About - Pennygaff - Australia's Circus History

This website is devoted to Australia's Travelling Entertainers and is brought to you by Mark St Leon & Associates, management consultants.

Acrobats - The Five St Leon's

Circus historian - Mark St Leon

Mark St Leon is a direct descendant of the St Leons, one of Australia's major circus families in the period from 1847 until the 1950s. St Leon's Circus was one of Australia's major circuses from the 1870s until the 1920s. Several generations of the St Leons moved to the USA from 1898 onwards and became well established in American circus, vaudeville and theatre.

Mark has devoted many years to the documentation of his family's history in the circus and Australia's circus history generally. He has been widely published in this area and is a longstanding member of the Circus Historical Society Inc, a 1,600 strong US non-profit organisation. He has also documented the history of the other famous circus families which once travelled Australia and the tours of the large American circuses which came here in the 1800s.

Mark is the author or co-author of several published books, articles and encyclopaedia entries. He has served as an honorary boardmember for several non-profit performing arts organisations including the National Institute of Circus Arts. He was instrumental in the launch by Australia Post of a special issue of 4 postage stamps in 1997 to celebrate 150 years of circus in Australia.

Mark interviewing St Leon cousins in Florida
Mark St Leon (far right)interviewing his American St Leon cousins, Bradenton, Florida, 1985.

But circus is just one of Mark's many dimensions ...

Life Story

Born in Sydney in 1952, Mark spent 3 years of his boyhood in San Francisco, California, where his father, an airline pilot, was based with Australia's national airline, Qantas. He attended the Encinal and Fremont Elementary Schools in the Menlo Park area in the period 1959-61. Returning to Australia, he attended Sydney Grammar School 1962-9, completing his Higher School Certificate with 1st Levels in Economics and Modern History, and 2nd Levels in English, Mathematics and Science.


Mark graduated with a Bachelor of Economics, majoring in accounting, from the University of Sydney (1975). He subsequently qualified as a Chartered Accountant and obtained several other postgraduate qualifications including a Master of Business (by coursework and thesis) from Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia in 2000. His 40,000 word thesis was entitled Intellectual Capital: Managerial Perceptions of Organisational Knowledge Resources, and was based on a successful survey of some 1,400 Australian executives across 317 business, non-profit, government and government business enterprise organisations. A condensed form of his thesis was subsequently published in the International Journal of Intellectual Capital.

He was married to Jian in 1991 and they now have two lovely girls, Heidi (aged 12) and Janna (aged 9).


Mark has lived and worked for extended periods in England and Switzerland. He served as audit senior in the Swiss branch of the international firm Price Waterhouse (now Price Waterhouse Coopers), 1978-80, possibly the first Australian to work in this capacity in this key international financial centre. Although not widely appreciated at the time, his pioneering efforts established the credibility of the Australian "CA" designation in a key international financial centre where it was previously unknown. Within a few years of his return to Australia, as he rightly predicted, the Australian dollar was finally floated. In this more enlightened age, there are now more than 50 Australian Chartered Accountants working and living in Zurich.

After returning to Australia and arising from his Swiss work experience, Mark served as a founding board member of the Swiss Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, 1986-92, and was responsible for the editorship of the Chamber's journal Opportunities, 1988-92. In his capacity as editor of Opportunities, he interviewed a leading Swiss economist and academic, Professor Dr Bruno Fritsch.


For some 11 years, from 1983-1994, he served as Senior Finance Officer of the Australia Council, the Federal Government's arts funding body. [PIC] With the Australia Council, he was responsible for overseeing funding arrangements for as many as 80 major arts organisations with budgeted expenditures totalling some $100 million, as follows -

  • financial monitoring
  • financial advice to Council's boards, panels, committees and management.
  • advisory, investigative and recovery work
  • design and development of accountability systems
  • collection and analysis of financial and statistical information
  • design and development of funding, educational programs

He designed, edited and produced a key Australia Council publication, The Arts in the Australian Corporate Environment: A Practical Guide to the Legal Obligations of Officers of Arts Organisations.

While at the Council, Mark undertook extensive surveys of the Australian circus industry (by then, in a somewhat depressed state); he compiled a register of all known Australian circuses and circus acts; and he was instrumental in the launch of the Circus Summit, held in Melbourne in 1990, Australia's first national conference of circus people. From the Circus Summit flowed a number of achievements, most notably the establishment of Australia's first circus school, the National Institute of Circus Arts ('NICA'), in Melbourne in 2000. Mark served as a NICA boardmember under the inspring leadership of the late Sir Rupert 'Dick' Hamer, formerly Premier of Victoria.

At the Australia Council, Mark also conceived and established Arts Management Advisory Groups in Australia's major cities. These Groups brought together arts managers and other (non-arts) professional people in regular discussion forums to improve the flow of knowledge, information and experience between the arts and business sectors. The Sydney Arts Management Advisory Group has now been in continuous existence for almost 15 years.


After leaving the Australia Council, Mark served as a lecturer in Department of Arts Management, at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Perth, a faculty of Edith Cowan University. Although this was to be his last full-time engagement with Australia's arts industry, it did signal the commencement of a new phase in his career, that of lecturer in business-related subjects to Australia's growing body of international students. Returning to Sydney, he first served as lecturer in accounting and management accounting at the International College of Tourism & Hotel Management, Manly (now the International College of Management).

He currently lectures and/or tutors at several internationally-focussed universities in Sydney (Macquarie, Central Queensland, Ballarat and Charles Sturt) in the general subject areas of acounting (financial, corporate, management, strategic cost, and theory), economics (micro, macro and business) and management (project, quality, change, strategic) and specialises in the teaching of international students at diploma, graduate and post-graduate levels. His clear, unaccented English is especially appreciated by students from non-English speaking backgrounds and is accustomed to communicating effectively with persons from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds.


Mark St Leon & Associates may be able to help your organisation in the following areas

  • Strategic planning
  • Systems development
  • Training and education
  • Budgeting and forecasting
  • Cost management
  • Surveys and analysis
  • Writing and editing


To contact Mark St Leon, please visit the contact section of this website.