2020 Distinguished Alumna


Diploma of Art and Design

Graduation year


Merle Hathaway has made an extraordinary contribution to the creative arts in Ballarat and regional Victoria. Graduating with a Diploma of Art and Design from the School of Mines, Ballarat in 1973. Merle moved into teaching then took up the positions of Art Consultant, Central Highlands/Wimmera for the Education Department and concurrently Community Arts Officer for Ballarat before becoming Education Officer at the Ballarat Art Gallery for over ten years.

Always at the forefront of creative arts movements in Ballarat, Merle was instrumental in organising arts activities for young members of the Art Gallery, curating their first children’s art exhibition and leading workshops for children as well as taking exhibitions and workshops to schools across the Wimmera. With Director of the Ballarat Art Gallery, Ron Radford, and Michael Young, Merle formed Gallery Link, the gallery's first activities group for young people, running art films, dinners, talks, concerts and theatre programs at the gallery.

Merle was Executive Officer of the Art Craft Teachers Association and established the Woodwork and Craft Teachers Association. In the mid 1980s she was the first Coordinator of Ballarat's Next Wave Festival before travelling across Europe attending museum education conferences in Paris, Hamburg and London and studying education programs in over 124 museums in Scandinavia, France, Germany and England. On her return she taught in the School of Art and the School of Education at Ballarat University College, became Secretary, Ballarat Arts Umbrella, later the Ballarat Arts Industry Board, and helped establish Artworks, an artist-run gallery for contemporary art. Other roles included Curator Educator at Dromkeen Children’s Literature Collection, member of the tourism boards of Ballarat, Sunbury and Horsham, and Board member of Cultural Tourism Industry Victoria.

From 1995 to 2008 Merle was Director of Horsham Regional Art Gallery where she led the gallery through the process of Museum Accreditation, only the second with this status in Victoria. In Horsham she enlivened the local arts scene and was founding member and Chair of Horsham Regional Arts Association. Following this she took up the position of Executive Officer of the Public Galleries Association of Victoria.

Merle has become involved in public causes to do with the creative arts and heritage. Her home, the old Buninyong Brewery is often used for workshops, concerts, and fundraisers for local community groups such as Rural Australians for Refugees, Friends of Buninyong Gardens, and Ballarat Choral Society. As Secretary of the Save Civic Hall group she lobbied for the reopening of the Ballarat Civic Hall as a performing arts and social centre for Ballarat and worked constructively with local council to save the building from demolition. In 2019 the restored hall was reopened and Merle’s tireless advocacy was acknowledged by the City of Ballarat.

Merle has been a core member of Ballarat Arts Alive, a group that works to promote the work of visual artists and musicians in Ballarat and recently established The Artist’s Cat. to assist artists and artists’ estates to organise, catalogue and promote artwork through exhibitions and strategic donations to major collections. Her current volunteering includes the Ballarat International Foto Biennale, Royal South Street Society, and the Ballarat Soup Bus. Merle is also a member of the Art Advisory Council of Wildlife Art Museum Australia. Merle has an enthusiasm, energy and skill in curating and organising arts events and a remarkable passion for the arts, with a focus on education and community