5 April 2023

Half a billion dollar rescue package announced for National Institutions

| Ian Bushnell
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National Gallery of Australia

A run-down National Gallery of Australia is in dire straits. Photo: Jack Mohr.

The ACT’s National Institutions will take the lion’s share of a more than half a billion dollar funding package from the Federal Government in the coming May Budget.

The long-awaited announcement follows Monday’s unveiling of $33 million over four years for the National Library and separate cash injection of $9 million for its digital archive Trove, and the release in January of the Albanese Government’s National Cultural Policy – Revive: a place for every story, a story for every place.

The National Institutions have been waging a public campaign for a better funding deal, including the National Gallery, highlighting basic maintenance issues such as leaking roofs and windows that threaten its collection.

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It was also contemplating drastic measures including forced redundancies, closing two days a week, and possibly reintroducing entry fees if it did not receive the funding it needed.

Both the National Archives and the National Film and Sound Archives have warned that without proper funding precious historical material will be lost.

Australia’s nine National Collecting Institutions will receive $535.3 million over four years in the Budget.

They are: the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, National Archives of Australia, National Film and Sound Archive, National Gallery of Australia, National Library of Australia, National Museum of Australia, National Portrait Gallery of Australia, Australian National Maritime Museum, and the Bundanon Trust.

The National Library leads the way with $146.1 million including Trove and storage, plus $31.3 million in ongoing funding, followed by the National Gallery with $119.1 million and $23.1 million ongoing.

Next comes the National Museum with $78.3 million and $16.6 million ongoing, followed by MOAD ($37.8m, $8.8m), the National Archives ($36.5m, $7.5m), the National Film and Sound Archive ($34m, $9.7m), Bundanon ($33.4m, $8.1m), National Portrait Gallery ($27m, $7.5m), and Maritime Museum ($23m, $5.1m).

National Library of Australia

The National Library of Australia has been given the biggest allocation. Photo: James Coleman.

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said the funding would secure the future of Australia’s most cherished cultural and historical institutions and restore them as a source of national pride after a decade of decline under the Coalition.

Senator Gallagher said the money would guarantee ongoing, indexed funding into the future and ensure that vital repairs and urgent safety improvements could finally be made.

“It means staff will finally have ongoing certainty about their jobs,” she said.

“It means our institutions will be able to meet their financial obligations and invest for the future knowing they finally have a government that values them just as the Australian people do.”

Senator Gallagher said the government would also establish clear line of sight over future capital works and improvements to ensure the institutions never again fell into a state of disrepair.

“Canberra is the proud custodian of some of the most treasured pieces of art, literature and culture from Australia’s national story,” she said.

“The Institutions are often the gateway to attracting visitors to the Canberra region and are a key driver of the ACT economy, so this funding will ensure local jobs and the tourism sector are supported into the future.”

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Arts Minister Tony Burke said it was a disgrace that the former Coalition Government allowed these institutions to fall into such disrepair.

“This gets our institutions back to where they should be – where the government delivers strong core funding and philanthropists take them to the next level,” he said.

“This funding means people will be able to go to places like the National Gallery of Australia and enjoy the exhibits without worrying about the physical integrity of the building that’s housing them.”

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