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Magabala Books announces the 2024 Board and celebrates 21 years of service from out-going Chairperson Tony Lee

Thu, Jul 11, 2024


Magabala Books announces Deputy Chair Marda Marda author Steve Kinnane will take on the role of Chairperson, after Yawuru leader Tony Lee retired from the Board after 21 years of incredible service.

Director Margy Dia will also step back from her duties after nine years, joining Director Clinton Benjamin who stepped aside earlier this year when his partner, Dr Lilly Brown, became Magabala CEO. While Magabala welcomes new directors Shaz Davis, a Bardi, Kija education expert; Abby-Rose Cox, a Nimunburr and Kija education specialist; and Marlee Hutton, a Bardi Jawi woman with a background in ecology and marine science.

“Tony’s 21 years at Magabala mark some of our Publisher’s most successful,” says CEO Lilly Brown. “As Chairperson his legacy with this organisation is far-reaching and felt at every level. His personal relationships with our staff, the many events he has attended and the creators he has supported: all this is testament to his dedication in leading Magabala and upholding our founding Elders’ vision.”


“We are incredibly lucky that Marda Marda man from Mirrowoong Country, Steve Kinnane, formally the Deputy Chair, is stepping into the role of Chairperson. Steve has been with Magabala for many years and will bring his expertise as an author and researcher to the role.


“After almost a decade of committed service to Magabala, we are also farewelling our lovely Director Margy Dia. And I would also like to thank Clinton for the four years he dedicated to Magabala.”

Tony Lee started as a Director at Magabala Books in 2003 and went on to be Chairperson several times during his time with the Publisher.

“When I joined the Magabala Board in 2003 I had no idea I’d be there for 21 years, and I look back with pride on what we’ve achieved,” says Tony. “A lot has changed, but some things will always remain: Magabala Books is more than just a publisher; it's a community, a place unique within Australia where First Nations storytelling and truth-telling are celebrated and amplified. The recent win at the ABIA Awards of Small Publisher of the Year has solidified my belief that I am leaving it in a position of immense strength with an exciting future.


“My deepest gratitude goes to our talented staff, whose passion and commitment drive Magabala forwards. To the Board, those who have journeyed with me, thank you for your unwavering commitment to the vision of Magabala’s founding Elders. I am pleased to see Deputy Chair, and friend, Steve Kinnane take up the mantle of Chair to guide Magabala with CEO Lilly Brown. The future is bright and I am honoured to have been part of a few chapters of the Magabala story.”

New Chair Steve Kinnane says he is acutely aware of the big shoes he has to fill:

“In being entrusted to undertake this role, I am thankful for Tony's wisdom, guidance and sound judgement. His passion and commitment have set a high standard, and I am honoured to continue building on the foundation he has laid. Together with our talented team, I am excited as we embark on this next chapter for Magabala Books.


"Tony Lee will always be a member of the Magabala family. After 21 years of dedicated service as a member, Director, acting CEO, and as our outstanding Chairperson, Tony is focusing on his many community interests. In his wake, Tony leaves an incredible legacy of leadership, respect and collaborative achievement. Tony has been instrumental in guiding Magabala to where we stand today.


“I am also deeply grateful to Margy Dia and Clinton Benjamin for their years of service as Magabala Directors. They have both always led with kindness, strength, and a strong commitment to community grounded story-telling.”

Joining Steve are three new Directors, who bring exciting new expertise and skills to the Magabala Board.

“It is with great pleasure that I welcome new Directors Shaz Davis, Marlee Hutton and Abby-Rose Cox to the Magabala Board. They each bring incredible strengths from their respective fields, and we are excited to have them join us."

Magabala Books is an independent, not-for-profit Indigenous Corporation and the Board is made up of a dedicated group of Kimberley Aboriginal educators, business professionals and creative practitioners.

The current Board consists of Steve Kinnane (Chair), Bebe Oliver, Edith Wright, Lenka Vanderboom, Josepha Howard (Treasurer), Traelyn Aiken, Shaz Davis, Abby-Rose Cox and Marlee Hutton.


Abby-Rose Cox

Abby-Rose Cox is a member of the Nimunburr community with connections to Kija in the East Kimberley. Her experiences of teaching primarily with Aboriginal youth has been a driving force in pursuing a career in research. She works as the Evaluation and Research manager at the Kimberley Aboriginal Health Research Alliance in Broome, which aims to flip research in the Kimberley to ensure First Nations people are involved in every stage of research journeys. Furthermore, her PhD centres culturally strong social and emotional well-being programs as a priority for health and education.

Marlee Hutton

Marlee is a Bardi Jawi woman with a background in Ecology and Marine Science. Having extensive experience working across the Kimberley, Marlee is passionate about supporting Traditional Owners and Indigenous Rangers in developing independent monitoring programs incorporating both Traditional Ecological Knowledge and western science practices. She is determined to support Indigenous corporations and peoples across Australia in gaining data sovereignty and increasing opportunities for traditional land management careers.

Shaz Davis

Shaz Davis is a proud nonbinary Bardi Kija person who holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of Notre Dame Broome, specialising in Aboriginal Education, and an MSc in Applied Linguistics from the University of Oxford. They were the inaugural Director of Education at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and led Aboriginal Education across 164 schools for Catholic Education Western Australia. Shaz serves on boards including Reconciliation Australia and the Aurora Education Foundation and is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia.