23 June 2020

NGA will cut up to 40 staff to meet significant funding shortfall

| Dominic Giannini
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The National Gallery of Australia

The National Gallery of Australia will lose up to 40 staff as a cost-saving measure. Photo: Jack Mohr.

The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) will cut up to 40 jobs this year to make up for a $3.6 million funding shortfall.

The Gallery will ask staff to nominate for voluntary redundancies over the next three weeks, but further cuts will be considered if this fails to deliver enough savings.

NGA Director Nick Mitzevich says the staff cuts will not affect frontline services or activities.

“We are moving for our operations to be more efficient and we are moving some of our programs to online and digital so we can be truly national,” he told Region Media.

“It is part of a bigger push to reshape the organisation to be more relevant to the country and to make sure we can deliver what we are here to do and that is to make art accessible for people around the country.

“This is a structural change the institution has had to make to modernise us to make sure that we are sustainable and focused.”

The NGA operates with a mix of private and public funds. Mr Mitzevich says the Gallery has been working hard over the last 18 months to secure funding but is not calling on the Federal Government to rescind the cuts.

“It is a reality for every government agency. What I am doing is trying to make sure the collective achievement is harnessed,” he said.

“The management and council of the NGA have always worked across the board to advocate the importance of the National Gallery and have been very successful in both private and government quarters.

“Currently we have 13 privately funded positions and as we progress we are hoping to grow that.”

Although rising utility costs, building maintenance and falling interest rates have all impacted the NGA’s bottom line, travel restrictions because of COVID-19 further exacerbated the NGA’s budget woes as 80 per cent of visitors come from outside Canberra.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) believes the announcement means that over 12 per cent of the NGA’s 326 staff are likely to lose their jobs as the Gallery tries to find $6.8 million over the next five years to be sustainable.

The downturn in revenue and upcoming staff cuts led the CPSU to call for an exemption of cultural institutions from the efficiency dividend and for a restoration of the Gallery’s funding.

“The CPSU is calling on the government to exempt our cultural institutions from the razor gang, reverse the efficiency dividend and fund our critical cultural institutions for future generations,” CPSU Deputy National Secretary Beth Vincent-Pietsch said.

“Our national institutions are struggling to cope under the pressure of years and years of budget cuts.

“There is no fat for the gallery to cut, these staff cuts are only cutting into bone. Our members are seriously concerned about the impact these cuts will have on the gallery’s ability to collect, restore and exhibit in the future.”

All Australian Government agencies are subject to an efficiency dividend – set at 1.5 per cent this financial year – to reduce departmental expenses.

Ten per cent of staff were cut from the NGA four years ago, according to the CPSU.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr expressed his disappointment at the decision, lambasting the Federal Government for spending $500 million to expand the Australian War Memorial, but failing to secure jobs at Australia’s cultural institutions.

“Supporting our National Institutions is fundamental to this recovery,” Mr Barr said.

“These institutions collectively bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to Canberra each year [and] our tourism industry contributes over $2.5 billion a year to our local economy and employs tens of thousands of Canberrans.”

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