There has been no appropriate consultation

Even the MAAS trustees[15] and the Parramatta Council[16] were not consulted before the Premier’s announcement in November 2014. They first heard about the ‘move’ decision when they read the Telegraph.

Some consultation focus groups were held in late 2016 but they and July 2017 meetings were asked simply what they wanted at the transplanted Museum.[17]

There is very little other evidence of consultation, eg Ms Macgregor (Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art and designated ‘Cultural Ambassador for the West’) said that she had discussed the move only with Western Sydney Arts and Cultural Lobby.[18] Actually they ‘supported’ the idea but did not initiate it or discuss alternatives at that time. This group consists of individuals and 13 organisations, mainly art and theatre groups; there are no museums or historical groups.[19]

The ‘move’ resistance has been characterized as a quarrel between the privileged inner city and the deprived ‘west’[20]. However, support for retention of Powerhouse Museum comes from many Western Sydney sources, eg the Granville-based Greater Western Sydney Heritage Action Group[21] and North Parramatta Residents Action Group[22], arguably the most significant such group in the west. The underlying statement for this booklet, page 3, speaks for itself about the corresponding policy of inner-city groups: the top priorities are the retention of the Powerhouse as Australia’s only museum of arts and sciences along with the creation of appropriate cultural facilities at Parramatta, the centre of population of the ‘Sydney’ conurbation.

There is clear evidence that until mid-2017 [23] no public consultation into the idea was undertaken by the unelected Parramatta administrator.

The specially created Government ‘consultation’ communication website https://new.maas.museum/consultation’ added only seven posts and one link in 8 months after July 31, none addressing the 80+ basic questions asked at the ‘consultation’ meetings. See the North Parramatta Regional Action Group symposium described on page 18 for comparison.

The Business Case has a section entitled Shareholder Engagement, by a firm called Elton Consulting who acted as facilitator for the so-called ‘consultation’ meetings of July 2917. They conducted no consultation about the overall strategy to improve the cultural facilities of Parramatta: the first objective of their work is to demonstrate the benefits of the project.[24]

The ‘move’ will involve closure of Thinkspace, the Wiggles, Experimentations and other practical education areas at Ultimo. It will increase the number of apartments, thereby increasing the number of children, at the same time as it removes opportunities for city children to have the kinds of ‘widening’ experiences in which the museum excels. (Pictures from MAAS website)

 

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References:

[15] Inquiry evidence 14 Nov 16 p34: Professor Shine

[16] Inquiry evidence, Monday, 28 May 2018, page 25, Mr Dyer

[17] For example we have information that on the evening of 14 November 2016 a firm called 'Instinct And Reason', 420 Elizabeth Street Surry Hills, conducted a focus group research activity into the ‘move’ to Parramatta. The participants were told that the museum was moving to Parramatta and then asked what they would like to see at that site. This firm is mentioned in Stakeholder Engagement, part of the Business Case, page number not available, ‘Meeting with Mr Parry and others at PHM 14/10/2016’

[18] Inquiry evidence Monday, 5 September 2016. Mrs Macgregor was vague about the name but the only group that meets here criteria is the Western Sydney Arts and Culture Lobby, see inquiry submission 36.

[19] . Inquiry evidence 5 September 2016 p34, submission 36 p4.

[20] As supported by the Daily Telegraph’s campaign Fair Go for the West, which began in 2014. See fairgowest.com.au

[21] Facebook page Greater Western Sydney Heritage Action Group has 853 followers. See also their Inquiry submission (no 30)

[22] Inquiry submission 44, page 2, NPRAG have made a public stand to support the Powerhouse Museum to stay in its current location, ‘as we do not support the government’s decision to steal a cultural asset from one community when there are so many existing opportunities in Parramatta with more heritage than The Rocks to invest in our social and economic future

[23] 1) email, Manager, City Activation Marketing and City Identity City of Parramatta, Tue, Nov 1, 2016 at 3:16 PM. This email was circulated widely, 2) on March 5 2017 the Parramatta City Council Manager was quoted as saying that the Council was enthusiastic about the process. As the matter had not been mentioned in council minutes, we asked him to justify this assertion and no reply was received. 3) The Administrator in evidence to the Inquiry on 29 August 2017, page 9, described a consultation process involving less than 1000 people. The questionnaire that formed the basis of this consultation is online at https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/other/11050/AQON%20-%20Ms%20Amanda%20Chadwick%20-%20Parramatta%20City%20Council%20-%20received%2012%20September%202017.PDF and the single question about the Powerhouse simply asks if people want the museum to be relocated in Parramatta, with no background information and no alternative suggestions.

[24] Section 1.1, page 5 of Communications and Engagement Strategy for the New Museum in Western Sydney, 21 November 2017

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