High calibre female president a first for the State Library

By Emma Hartley

Christine Christian OA has been announced as the new president for the State Library of Victoria – the first woman to hold the position in the library’s 165-year history.

Ms Christian already has a strong connection to the institution, having been on the Library Board of Victoria since 2013 and deputy president from 2016. 

“I look forward to continuing to promote the Library in its crucial task in society and to deliver on community expectations,” she said. 

On top of her eight years with the library, she brings decades worth of experience in business and finance to the role and was formerly chief executive for Dun & Bradstreet Australia.  

The latest data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency shows around 28 per cent of directorships in Australia were held by women, in addition to just under 15 per cent of chair positions for 2019-20.

Ms Christian followed the presidency of John Wylie AM who, like Ms Christian, also came to the role with a strong background in business. 

Victoria’s Minister for Creative Industries Danny Pearson said, “Christine will be an asset to the library and is well placed to ensure it remains a thriving place of knowledge, ideas and connection at the heart of Victoria’s cultural life.”

She has already made a lasting impact on the innovative future of the State Library in her role as deputy president. 

A $2 million donation in 2017 from Ms Christian for the development of StartSpace – the Library’s hub dedicated to supporting start-ups – has helped pave the way for emerging entrepreneurs.

StartSpace officially launched in 2020 and has fostered the ambitions of young leaders such as Kateryna Tsysarenko.

Ms Tsysarenko was the pitch winner at the 2020 Future Founders Festival dedicated to international students seeking to advance in the start-up ecosystem. 

The Ukrainian expat and software engineer is the co-founder of the Al on Spectrum which has created an app with the aim of helping neuro-divergent children navigate a neurotypical world so they could enjoy independence and agency. 

Ms Tsysarenko said they wanted to help children, “form special connections, to help them learn emotions and the context behind them … to help cope with big feelings and manage social anxiety.”

AI on Spectrum has expanded to regional Victoria and, after that, the next stages will be to spread interstate and then go global.

“We won prize money and we’re still spending it,” Ms Tsysarenko said. “We’re not revenue generating just yet, we’re very much bootstrapped.” 

StartSpace has continued its supportive work after Ms Christian’s appointment to presidency, and will provide workshops, panel discussions, networking and pitching opportunities for the 2021 Future Founders Festival from July 15 to 16. 

In the meantime, Ms Christian will settle into the highest position at Australia’s oldest and busiest public library.

“This is an extremely special moment for me. I feel honoured and privileged to be given this opportunity, together with the board and management, to build on our exciting plans for this world-class Library,” Ms Christian said •

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