Our Tour Leaders

Academy Travel’s team of tour leaders offers genuine academic expertise, enthusiasm and the ability to communicate their knowledge to interested travellers.

  • Valerie Kirk

    Valerie Kirk studied art and design at Edinburgh College of Art, where she discovered woven tapestry.  She came to Australia and worked in the Victorian (now Australian) Tapestry Workshop. Valerie is an artist, tapestry weaver, writer, teacher, researcher into Australian Indigenous textiles, and guest lecturer on international textile tours. While actively maintaining her practice as an artist, Valerie’s remarkable capacity has seen her make significant international contributions.
  • Gerald Deslandes

    NADFAS lecturer Gerald Deslandes studied history and art history at Cambridge and then completed his MA at the Courtauld Institute.

    His expertise extends from the Renaissance to the Dutch Golden Age, and onto 20th-century British art, with which he is familiar as a curator. He teaches Bachelor and Masters level art history and visual studies, has curated exhibitions of Antony Gormley and Damien Hirst, and has worked as a consultant to numerous arts organisations.
  • David Rosier

    A NADFAS lecturer specialising in the history and art of imperial China.
  • Peter Rose

    One of Australia’s leading literary figures, Peter is an award-winning poet, memoirist and novelist. Since 2001 he has been Editor of Australian Book Review.
    Peter Rose is the Editor and CEO of Australian Book Review. His books include a family memoir, Rose Boys (2001), which won the National Biography Award in 2003. He has published two novels and six poetry collections, most recently The Subject of Feeling (UWA Publishing, 2015).
  • Christopher Menz

    A former Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia and previously a curator of decorative arts. He is also an experienced cultural tour leader.
    Christopher Menz is a former Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia (2005–10) and in 2011–12 was Acting Director of The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne. Prior to these roles, he held curatorial positions at the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of South Australia, and the National Gallery of Victoria, specialising in decorative arts. He has published extensively on the decorative arts, notably the design work of William Morris, and is a regular contributor to ABR. In 2016 Christopher led the ABR/Academy Travel tour to the United States.
  • Michael Carr

    Michael Carr is an art dealer and historian with over 20 years’ experience in handling major Australian and international paintings and sculptures, including Old Masters and contemporary works. He is a graduate in Arts and Law from the ANU and has an LL.M from Cambridge University. After working as a diplomat and commercial lawyer Michael opened his first Gallery in Sydney, Olsen Carr in 1994. In 1999 he opened Michael Carr Art Dealer, which operated until late 2007 when he moved to Moscow to open CarrVesey Art Dealers, the first Western style art consultancy to be based in Moscow since 1917. He has also lectured extensively over the years to numerous audiences including the AGNSW Society, corporate groups and societies and more recently at the NGA, Canberra and the David Roche Foundation, Adelaide.
  • Ann MacArthur

    Ann MacArthur holds a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies and speaks fluent Japanese. She has over 20 years experience as a museum educator.
  • Catherine Millikan

    Catherine Millikan is a freelance conservator of art and cultural materials with a particular interest in Aboriginal Art. Her work with Indigenous Communities covers many years including Project Conservator for the Yuendumu Men's Museum and Warlukurlingu Artists Aboriginal Association. Catherine has held senior roles including Head of Conservation at the Northern Territory Museum in Darwin, and Senior Conservator of Objects at the NGV.
  • Gillian Hovell

    Is a UK-based freelance, published historian and archaeologist with extensive experience in lecturing and leading tours to the ancient world.
    Gillian Hovell, ‘The Muddy Archaeologist’, is a UK-based freelance, published historian and archaeologist with extensive experience in lecturing and leading tours to the ancient world. After graduating from Exeter University in Latin and Ancient History, Gillian worked in BBC Television and went on to become an award-winning freelance writer, author and public speaker specialising in archaeology, ancient history (and Latin too). Gillian shares her enthusiastic passion and extensive knowledge in person in courses and lectures and on tours and cruises, in books & freelance writing, in the field, on national and local media, and on-line.  She engages with folk in social and professional environments and inspires them to see that archaeological finds and sites are full of human life and passion. She is now a lecturer at the British Museum and for York University and provides many Lifelong Learning courses independently and for institutions and establishments in the UK and abroad.  Her 2018 lecture tour of Australia was so successful that others are being planned. Her joy is to change the way that people see their work and leisure today, human nature and the world around them.  For, as she says, ‘history and archaeology are not just about the past, they’re everywhere, and they add colour, depth and meaning to our lives today.’ As an archaeologist, Gillian led and supported community archaeology projects in a hands-on way for ten years (hence the professional title of ‘The Muddy Archaeologist’). She now actively digs at major sites in the UK and Europe (from Orkney’s prehistoric Ness of Brodgar to Roman Pompeii and Vindolanda, and sites and eras in between).
  • Dr Anna Lebovic

    Is a cultural historian with extensive experience as a researcher and educator, and has a BA and PhD in History from the University of Sydney.
    Anna has a strong personal interest in literature, the arts and food (the good things in life!), and a particular expertise in the United States and the history of fashion. Anna was awarded a BA and PhD in History from the University of Sydney, and her doctorate was the first academic history of America’s pre-eminent fashion magazine, Vogue. Her research has been supported by a number of prestigious institutions, including the Institute Francais de la Mode in Paris, and she has presented at numerous conferences internationally, including meetings of the Association of Dress Historians in London and the Organization of American Historians in New Orleans. She is currently at work on her first book on Vogue, which draws on previously unseen material from the Conde Nast archive in New York. Her research has also been published (or is forthcoming) in leading academic journals, including The Journal of Women’s History and Gender & History. As a Research Associate and Lecturer at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, Anna lectured in American Studies for several years. A passionate teacher, she has also taught American history at the University of Sydney and Macquarie University, and currently teaches media studies at Macquarie University.
  • Merran Esson

    Merran Esson is an Australian artist making works of art in clay for over 40 years. Her artworks express the contrast between the extremes of country and city. Merran has a Master of Art Degree from Monash University (2004), with works across Australia and overseas, including: the National Gallery of Australia, Art Galleries of South Australia, Western Australia, Argentina, Spain, Germany and Taiwan. 
  • Cherine Fahd

    Cherine Fahd works with documentary modes of image making. Represented in the National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Gallery of Victoria, Museum of Photographic Arts San Diego and the Haifa Museum of Art, Israel, she was awarded a Ph.D. from Monash University, Melbourne, is Senior Lecturer in Photography at UTS Design, and a member of the Artist Advisory Group, Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney.
  • Dr Pam Watson

    Archaeologist Dr Pam Watson worked and researched on The Pella In Jordan Project as a student 40 years ago, rising from student to co-director. Dr Watson is an Adjunct Associate Professor with the Faculty of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences and Education at the University of New England (UNE), and enjoys sharing her extensive knowledge with those lucky few who travel with her.
  • Geoff Winestock

    Son of refugees from the former Soviet Union, he works as a journalist and lived in Moscow for seven years.
  • Dr Mindy MacLeod

    Is a specialist in Swedish and Old Norse language and literature with two masters degrees and a PhD on runic epigraphy.
  • Kazuyo Takatori

    Kazuyo Takatori is a qualified Japanese tour guide, she loves sharing her knowledge and passion with visitors. The Kamakura environment, and Kazuyo’s life there, planted the seeds of her fascination about the relationship between Buddhism philosophy and traditional Japanese arts. Pursuing her passion, Kazuyo joined workshops and seminars in art galleries and museums across the world.
  • Rita Lazauskas

    Rita Lazauskas is an Australian/Lithuanian - as the child of refugees her generation was given the task to be custodians of the Lithuanian culture in exile as it was suppressed by the Soviet occupation. Learning the language, folk dancing and arts throughout her childhood in Adelaide, has continued to enrich her life and art. With over twenty years experience working as an artist and a curator, her arts practice is primarily based on observational drawing, often working on very complex subject matter or in a very immediate way responding to the moment. Since 2011 Rita has developed the ACTM Specialist Art Tours in Morocco and now takes up the challenge in Lithuania!
  • Lindy Montgomery

    A graduate of both the University of Sydney and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where she taught musicology for 13 years.

    Lindy possesses a fine soprano voice and has featured as a soloist with Pinchgut Opera and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. She led Academy Travel’s music tour to Germany in 2008.
  • Lars Tharp

    Is wellknown in Australia and the UK through his appearances on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.

    With a degree in archaeology from Cambridge, his expertise spans several fields, including oriental antiquities and Scandinavian art and history. For several years Lars has led specialised tours abroad.
  • Chris Carter

    Holds a firstclass Honours degree in archaeology from the Australian National University.

    He has worked as a professional archaeologist and taught extensively in the field. He is currently involved with prehistoric sites in the Atacama region of northern Chile.
  • Michael Turner

    Is an antiquarian and art and garden historian.

    Since 2005 he has been Senior Curator of the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney. Michael has homes in Sydney and Sussex.
  • Dr Matthew Dal Santo

    Is a historian and free-lance writer with Honours degrees from both Sydney and Cambridge Universities.

    He was a Fellow in History at Trinity College where he received his PhD and won the Sydney University Medal in modern French literature. Matthew speaks French, Italian, Danish, German and Russian.
  • Michael Pyne

    Has been a teacher of history for over thirty years, teaching the Middle East Conflict at Sydney University’s Centre for Continuing Education for the last ten years.

    He has taken many groups overseas to countries ranging from Asia and Europe to the Middle East and North Africa. Michael has a passion for travel and the history of the religions of the Middle East.
  • Zara Fleming

    Is an art historian, exhibition curator and lecturer specialising in the art and culture of Tibet, Bhutan, the Himalayas and Mongolia.

    Initially based at the Victoria & Albert Museum, where she had overall responsibility for the Tibetan and Nepalese collections, she has also worked with the Central Asian Department of Bonn University. Zara first visited Nepal in 1973 and Bhutan in 1976 and has been returning to these areas on a regular basis ever since. She has led tours for over 30 years.
  • Philippa Torlonia

    Her decades in Italy has given her an unrivalled knowledge of the estates of central Italy and a great network of contacts.

    Philippa Torlonia grew up in the Upper Hunter Valley in New South Wales. However, she spent most of her adult life in and around Rome, Italy, as the Principessa Torlonia, married to Marco Torlonia, 5th Prince of Civitella-Cesi. Philippa has led several tours to Italy and of course speaks fluent Italian.
  • Trisha Dixon

    Is a writer and photographer who has led many garden tours to Europe and around Australia.

    Her publications include Adagio: Living and Gardening Mindfully,  Under the Spell of the Ages, The Vision of Edna Walling and Gardens in Time: In the Footsteps of Edna Walling (the last two co-authored with Jennie Churchill).  She has been a presenter on ABC Television and continues to act as a landscape consultant and heritage adviser. Trisha practices what she preaches, living on a 100 year-old grazing property in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales. She has an excellent knowledge of Italy and has toured Tuscany and Lazio on several occassions.
  • Dr Julian Droogan

    Is a lecturer in the Faculty of Arts at Macquarie University, where he directs the International Security Studies program.

    Julian has degrees in archaeology and comparative religions and has published and researched extensively on issues of archaeology, religion and politics in the Asia Pacific region, and has a background as an anthropologist working in India and Papua New Guinea. He has presented popular courses on world religions at the Art Gallery of NSW and led tours through India, China and Uzbekistan.
  • Dr Matthew Laing

    Holds a PhD in US political studies from the Australian National University.

    In 2007 he spent six months in Washington as a congressional intern and has travelled extensively in the North East USA. He has lectured at the ANU’s Centre for Continuing Education and led tours in Australia and the USA.
  • Dr Tom Ford

    Holds a Ph.D in History from the University of Adelaide.

    He has written extensively on classical music, specifically Mozart. He has been a broadcaster on 5MBS Adelaide and 3MBS Fine Music in Melbourne, where he now works.
  • Dr Stephen Wilkinson

    Is chairman of the International Institute for the Study of Cuba and holds a PHD in Hispanic Studies.

    His academic appointments include a research fellowship at University College London, London Metropolitan University and Kings College London. A fluent spanish speaker, Stephen has previously led six tours to Cuba and has also worked as a researcher, translator and consultant for various Cuba related film projects in the UK, including the BBC.
  • Antony Jeffrey

    Has worked as a manager, director and writer in music, opera and the performing arts since 1975.

    He has held senior management positions in Opera Australia, Australia Council and Australian Ballet, and for many years was the general manager of the Australian Chamber Orchestra which he has taken on several overseas tours.
  • Thomas Abbott

    Holds a degree in art history and completed postgraduate studies in French and art history in Paris.

    Thomas has lived in Germany since 1988 and has led many cultural tours throughout Germany with leading UK and other organisations, specialising in the architecture of Berlin, the art of 18th-century Germany and the Bauhaus.
  • Chloe Sayer

    Has conducted extensive research and fieldwork on traditional crafts and textiles throughout Mexico and Guatemala.

    The author of several books including Crafts of Mexico, Of Gods and Men: Memo and the Mexican Indian and Mexican Costume, she has lectured widely on various aspects of Mexican culture and contributed to numerous ethnographic craft collections, exhibitions, events and television documentaries.
  • Dr Angela Smith

    Holds a PhD in art history from the University of Leicester.

    Her range of interests is wide and covers European art, especially painting, from the 12th century onwards. Her knowledge of Spanish history and culture stretches from the Romanesque architecture of medieval Spain to the great artists such as Velasquez and Goya.
  • Andrew Spira

    Is a respected authority on Russian art and culture.

    He currently directs the Art, Style and Design course at London’s Christie’s Education. Andrew graduated from the Courtauld Institute of Art before completing an MA in museum and gallery management. He has worked as a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum and has been leading cultural tours for 20 years.
  • Judy Tenzing

    India, Nepal, Bhutan and Burma are Judy's lifelong passion.

    With over 30 years experience as an administrator and tour leader on the great sub-continent she has a great deal to share with her fellow travellers. Judy has a degree in South Asian History and regularly presents courses at Sydney University’s Centre For Continuing Education on the history and culture of this remarkable region. In 2001 Judy published the definitive book on the history of Sherpa mountaineering - Tenzing and the Sherpas of Everest.
  • Anita Yousif

    Croatian-born she works as an archaeologist and interpreter in Sydney.

    She completed her undergraduate studies in archaeology at the University of Belgrade and holds a MPhil in Archaeology from the University of Sydney, where she worked for several years as a research assistant.
  • Dr Kathryn Welch

    A senior lecturer in Roman History in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney.

    She has written extensively on the Roman Republic, civil war and early Imperial Rome and on Roman topographical subjects. She has led many tours to Italy, especially to Rome.
  • Robert Veel

    Holds a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Education, from the University of Sydney.

    He led his first tour to Italy in 1990 and since then has designed and led 16 tours to Italy, Turkey and the United States, as well as traveling through Asia, north Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Canada. Robert's special interest is in Italian medieval and Renaissance history, and he has taught numerous courses in this area at the University of Sydney and elsewhere since 1990.
  • Dr John Tidmarsh

    The president of the University of Sydney's Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation, and a former lecturer in the Department of Archaeology.

    He is also Co-Director of the University's excavations at Pella in Jordan, and the ANU/University of Melbourne excavations at Jebel Khalid in Syria and has also excavated in Greece and Cyprus. He has led numerous tours to Oman, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and other countries in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • Simon Smart

    A Director of the Centre for Public Christianity. A former English and History teacher Simon has since completed a Masters in Christian Studies at Regent College, Canada.

    He has years of experience writing and editing both academic curricula and popular books. He is the author of Bright Lights Dark Nights - the enduring faith of 13 remarkable Australians and was the controlling editor of A Spectator’s Guide to World Views.
  • Dr Jeni Ryde

    Has recently completed her PhD focusing on Tourism, Heritage and Renaissance Studies.

    A former Senior Lecturer in Italian at the University of Western Sydney, she is a fluent Italian speaker with a wide ranging knowledge of European history, art and architecture. Her interests include Spanish studies, Renaissance art history and Italian cinema. Jeni has led many special focus tours to Italy and has recently added Spain to her Academy repertoire.
  • Nirvana Romell

    NADFAS lecturer Nirvana makes her first ADFAS lecture tour in 2011. Nirvana was born in Croatia and has lived in the UK for many years now, regularly presenting art history courses and lectures at the Manchester Art Gallery and the Walker National Gallery in Liverpool. Nirvana has led many tours to Croatia.
  • Sue Rollin

    An expert on the history and archaeology of the Middle East and is the author of the highly-regarded Blue Guide to Jordan.

    She lectures for the UK-based National Association of Decorative and fine Arts Societies (NADFAS) and is well known to ADFAS members through her lecture tours in Australia.
  • Judy Roberts

    Holds a BA in Archaeology and Ancient History and Honours in Classical Archaeology from the University of Sydney.

    She has lived and travelled extensively in Europe and beyond, particularly to Greece and Turkey where she has visited more than ten times. Judy has been involved at the University of Sydney excavation at Paphos, Cyprus. She has special interest in religion and food, both ancient and modern.
  • Dr Kathleen Olive

    Is one of Academy Travel's most experienced and most popular tour leaders.

    Kathleen has a doctorate in Italian literature from the University of Sydney. She has a strong interest in medieval history and contemporary fiction writing, which she has taught at a number of universities in Australia. Kathleen leads travel groups to Italy, Spain, Turkey and the United States. She lived and studied in Italy and speaks fluent Italian.
  • Robin Nichols

    Has been a professional photographer for more than 30 years.

    He is well known to keen amateur photographers in Sydney, through his regular classes and photography tours that he has led to locations around the world. As well as teaching the effective use of a camera, his teaching work has increasingly concentrated on the use of software to enhance and present digital photos. Robin’s good sense of humour and approachable style have made him a popular teacher and tour leader.
  • Odette Livingstone-Smith

    Has an MA in Art History and for 15 years taught with universities in Surrey and London.

    Odette moved to Paris 22 years ago and now resides in the Loire Valley. She has led and lectured on study tours and cruises in Europe, South Africa and Australia. As well as French culture she is interested in Mediterranean civilizations of all periods. She is a popular NADFAS lecturer.
  • Dr Estelle Lazer

    An archaeologist who has worked on site at Pompeii for seven seasons and has an international reputation for her research on the city's skeletal remains. She has just completed a major book on Pompeii.

    She lectures at both the University of Sydney and the University of NSW. Estelle has led numerous trips to southern Italy for Academy Travel.
  • Angus Haldane

    UK-based Angus Haldane studied classics at Oxford University, specialising in Roman history and art.

    His postgraduate qualifications from London's prestigious Courtauld Institute are in Byzantine and Renaissance art. When not running his European art consultancy, Haldane Fine Art, Angus leads tours for Academy Travel and for some of the UK's leading cultural tour operators. In 2011 Angus led our City of Rome residential tour.
  • Dr Nick Gordon

    Has a PhD in late medieval Italian and early modern English history from the University of Sydney.

    His research focuses on of political and urban space. He has taught European history (1200-1900), social analysis and architectural history at universities in Sydney and has led several tours to Italy for Academy Travel.
  • Robert Gay

    Robert Gay is one of Australia's leading music tour leaders and music educators.

    Working for the Centre for Continuing Education and other associations for more than 25 years, Robert has designed dozens of music courses and led more than 80 performance based tours around the world. Since 2010, Robert has led tours exclusively with Academy Travel.
  • Dr John Dickson

    Is founding Director of the Centre for Public Christianity.

    He has a degree in theology and a doctorate in ancient history, specializing in the birth of Christianity. John is a Senior Research Fellow of the Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University, and teaches courses on Christian origins at both Macquarie and Sydney Universities. He has hosted two television documentaries broadcast nationally on the 7 Network (The Christ Files and Life of Jesus), authored over a dozen books and is in demand as a public speaker, both in Australia and internationally.
  • Darryl Collins

    Is an expert in the art of South East Asia.

    He holds a Masters of Arts degree from the Australian National University, specialising in Asian Art. He has worked as a curator of Asian art exhibitions in major galleries around Australia. He first travelled to Cambodia as part of a team from the National Gallery of Australia assisting the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. He has continued his association with the National Museum and has been a resident of Cambodia for more than 10 years, today living in a beautifully restored house in Siem Reap, close to the ruins of Angkor Wat. He has worked as a lecturer and tour leader of many specialised tours to Laos and Cambodia.
  • Ben Churcher

    Has a wide range of experience both as an educator, a traveller, a historian and an archaeologist.

    Ben graduated from Queensland University in 1983 with Honours in Ancient History and he also holds a Diploma of Education from the University of Sydney. Since 1983 Ben has been involved in the yearly excavations by the University of Sydney at the site of Pella in Jordan and he is, at present, the field director of the project. As well as his ‘hands-on’ excavation experience, Ben has also travelled widely throughout Europe, the Middle east, North and East Africa, Japan, and South-east Asia.
  • Marina Campbell

    Was born in Russia and returns regularly for study, work and pleasure.

    Marina holds an MA in Russian Studies from the University of NSW and has spent many years teaching Russian language and culture at the University of Sydney. She has led many successful tours to Russia and Central Europe.
  • Christopher Bradley

    Has an honours degree from Liverpool University and specialises in the history and art of North Africa and Arabia.

    One of his particular interests is the Queen of Sheba. He first visited Ethiopia in 1977 and has led specialist tours there since 1993. He has written and photographed ten guidebooks and lectured to ADFAS, NADFAS, universities and the Royal Geographical Society.
  • Stuart Barrie

    Is a director of Academy Travel and has over 20 years' experience in travel, including leading groups through western Europe, Scandinavia, Russia and the United States.

    He has a strong interest in history, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from Macquarie University and a Master of Commerce from the University of New South Wales. Stuart led a theatre tour to New York in early 2006, jointly offered by Academy Travel and the Sydney Theatre Company.
  • Carolyn Andrew

    Spent her early life in Belgium, France and Italy, and after stints in New York, London and Tokyo was delighted to return to Europe, settling in Milan with her family for an extended period.

    Long absorbed in all aspects of Italian art and culture, this passion has over the years been expanded and enhanced in the course of numerous return visits to italy both as a traveller and a tour director. She is fluent in Italian and French.
  • Dr Michael Adcock

    A social and cultural historian who specialises in the field of modern France.

    Michael's teaching experience includes several years with History Department of the University of Melbourne and a series of popular lectures at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, the Art Gallery of Queensland and the National Gallery of Victoria. He has also published works on the French Revolution with Cambridge University Press. Michael has previously led two highly successful tours to Paris for Academy Travel.