John Irving appointed chair of Australian Major Performing Arts Group

Derek Young AM has stepped down as chairman of the Australian Major Performing Arts Group after 7 years in the role. John Irving, who joined the AMPAG board in 2010, took over the position yesterday.

John Irving.
John Irving. Image supplied

Young retired from his position as chair of the Melbourne Theatre Company last month after 19 years of service and as such, must therefore step down as AMPAG’s chair.

The Australian Major Performing Arts Group (AMPAG) is the umbrella group for 28 of Australia’s major performing arts companies with charitable status from six of Australia’s states including the flagship theatre companies, dance companies, state symphony orchestras, state opera companies and Opera Australia. Each year they provide employment for approximately 8400 performers, musicians, artists, designers, technical producers and arts administrators, and attract a voluntary workforce of more than 5000. They are also active in education, community engagement and international cultural exchange.

During his time at AMPAG, Young has seen the role of the organisation grow in its effectiveness and its ambit, steering the member companies successfully through times of great change.

“Companies have seen an exponential shift in the proportion of funding they receive from the private sector”, said Ms Bethwyn Serow, AMPAG’s Executive Director today.

“Derek has made an enormous contribution to the performing arts landscape in Australia. His insightful leadership, drive and personal generosity will be greatly missed”, she said. 

Young joined the AMPAG board in 2005 and was appointed chair the following year. Upon his retirement, he has praised the appointment of John Irving in the role and has fondly reflected on his time at the helm. 

“It has been a great privilege to work with Australia’s major performing arts companies over the past seven years”, he said today.

“I am passing the AMPAG reins into the very safe and capable hands of John Irving, who will bring a great deal of passion, intellect and care to the business of the major performing arts sector. It has been an absolute privilege to have served on the board with other directors of such incredible organisations.”

John Irving said he was greatly looking forward to working with the incredible array of companies who work under the AMPAG banner.

“We are blessed in Australia to have orchestras, theatre and opera companies, ballets, even a circus, that not only proudly wear the label, major performing arts company, but that fulfil that label to such effect”, Irving said today.

“Not only do our companies achieve standards of world-class excellence, they undertake a community and education role that gives millions around Australia access to their work.

‘It’s a fantastic opportunity to continue Derek’s great work. Our companies grow in ability and scope every year, but that brings with it a huge responsibility for AMPAG as their peak body to provide the best possible support. It will be a challenge and a privilege to chair AMPAG.’

For more information on The Australian Major Performing Arts Group, visit

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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