Patricia Robertson Fund

Mrs Patricia Robertson OAM
Founder of Sydney ADFAS
Founding Chairman of Association of ADFAS
Patron of ADFAS

The aims of the Association of Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (ADFAS) are the promotion and advancement of aesthetic education, the cultivation and study of the decorative and fine arts and the preservation of our cultural and artistic heritage.

The History

 In 2009 the Association of ADFAS celebrated its 20th anniversary. To commemorate this milestone, it was decided to actively support the conservation of Australian cultural materials in accordance with the ADFAS mission statement and spirit of giving. Founding Chairman and current Patron, Patricia Robertson, had long recognized that conservation is a significantly under-funded area of the arts and suggested that ADFAS could make a meaningful difference to this vital work.

ADFAS was therefore pleased to make a three-year commitment to an annual Association of ADFAS Student Conservator Award, drawing on existing Association funds and providing financial support for outstanding conservation graduates.

After extensive consultations and exhaustive correspondence with the tax office, the appropriate mechanisms were then put in place by the Association to establish a separate permanent resource which would continue to further the cause of conservation and be derived exclusively from voluntary donations. This new fund, known as the Patricia Robertson Fund (PRF) was officially launched in 2014. The administration of the PRF is conducted by the Executive Committee of the Association of ADFAS and reviewed annually.  Operation of the fund is reported bi-annually to ADFAS Council. The Selection Panel was chaired by Association President, Julian Bickersteth who is a practicing conservator until 2018 when Julia Gamble, an Executive Committee member was appointed as chairman of the panel. In 2020 Julia has handed the reins to Libby Davis, a current Executive Committee member and retired Chairman of ADFAS Armidale, a Society that has a strong philanthropic approach to conservation and the AICCM. The current panel is chaired by Libby Davis and committee members are ADFAS Patron, Patricia Robertson, National Chairman, Sue Drummond and National Treasurer, John Griffiths.

Through the fund, ADFAS has supported members of the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM) since 2010.

In 2014, the PRF awarded an emerging young graduate to develop conservation skills within an overseas workplace environment.

In 2015 and 2016, the fund was used to further the professional training of conservators either within Australia or internationally.

In early 2017 a new agreement between the Association of ADFAS and the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM) was formed. It was agreed that for three years (2017-2019) three awards would be granted annually.

ADFAS Mid-Career Scholarship of $2000 would be awarded to a mid-Career conservator with a minimum of ten years conservation practice.

The selection criteria of the award:

  • Benefit to recipients’ career
  • Benefit to the AICCM and conservation profession.
  • The recipient to be known as the ADFAS mid – Career Scholar.

ADFAS Scholarships of $1000 would be awarded to the AICCM Student of the Year in both the University of Melbourne and Canberra University course in Material Conservation.
This award recognises a student conservator who has high academic achievement and has made a contribution to the conservation profession.

  • The awardees to be determined by the respective Course Convenor.
  • The recipients to be known as ADFAS Scholars.

The three awards to be announced each year at the annual AICCM National Conference in November.

September 2019 the partnership agreement between ADFAS and AICCM was renewed for another three years (2020-2022) The criteria remains unaltered.


Through ADFAS’s partnership with the AICCM five events which included lectures, tours and workshops were organised for ADFAS members.

The events were held at Sydney Opera House, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the State Library of Queensland.

MAY 2019

Sydney Opera House

Julian Bickersteth, President of ADFAS,
discussed the preservation treatment
undertakento enable the display of the

2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the Association of ADFAS.
Through the PRF a donation of $5000.00 was given towards the historic rehanging of the
John Coburn theatre curtains for one day only on May 21st. These magnificent curtains known as the ‘Curtain of the Sun’ and the ‘Curtain of the Moon’ were commissioned for the opening of the Opera House in 1973. For a variety of reasons, they had been in storage for many years. Julian Bickersteth, ADFAS President and CEO of International Conservation Services had been working with the SOH on a long-term program to see the curtains regularly placed on display. ADFAS members were fortunate to be able to have a private tour and be briefed on the curtains conservation and display. 

2019 ADFAS – AICCM  Partnered Events

July 2019

‘’Behind the Scenes Tour” at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

40 ADFAS members from regional and
interstate societies attended a tour of the
Conservation Department at AGNSW
and spent time with conservators who
explained their current projects in their
specialist fields.

July 2019

‘Behind the Scenes’ lecture at the National Gallery of Victoria

150 ADFAS members attended the
’Behind the Scenes’ short series of
lectures given by four of the Painting
Conservation Team to hear about
conservation activities on current projects.

October 2019

 ‘Behind the Scenes Tour’ at Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Jennifer O’Connell President of the
AICCM and Head Conservator at
TMAG organised a tour of the
conservation studios for ADFAS
Hobart members.

December 2019

State Library of Queensland

Cyanotype workshop 
‘Behind the Scenes’ tour of the Conservation studios
Tour of the State Library storage vaults.

 ADFAS Brisbane and Brisbane River Society members with Kelly Leahey 

Kelly Leahey, ADFAS 2018 mid-career
Scholar facilitated the cyanotype workshop
and Rachel Spano, Head Conservator
conducted an informative tour of the
conservation studios and the State
Library impressive storage vaults. 

ADFAS would like to thank all the AICCM Conservator Members who made these events possible for their participating members in 2019.

Grants and Awardees 2019 – 2014

2019 Awardees:


Elizabeth McCartney Manager, Conservation at Museums Victoria.

Elizabeth has been awarded the scholarship to attend the course ‘Conservation and Repair of Architectural and Structural Metalwork’ at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation (UK) in February 2020.  West Dean College is an internationally recognised and widely respected conservation education institution.  In her role Elizabeth directs the conservation program that looks after the Victorian State Collection.  The collection is substantial and varied and it includes a large number of technology items made from metal. 

In particular, she is the project conservator for the Great Melbourne Telescope (GMT) Restoration. Erected at the Melbourne Observatory in 1869, for three decades the GMT was the largest operational telescope in the world.  In 1945 it was sold for reuse at Mt Stromlo Observatory near Canberra and after modernisation it continued to be used for astrophysical research.

In 2003, the parts of the GMT still in use were burnt in the Canberra bushfires.  In 2008 these parts were returned to Museums Victoria and the restoration project began. This is a complex project to restore an object of great state, national and international significance.  The restoration project has recently arrived at a critical juncture and further development of knowledge of metals conservation at this point would be of great and very timely benefit to the work on the project.

Undertaking this course at West Dean College is necessary as there is no metals-specific mid-career conservation training in Australia.  Receiving this specialised training would benefit the conservation of a number of objects and structures of high national and international significance, the preservation of the Victorian State Collection in general, and the support that Elizabeth if able to provide to her team and the other organisations who come to Museums Victoria for advice.

An additional 2019 ADFAS Mid -Career Scholar award has been  sponsored by ADFAS ARMIDALE.


Wendi Powell Senior Paper Conservator International Conservation Services

Wendi Powell has been awarded the ADFAS Armidale Mid-career Scholarship to secure a place in the 7 week-long Preservation & Conservation of Photographic Materials Course held by The Centre for Photographic Conservation in London, England in 2020. This is a seven week ‘Certificated’ career and professional development course held annually for experienced conservators seeking to increase and develop their knowledge, skills and experience in the field of photographic conservation.

This course will help Wendi to broaden her knowledge and skill base in the field of photographic conservation. The course entails the history of photography and the theory of photo-chemistry and as well teaches practical hands-on skills for the preservation and conservation treatment of photographic materials. It will also enable Wendi the opportunity to assemble a collection of comparative images for the identification of different types of photographic materials.

Wendi wishes to share the information she gains from attending this course with the greater community of conservators within Australia and therefore proposes to hold an overview workshop at an AICCM event in Sydney, NSW upon her return.

2019 AICCM/ADFAS Student Conservator of the Year- University of Melbourne

Daniel Schwartz

Daniel is a committed and strong advocate for cultural materials conservation and during his Masters of Cultural Materials Conservation, achieved high academic results and facilitated conservation programs with broader communities.  

In particular, Dan led a reorganisation project at the museum storage facility in Bathurst NSW with support from a Grimwade Centre’s Willem Snoek Conservation Award in 2018. Dan showed leadership skills whilst working on this regionally relevant and hands-on project, together with conservation and curatorship students.

Such leadership and concern for the conservation profession is also shown by Dan’s role as the President of SCAM (Student Conservators @ Melbourne) and representation on the AICCM’s 2019 National Conference Conservation Skills Summit Panel.

Through Dan’s minor thesis research on ‘Repatriation as Conservation: Toward a Decolonised Conservation Ethic’, he has fostered a strong interest in social justice and cross-cultural issues central to the profession through historical enquiry and reflexive thought.

Dan has demonstrated a high level of commitment to volunteer projects alongside academic achievements, with placements at the Jewish Holocaust Centre, the University of Melbourne Cultural Collections and Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver.

Dan’s ongoing participation and collaborations have enabled him to gain real experience working with broad community groups and the public in a range of conservation related projects.

Lastly, Dan is tenacious, creative and his technical problem solving, and conservation skill set are worthy of high praise. It is the Grimwade Centre’s belief that Dan demonstrates a high level of commitment and reflexivity in cultural materials conservation and strong future leadership.

2019 AICCM/ADFAS Student Conservator of the Year -University of Canberra

Rebecca Negri

Rebecca has been student representative on the AICCM local council for over a year. She has been active and provided a good link between the organisation and the student body.

Rebecca has been actively involved in the conservation profession and has undertaken internships with the Australian War Memorial and has undertaken significant work on a family portrait outside her regular studies. As well as treatment, this project has involved sympathetic liaison with the family to ensure their needs are met.

She has high academic achievement and is an outstanding student. She researches everything she does in depth, conducts extensive trials to determine the best materials and methods to use for her treatments, and has actively explored new areas of conservation methodology such as gel cleaning systems.

She is a leader in her chosen area of paintings conservation, and has actively contributed to the conservation profession both amongst her student peers and also with the professional conservators she has worked with. Her desire to explore and evaluate new techniques has inspired everyone around her to experiment and innovate.

Rebecca’s willingness to go beyond the “norm”, as well as her excellent organizational abilities, mark her out as a graduate to watch. We look forward to her future leadership in the conservation profession.

Photography of 2019 awardees courtesy of Katrina Watson, Square Inch Photography taken at the AICCM National Conference in Melbourne November 2019.

2018 Awardees:

The ADFAS mid-Career Scholarship was awarded to Kelly Leahey.

Kelly is a paper conservator at the State Library of Queensland.

 The PRF award will enable Kelly to attend the joint American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Photographic Materials Group (AIC PMG) and the International Council of Museums – Committee for Conservation, Photographic Materials Working Group (ICOM-CC PMWG) conference and workshop, New York, in February 2019.

This conference is highly relevant and timely, as the Queensland State Library starts initial planning for the conservation of a significant collection of Richard Daintree’s  hand painted photographs from the 1870s. In 2019, Kelly will be leading the technical examination component of this project, and will be looking to build capabilities at the State Library in this area. She will take the opportunity a the conference to consult with photograph conservation colleagues to research international standards and current options. This will help to make wise investment decisions in the instrumentation purchases. In particular, the library is looking at options for documentation using Ultraviolet Fluorescence photography (UVF), Infrared Reflectography (IRR), and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI). Attending this joint photograph international conservation conference will help make good decisions in this area, and will have a huge impact on conservation work and research into Queensland collections in the years to come. In collaboration with Rachel Spano, Senior Conservator at State Library, she is working on two paper submissions for the conference. 

2018 – AICCM University of Canberra Student of the Year.

Emma Anderson:

Emma is in her second year at the University of Canberra and has achieved exceptional academic results. She has also thrown herself into engagement with the AICCM and the heritage and conservation world with enthusiasm, commitment with proven organisational abilities. Joining AICCM ACT Council early in her degree, Emma has taken on the role of Student Representative and has participated in activities with the council.

She has also undertaken volunteer work with the Australian National Museum of Education at UC, the Hall School Museum and Heritage Centre, and the National Archives of Australia.

She has developed, organised and installed the UC 50th Anniversary exhibition as part of an internship unit, and undertaken research projects at both the Army Museum Bandiana in the Gaza Ridge Barracks in Victoria, and at St Mark’s National Theological Centre Rare Book Collection in Canberra.

The research project undertaken at the Army Museum focused on communication between the museum and visitors using Quick Response (QR) codes. This involved running an experiment which included development, instillation and data collection of QR code usage followed by recommendations for future application.

The research project undertaken at St Mark’s National Theological Centre involved a significance assessment of the rare book collection, followed by recommendations made regarding safeguarding the collection for future generations.

Emma plans to undertake an internship in 2019 at the National Library of Australia (NLA) in the National Collections Access Division, Digitalisation and Document Delivery Branch. This opportunity would benefit her career goals as it would provide hands on experience and the opportunity to network and exchange knowledge with heritage and conservation professionals. The preservation of significant documents is one of her passions so experiencing behind the scenes of the NLA would fulfil her personal and educational goals.

2018 – AICCM University of Melbourne Student of the Year.

Sadra Zekrgoo

Sadra has made an outstanding contribution to the broader community while completing his 2018 PhD thesis on ‘Persian Inks: A study on traditional writing matters used in Persia (15th – 18th CE) through collection of recipes, historical reconstruction and non-invasive analysis of University of Melbourne’s Middle-Eastern manuscript collection.

Sadra’s thesis investigated Persian manuscripts and the re-construction of Persian inks according to historically correct recipes and analysis with non-destructive analysis techniques including False Colour Infrared (FCIR) photography. Importantly he developed a non-invasive, user friendly and low-cost methodology for their investigation. This research has been published and circulated internationally in the Restaurator an important journal in the field of paper and manuscript conservation. His academic merits have also been presented at conferences and public lectures at the University of Melbourne, University of Adelaide, Cambridge University, and quite recently The University of Oxford where he was invited to present and conduct a Persian ink making workshop. This work was supported by a grant secured from The Barakat Trust (University of Oxford).         Importantly, Sadra has communicated his research broadly. He has run several Persian ink making workshops at the Islamic Museum Australia in Melbourne and was a co-organiser of the Grimwade Centres ‘From Melancholy to Euphoria Symposium’ in 2018, and was part of the War Heritage Roadshow project, the conservation of wall papers in Port Fairy and the cleaning manuscripts at the University of Melbourne Baillieu library. He has also worked with The Islamic Manuscript Association (TIMA) as a professional translator where knowledge of the Farsi language and conservation informed the translations of the National Preservation Office documents on collection care as well as Middle Eastern Manuscript Terminology Lexicon from English to Farsi (Persian).


The ADFAS mid-Career Scholarship was awarded to Dr Wendy Reade.

Wendy attended and had her paper accepted at the biennial International Conference on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (ICANNE) conference in Munich, April 2018.

Her paper related to her work on reconstructing a very rare example of a 3400-year-old Egyptian fresco painted pavement from Amarna held at the University of Sydney Museums. 

2017 AICCM University of Canberra Student of the Year.

Danica Auld was awarded ADFAS Scholar. Danica completed her Batchelor degree in Heritage and Conservation in 2016 with exceptional results and continued on into Honours. Her honours project explored the materiality, meaning and potential of community engagement of an unusual secreted group of handmade textiles, embroidered aprons, from the former Willow Court mental asylum in New Norfolk Tasmania. Danica furthered her studies by commencing a Masters in Textile Conservation course at the University of Glasgow in September 2018.

2017 AICCM University of Melbourne Student of the Year

Robyn Ho was awarded ADFAS Scholar. Robyn achieved an extremely high academic achievement in the Masters by Coursework Cultural Materials Conservation. Robyn while working full time with 6 degrees architects undertook country work with the Robin Boyd Foundation as a collection’s management volunteer and on the Carlton United Brewery archaeological site and the National Gallery of Victoria live conservation project in 2015.In the same year Robyn was part of the restoration of Victorian Trades Hall Old Council Chamber Project Team. She also undertook an internship placement with the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology (SPIA) on a significant Chinese mural painting.


A subsidised travel grant was awarded to conservator Alex Ellem a Melbourne based conservator to attend the joint Canadian Association for Conservation – “Association Canadienne pour la Conservation et la Restauration”(CAC-ACCR) and American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) conference in Montreal, Canada in May 2016.

A subsidised travel grant was awarded to conservator Amanda Pagliarino QAGOMA Queensland to attend the joint International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC) Congress and International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (INCCA) conference “Saving the Now: Crossing Boundaries to Conserve Contemporary Works” in Los Angeles in September 2016.


PRF funding subsidised attendance by conservators at workshops presented in Australia by two leading international conservators. Dr Martin Jürgens, photographic conservator from the Rijksmuseum Netherlands in Sydney and Dr Yvonne Shashoua, Senior Research Scientist in Conservation and Science at the National Museum of Denmark, in Melbourne and Brisbane.

Funding also contributed towards a Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) workshop held at the University of Melbourne which was led by experts from Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI) San Francisco at the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation at the University of Melbourne.


The PRSF scholarship recipient was Emily Harris, a 2013 graduate of the Melbourne Conservation Masters Course, as the inaugural beneficiary of the Patricia Robertson  Scholarship Fund. The scholarship enabled Emily to spend several months in the UK gaining an understanding of the efforts of international institutes in monitoring technology to inform preventive and intervention strategies for outdoor artworks and significant heritage buildings.

The Future

The PRF has been made possible by generous individual philanthropy and an initial investment by the Association of ADFAS. The aim of the fund is to provide an annual programme of awards to deepen the knowledge and thus extend the reach and scope of conservators working in Australia. Additional funds were given by the Association of ADFAS in February 2017 taken from nonoperational income to enable the fund to donate from interest only dollars and not draw down from the reserves.

A growing number of ADFAS societies contribute annually to the fund.  Such contributions are greatly appreciated, and this helps towards the Patricia Robertson Fund making a difference to the Australian cultural landscape.

“Even small contributions to the fund will allow ADFAS to achieve an enormous amount” – Pat Robertson

Please direct enquiries to:

Chairman of PRF Libby Davis:


National ADFAS Treasurer, John Griffiths: