Bulletin 45: we need to get busy…

It has been long time since the last bulletin, but the fight is not over. The Government persists in the ‘move’ and the only competent part of the Business Plan, the process of gutting the Museum, prepared by Root Associates, is under way. But the basic museum has not yet been irretrievably damaged, and the bulldozers will not be trying to make holes in the massive walls till next June. However, effectively, this year is the main chance for resistance and it is essential for all the forces opposing the museum destruction to come together and act.

We are a democracy, and this stupid decision must not proceed. This link leads to a statement which the Government obviously accepts as being true. It has been submitted ad nauseum to the Government and they cannot find anything wrong in it, because it is 100% facts. (remember those?)

In regard to the Legislative Council the Government members’ contribution was a 215 word statement which essentially simply stated that the whole Inquiry was ‘fake news’. It is given far more attention than it deserves in this link.

On 12 July the Government issued its final response to the Inquiry. This short document had nothing new beyond the statement that Highly qualified consultants in cultural infrastructure, museum logistics, urban planning construction and operations contributed via peer review processes and governance panels.  Mr Harwin made a similar statement on 29 August 2017 at the Inquiry, and this has been thoroughly repudiated: there is no evidence of involvement of appropriate experts until June 2017, and the meagre process between June and September 2017 cannot be characterised in any way as appropriate peer review.

We sought evidence from the politicians, Create NSW, CIPMO and MAAS Museum on any later similar processes, with no response. Our extensive network knows of no one who has participated in such a group. In the questioning process we were informed that Johnstaff, the firm which has carriage of the preparation of the Business Case, had recently employed a museum expert, and asked for the name and / or qualifications of this person, with no response. (Johnstaff is a firm mainly noted for their work in such fields as hospitals, and searches of their employee lists on Linkedin in 2017 found no employee with experience in museums and even no employee with experience in any related arts field).


We challenge the Government to produce evidence supporting their assertion of appropriate peer review of the ‘move’ idea at any stage.

The Government is still proceeding at speed on this project even though the catastrophe is as evident as the iceberg was to the lookouts on the Titanic. Why?

One of the email group members has come up with an interesting theory of why the Government is proceeding with this irrational idea. The theory is that the Government wants to convince the Parramatta people that they are intent on making the area the centre of action for the city, and the best way is to damage the city, and indeed the cultural reputation of the whole country, by degrading this iconic museum and moving it to Parramatta. I floated this idea with other correspondents, and one said it ‘sounded very Machiavellian’. If this is so, and the proponents are preening themselves because of this cunning idea, they need to read chapter 9 of The Prince, ‘Concerning a Civil Principality’. Even Machiavelli recognised the need not to antagonise the public unnecessarily!

A few weeks ago I had a discussion with Lisa Havilah, Chief Executive of the museum who has been contracted with the task of  carrying out the ‘move’ to Parramatta. During the conversation I was able to go through the single sheet list of facts with which everyone is familiar so there is no doubt that she has been exposed to the reasons why the move would be a disaster. I was impressed that she listened, indeed she is the first significant figure who has done so. During the discussion I mentioned the instructions of previous directors that had been given to staff and volunteers to present a favourable view of the ‘move’ and she said that she had no problem with staff and volunteers expressing their opinions.  (I have sent this paragraph to Ms Havilah for fact checking and she has agreed it is an accurate report of our conversation. I remain impressed with some aspects of her administration, notably an openness in communication and her desire to make wider contacts within the community, for example by restoring the interaction with the Affiliated Societies. But the move idea will still be opposed to the utmost.)

One point that arose is whether the community would accept the move and get behind the museum when the process was finalised. I registered my strong opinion that the move must not be allowed to go ahead, and if it did the proponents would be totally condemned. Over the weekend on TV we saw people happily playing in new parks made possible by Westconnex, but there is a significant difference between this project and the museum ‘move’. Whatever one’s opinion on the provision of new expressways, the fact is that the project produces some improvement in the status quo. The museum ‘move’ is a complete loss to everybody except, perhaps, for a few developers enriching themselves from the total waste of money by the Government and the trashing of our heritage. In no way can the project be seen as an ‘improvement’ in Australian cultural facilities.

Recently the Greater Sydney Commission, a Government instrumentality, conducted a consultative process regarding Pyrmont-Ultimo development and related issues, including efficacious and appropriate methods of achieving a  ‘vibrant, mixed-use precinct’ in this area. Though the consultation centred on proposed developments at Crown Casino, the submissions typically mentioned the developments planned for the Powerhouse, always in a negative way. More details on this can be found from this page.

Finally, tomorrow evening (Tuesday 1 October 2019) in The Rocks there is a major event: ICOMOS, the International Commission on Monuments and Sites, is holding a meeting in the Rocks entitled Policy, Power & the Cultural and Heritage Values of the Powerhouse Museum. The speakers are Kylie Winkworth and Jennifer Sanders. Attendees at this meeting will include many experts in appropriate fields. The highly qualified speakers will, of course, be preaching  to the converted, but if anyone else would like to go there are a few tickets left for non members on Eventbrite .

There is a lot of ‘stuff’ in this bulletin, but not much indication of appropriate action. I hope that the next bulletin will not be long delayed, and will have plans for action. Please continue to let me have your ideas and thoughts, and thanks to all the people who have communicated over past months.


(tomlockley@gmail.com , 0403 615 134, PO Box 301 Pyrmont 2009
tomlockley@gmail.com is the best method of communication)

Australia’s major museum of arts and sciences in Sydney’s most evocative heritage building. For more information
See also: https://www.facebook.com/savepowerhousemuseum/  https://www.facebook.com/savethepowerhouse/ http://lockoweb.com/phm/

The business case is online at the private website http://maasbusinesscase.com/