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MHM CHANGE OF LEADERSHIP

Holocaust museum’s new CEO

"I’m very much looking forward to joining the team on the next stage of the museum’s now 40-year history,” says Dr Steven Cooke.

Jayne Josem (left) shows then PM Julia Gillard through the Jewish Holocaust Centre in 2012, now the Melbourne Holocaust Museum. Photo: Peter Haskin
Jayne Josem (left) shows then PM Julia Gillard through the Jewish Holocaust Centre in 2012, now the Melbourne Holocaust Museum. Photo: Peter Haskin

As it begins in its new premises, the Melbourne Holocaust Museum (MHM) has appointed a new CEO to succeed Jayne Josem, who is leaving after six years in that role and more than 22 years with MHM and the former Jewish Holocaust Centre (JHC).

In a statement to MHM members last Friday, co-presidents Mike Debinski and Sue Hampel said a comprehensive search for a successor has yielded Dr Steven Cooke.

Cooke brings more than 20 years of managerial experience across the museum and tertiary education sectors. His background includes high-level management roles at important heritage institutions, and leadership within the tertiary education sector, notably in museum studies postgraduate programs. He holds a PhD from the University of Bristol, where his research focused on the history of Holocaust monuments and museums in Britain.

Debinski observed that Cooke’s appointment “comes at a crucial time for MHM, especially with the opening of our incredible museum”.

“His in-depth understanding of our institution, and its context – locally, nationally, and internationally – will play a pivotal role in steering MHM through this exciting phase.

“Steven is no stranger to MHM, having contributed to our work in various capacities over the last 10 years. This includes co-researching and writing the history of the then-Jewish Holocaust Centre in 2015. He co-authored The Interior of Our Memories: A history of Melbourne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre in 2015.

Dr Steven Cooke.

Cooke, who will begin his role on January 22, is an Australian delegate to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and has just been appointed as the 2025 chair of the IHRA Museums and Memorial Working Group.

“It’s a privilege to contribute to that work,” said Cooke, “and I’m very much looking forward to joining the team on the next stage of the museum’s now 40-year history.”

Debinski described Josem as “an incredible force at MHM, demonstrating unwavering dedication and hard work over many years”.

“We express our heartfelt gratitude to Jayne for her outstanding leadership.”

Josem was appointed CEO of the then JHC in 2018, where she began in 2001 as curator, then head of collections. She was a driving force in providing access for visiting schoolchildren to the museum’s collections. She has curated a dozen exhibitions and was a long-term mentor to students and young professionals.

Josem reflected, “I’m proud to say the museum redevelopment is almost finished, and what we have achieved here is immense. My passion is for storytelling, for change, and this museum will be a great vehicle to amplify the voices and messages of Holocaust survivors to a new generation.”

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