA (philosophy and ethics) and spent three years writing her PhD focusing on business ethics and responsible investment (discontinued upon commencement at RIAA).

Lou's extra-curricular appointments include Governor of WWF, board member of Varuna, and member of the Chairman's Council for Inflection Point Capital.

Claire Corbett

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Claire Corbett is a writer and award-winning teacher of literature, film and creative writing. She writes novels, creative non-fiction, journalism, and short stories. Her first novel, When We Have Wings, was published in 2011 by Allen & Unwin and shortlisted for the 2012 Barbara Jefferis Award and the 2012 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction, and was published overseas. Recent fiction and essays have been published in Best Australian Stories 2014 & 2015, Griffith ReviewSoutherly and Overland. She has written on defence and strategy for The DiplomatThe Strategist and The Monthly. Her second novel, Watch Over Me, was published by Allen & Unwin in May 2017.

Angelo Loukakis

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Angelo Loukakis is an Australian author who has also worked as a teacher, editor, publisher and scriptwriter. He has been a member of the Literature Board, chair of the NSW Writers’ Centre, and between 2010–2015 was executive director of the Australian Society of Authors. His most recent novel is Houdini’s Flight (HarperCollins 2010).

Veronica Sumegi

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Veronica Sumegi is Co-founder and Publisher with Brandl & Schlesinger, an independent publisher based in the Blue Mountains. Established in 1994, Brandl & Schlesinger is committed to publishing and supporting new writers.

Peter Minter

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Peter Minter is a poet, poetry editor and writer on poetry and poetics. Author of numerous books, most recently In the Serious Light of Nothing, his work is widely published, anthologised and translated in Australia and internationally. He was a founding editor of Cordite, co-edited Calyx: 30 Contemporary Australian Poets and the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature, and has been poetry editor for Meanjin and Overland.  

Peter teaches Indigenous Studies, Creative Writing and Australian Literature at the University of Sydney, and shares Koori and Celtic ancestry.