Karen Stackman: My favourite things

Karen Stackman

Karen Stackman was born in Maitland and grew up in Greta with her mum, stepdads, and two sisters. Her biological father was killed in the Vietnam War when she was just 18 months old. In 2012, she formed Hunter Academy of Performing Arts, based in East Maitland, and was involved in the Metford Neighbourhood Watch when it first started. A year later, Karen and her husband, Craig, looked into foster care options and, in April 2015, became full-time foster parents. The couple also has three grown up children. Apart from her work with the Hunter Academy of Performing Arts, Karen has supported the Australian Red Cross Blood Bank, the Special Olympics Hunter Valley, and various autism groups. She recently received the 2020 Local Woman of the Year for Maitland at the NSW Women of the Year Awards.

Hunter Academy of Performing Arts

This started with a friend but, after leaving to do fostering, I returned to make the studio accessible for all the community as a not-for-profit studio. HAPA started with 15 students who couldn’t access dance due to personal or financial reasons. Today, we have two studios with 120 students, eight staff and a fantastic family team running the business.

Karen Stackman


The community in Maitland is very important to me and I like to help whenever I can. If anyone is in trouble or needs a helping hand, I am ready to help.


My family means the world to me and I have grown up knowing that not everything is easy after my dad was killed in Vietnam. My husband, Craig, is very supportive of what I do and so are my own children.

Karen Stackman


I was a member of the Metford Neighbourhood Watch when it started and I support the Australian Red Cross Blood Bank by talking about our daughter, who needs a blood product weekly. The Immune Deficiency Foundation Australia is a main support group for my daughter and we both speak on their behalf. I also support Special Olympics Hunter Valley plus autism groups.


I love being with friends and you always know that even though you might be having trouble or issues there is always someone worse off than you. Friends remind me of this as I notice what they are going through.