About the School of Bonsai Inc.

The School of Bonsai Incorporated is a non-profit organisation, founded in 1986 by Mr. Ron Flack and Mrs. Elizabeth Simeonoff.

The School of Bonsai provides affordable courses in Bonsai for all grades, from beginner to advanced students of the art.

Classes are offered over 4 terms, of 9 weeks each, per year by highly skilled teachers.

Beginner and Intermediate classes are of 3 hours duration comprising some theory and plenty of practical Bonsai Creation with demonstrations and workshops.

Advanced classes are held as informal workshops where students work on their tree’s under the guidance of teachers and with the collaboration of fellow students.

All members of the Board, Committee and teachers of The School of Bonsai are unpaid volunteers.

School of Bonsai Committee.

The School of Bonsai Incorporated is administered by a committee of volunteers who give their time and expertise to ensure that we have access to the best learning environment available,

The committee is elected at our annual AGM held in July,  and our current committee position holders are:

President                    Steven Hantos


Steven first became interested in bonsai 34 years ago when the then 7 year old’s Mum took him to a plant show at Ryde School of Horticulture.  There was a small display of bonsai that fascinated him and inspired a lifelong interest.  In 1988, Steven attended the beginner’s course of the School of Bonsai and was taught by School founder Ron Flack.  The following year he continued with the Intermediate classes again learning from Ron.  Over the next 10 or so years bonsai was an on and off again interest. In about 2000 the bonsai spark ignited again and now with more money and yard space, his bonsai collection grew.

In 2008 Steven founded AusBonsai, an online bonsai resource and community.  Steven owns a successful commercial cleaning business, is married with 4 young children and is passionate about bonsai. He has a proven track record of community involvement previously being a long term board member and Past President of Rotary International.

Steven’s vision for The School of Bonsai is to continue to develop the already great reputation, embrace the successful areas and only make changes where there is significant opportunity identified for improvement that will be beneficial for all members.  These include:

  • Ensuring the volunteer teachers are well supported, equipped and feel appreciated for their significant efforts.
  • Improving the student experience with enhanced resources and accreditation.
  • Continue to make improvements to the back of house areas including IT and making it easier for students to pay term fees.
  • To ensure school assets are available for all to benefit from, including the library.
  • To review the curriculum for best practice and modern bonsai techniques.

Most importantly, any changes will be done in consultation with the elected Committee and be carried out in a cohesive, respectful and considered way.


Vice President                        John Batty

(written by VH)

John, a masterful plumber in his working days, started bonsai 40 years ago.  He was a foundation member of the School of Bonsai and has been teaching at the SoB for about 12 years.  John is a Past President of the Central Coast Bonsai Society and used to teach students at his home both prior to and during his 5 year Presidency.  John continues to be an active member of the CCBS.  His main interest was figs but is now very much focussed on natives.


Treasurer                    Mark Randall


(written by VH)

Mark is our treasurer – treasurer@schoolofbonsai.com.au – and the consummate quiet achiever.  He does an extraordinary job managing all the finances, room bookings and a multitude of other tasks for the school.  He has been doing bonsai for about 10 years and has an impressive range of trees.  Mark used to work in the money markets but has a more sedate, part time, job these days.  Mark is a father and (very youthful) grandfather.


Secretary                    Virginia Hart


Virginia is a medical negligence lawyer.  She started bonsai about three years ago as a means of de-stressing.  She has 3 children and 5 grandchildren (child bride) and a greyhound (Newman) who often attends bonsai classes and has become very partial to Arnott’s cream biscuits as a result.  Virginia is currently winding down her practice.


Teachers’ Rep             Ray Mackaway

Ray has been involved in bonsai for over 30 years.  This is his fourth year as a teacher with the Thursday morning class.  His interests are bonsai, model trains and photography.  Now retired, he worked for over forty years as an electronic/mechanical engineer, responsible for inventing audio equipment for use in third world countries


Student Rep               Simon Wilkinson

 Simon has been Interested in gardening of all types since he was a young boy.  His father was an award winning gardener, who works in exporting to Japan, which led Simon to bonsai. After completing the three years of study with the School, Simon was offered the opportunity to teach in the Beginners’ class on Thursday nights and is now in his second year teaching others what he enjoys most.  Simon‘s interests include his family, bonsai, landscaping, remote control, gaming, cooking, meditation and table tennis.

He is employed as Catering Manager at QBE’s head office and does landscaping at weekends.


Student Rep               Mike Halliday

Mike started bonsai at the beginning of this year.  He had bought a small unstyled ficus and quickly realised there was a lot more to this than meets the eye.  The School of Bonsai came to his rescue and opened up a whole new world of beauty, creativity and patience that he’s very excited to explore.

Mike has a young family, works in IT and, when he can find the time, likes to get out on his bicycle (although he’s finding it difficult to fit yamadori into the lycra).


Committee                 Maureen Wallace (Publicity Officer)

 Maureen is a mother of two and grandmother of two. This is her fourth year of bonsai and she now attends the Thursday morning class and sometimes the Tuesday morning class as well. Now retired, Maureen’s last role was as an IT business analyst, specialising in process improvement and also business applications training. At one point she managed a Help Desk and therefore demonstrated a key requirement for the enjoyment of bonsai – patience!



Committee                 Dennis McDermott

Dennis was born in 1945 at Sydney, Australia. Most of his early years were spent in the inner city where trees were as rare as hen’s teeth. He does remember a certain self-sown nectarine tree that grew in a factory site, the fruit of which were delicious and just about in reach of his hands (with just a little climbing!).  He did, however, in his later misspent youth live in the wilds of the Sutherland Shire (it really was wild and undeveloped back then!). There he spent most of his time wandering in the bush, dodging bushfires, learning to love the bush, and doing those things that come naturally to youth. Dennis’ first acquaintance with Bonsai came from pictures in magazines. They did indeed raise his curiosity but he did not then realize how they would become a lifetime obsession! In the 1970’s (with the misguided encouragement of his wife!) Dennis studied Bonsai with Sensei Len Webber at Ryde TAFE, completing both TAFE certificates. With Len Webber’s encouragement he went on to complete a Bachelor of Science Degree in Botany at Macquarie University. In the mid 1980’s he joined the School of Bonsai where he continued to learn the art. He currently teaches advanced and intermediate classes at the School and encourages the study of Native Bonsai within the school.  He has been fortunate enough to be successful in exhibiting his trees, having won the champion tree award at the RAS Easter Show (three times) and at the Castle Hill Agricultural Show (several times) and the School of Bonsai’s Anne Switala Award twice. He was privileged to judge the Bonsai classes at the Castle Hill Show.  Dennis visited Japan in 1998 and learned a great deal about humility and how much more he has to learn. He had the opportunity to see firsthand the trees of various Sensei including Kato and Shinkai.  Early, he developed an interest in Australian trees for Bonsai and this has since become a passion. He regularly lectures on the use of Australian trees in Bonsai. His collection consists of about one hundred trees about one third of which are Australian natives, including several Gum trees.

Dennis’ future ambitions include:

finally being successful at growing an oak tree as a bonsai

sharing his experiences in Bonsai with others

continuing to enjoy the wonderful friendships he has made in Bonsai.