1.7 Grants and Financial Assistance

Mr FINCH - There is an extra $50 000 to expand provision of assistance to families experiencing poverty through the supply of school uniforms. I am curious as to whether the cost of school uniforms has gone up or whether more people are accessing that service.

Ms WRIEDT - It was a reflection of more people accessing the service than in previous years. While there would be some cost inflation for the purchase of uniforms, there previously was not sufficient capacity to meet demand. We have specifically allocated additional funds to that, as I mentioned previously.

Mr FINCH - What does a school uniform cost these days?

Ms WRIEDT - I did just buy one, but I cannot remember. My son lost his jumper on the first day of kindergarten. I am told it is the first of many. There are second-hand uniform provisions. It varies. You have to remember that schools set their own uniform policies. They make their own decisions as school communities about what the uniform will comprise. There are a number of basic items that schools would settle on. For example, using my son's school at Blackman's Bay, for summer they recommend a pair of black shorts, a yellow polo shirt and a hat. There are three different types of hats with three different prices. It depends on whether you want a legionnaire cap, a baseball cap, a broad rimmed cap or a floppy bucket hat. They are different prices and obviously have different functions. For winter, there is a long sleeve polo shirt and black track pants. If you want to wear trousers as opposed to track pants, you can purchase them. The school does not sell them, but you can purchase a pair of black trousers at whatever cost you want. There is a range of additional items for purchase, such as rugby tops, polar fleece tops, and so on. The prices, I must say, are quite reasonable. I imagine with all the items that we purchased we probably did not pay more than about $80 all up for everything that we needed. In the bursaries we allow between $60 and $80 for a basic uniform set. It also depends on whether the child needs a blazer. Some schools require blazers if you want to be in the choir; others do not. It varies very much and it comes back to school communities deciding how far they want to go with the uniform. They range from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Mr FINCH - You had unmet need before and now you have allocated another $50 000. How do you communicate that to the school community? Is it done by the principal? How do you let people know that opportunity exists?

Ms WRIEDT - Through social workers because social workers in the schools are aware of the parents who are in need. Obviously, if parents are receiving the fee relief associated with the Student Assistance Scheme it would give an indication of their level of need. Those people who are just above the cut-off point for STAS would be identified by the social workers. It is done with a degree of discretion. It is not a case of 'Everybody who needs a uniform bursary line up on such and such a day and we'll give you a free uniform'. We got a lot of feedback through Anglicare about the sensitivity with which we handled people with special needs, so we have substantially changed the way we deal with low-income families and the manner in which they are treated. They are not made to line up for a handout because that was clearly putting some off from asking in the first place. We have a great deal more sensitivity now in the way that we deal with those people.

Tuesday 31 May 2005 - Estimates Committee B (Gidding)

Output group 3.2
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

CHAIR - Minister, you might like to introduce the team at the Table with you and, secondly, speak to the area of the arts for which you have responsibility, if you so wish
Ms GIDDINGS - I introduce Scott Gadd, Secretary of the department, Bill Bleathmen, Director of the Museum and Art Gallery, Lynne Uptin, Director of Arts Tasmania, and Kerry O'Leary, my arts adviser.

I have some introductory comments here but they deal with issues that we will no doubt cover in questions. I am conscious of the time and I do not want to go through the whole 10 pages, other than to say that this is an important area of responsibility for me and I am pleased we have been able to deliver some important initiatives in this budget for the Museum and Art Gallery, in particular, but also for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. As members will be aware, there was a threat that we would lose our symphony orchestra and have it replaced with a chamber orchestra. That threat has now gone and we have put our money where our mouth is in relation to the TSO, which is a very important point. We continue to support Ten Days on the Island; we continue to support our artists through arts grants and loans, and through specific programs that support young designers, for instance. We support writers through Living Writers Week. We continue to move our collections from the Museum and Art Gallery's city base to the Rosny centre, which is freeing up space within the Museum and Art Gallery for further exhibitions. One of the exhibitions that will go ahead is on Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. A couple of work programs are being undertaken on historic buildings and we will continue to work with the Museum and Art Gallery to build on the successes they have had in attracting increased numbers of people. I hand over to members for questions.

CHAIR - Mr Finch will take the lead on this output.

Mr FINCH - The annual report has a terrific layout and is a wonderful read. It is a good presentation. I want to ask about the variation in the budget of 49.3 per cent. What does that increase mean for the Museum and Art Gallery? What items caused that variation?

Ms GIDDINGS - A couple of our budget initiatives have been quite substantial. Money has been put into upgrading security and maintenance of the buildings themselves. I will ask the secretary to read out the raw figures.

Mr GADD - Specifically there is an additional $120 000 for salaries; an additional $120 000 for recurrent costs associated with Rosny; and $1.385 million for infrastructure maintenance, which is the security and other initiatives that were announced.

Mr FINCH - Is that the Rosny building or the old building?

Mr BLEATHMAN - The amount of $1.385 million is for maintenance issues, primarily on the city site. A number of significant maintenance issues were identified over the years. Through the Government's initiative there is now an opportunity to address those key priority areas. The funding increase is for this year, but there is an ongoing recurrent commitment for the next three years to deal with those maintenance issues. One of the first things we will be doing is appointing a facilities manager to oversee the buildings. The central city site of the Museum and Art Gallery has been for many years a repository for collections and a site for workshops for curatorial staff and conservators. The move of the collections to Rosny through the Government's initiative two years ago frees up significant space on the central city site in what is the most significant and diverse collection of heritage on the one site - we have said 'in Tasmania' but more recently we believe it may be the most significant in Australia, because we go from 1808 with the Commissariat Issuing Store, to the Bond Store in 1824, the Private Secretary's Cottage of 1813, right through to 1966 with the building on the corner of Davey and Argyle Streets. So this funding will be addressing issues arising from the move.

Mr GADD - That is a total of $1.625 million. The remainder basically relates to corporate support. The department-wide budget bottom line was addressed this year and the additional $4.27 million has been split between the various divisions. That explains the remainder of the increase.

Mr FINCH - Okay, thanks. Is the relocation of the Antarctic Experience part of that funding?

Ms GIDDINGS - We announced in last year's budget the funding for the new exhibition. It was $600 000 to set up the exhibition itself, with recurrent funding of $150 000 to support a curator and education officers.

Mr FINCH - Where are we in the establishment of the Antarctic Experience in the Museum?

Mr BLEATHMAN - We anticipate having the exhibition open at the end of January 2006. As the minister has said, we have appointed three staff, including Dr David Pemberton as Australia's first curator of Antarctica and Southern Ocean. His job is to build up what we call the State collection of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. It has largely been ad hoc in the past, but now we have a dedicated resource. We are certainly looking to put the exhibition in the top floor of what we call the 1966 building and it will be opened by the end of January next year.

Mr FINCH - It is the one on Argyle Street, is it?

Mr BLEATHMAN - Yes. The square box.

Mr FINCH - How different will it be from what was down on Salamanca Square?

Ms GIDDINGS - Very different in the sense that Antarctic Adventure was a sort of semi theme park, which is why it did not quite work. It was not exactly an exhibition to tell people about Antarctica and it was not exactly a theme park either. It was also very expensive for people to go to. It tended to be one visit only, whereas the great thing about our Museum and Art Gallery is there is no charge for people to go in. The exhibition will be open to everyone. It will focus on the marine science aspects, the history, our connection with Antarctica, from Mawson and Shackleton to Amundsen and others. Modern exhibitions cannot just be pictures on a wall. The Museum and Art Gallery have shown that they put together some really exciting exhibitions, and this one will be too. Things have to be more interactive now than they were in the past. At the moment we are consulting the Antarctic community about the best things to put into the exhibition.

Mr BLEATHMAN - We have had amazing cooperation from the Australian Antarctic Division, particularly the multimedia unit. It is impossible to do Antarctica justice without using the imagery in a documentary on the subject. We are looking at that. We are better placed than any other organisation in Australia because we are a combined museum, art gallery and herbarium, so we can draw on Antarctic subject matter across the board. That is opposed, say, to the Melbourne Museum, which is a museum only, and it has to go to the different organisations. Our exhibition will be museum-based and object-based, with multimedia-interactive components that focus on the collections and our acquiring them, and our continuing to do so. It will be quite different from Antarctic Adventure. Some elements will be the same - the Hodgkiss traversing vehicle, for example, and one or two other iconic items from Antarctic Adventure. We have moved away from the theme park mentality
Mr FINCH - When it is established, will consumers be charged to go in?


Mr FINCH - It will be an open exhibition.

Mr BLEATHMAN - One of the good things about the government funding is that we have ongoing recurrent funding to employ a curator, an education officer and a program delivery officer. It means the museum can focus more intently on that point of difference. That sets us apart from other museums and galleries around Australia. The Museum of Far North Queensland focuses on marine shipwrecks in the Great Barrier Reef and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory focus on indigenous issues and the Torres Strait Islanders. The Art Gallery of Western Australia talks about the Indian Ocean rim. We have an obvious connection with Antarctica because we are closer than anybody else, as you can tell by the weather sometimes! It is a point we need to exploit to maximise our difference. I think it provides enormous opportunities for us as a State.

Mr FINCH - You have mentioned already the transfer of items to the new location at Rosny. Is that complete?

Ms GIDDINGS - No, it is not complete.

Mr BLEATHMAN - We have moved about 300 000-odd items. We intend to move between 600 000 and 750 000 items. The museum has existed for 180 years and has been collecting for that time, but there has only been accountability for the past five years since people have started asking where great-aunt Maud's wedding dress is that she donated in 1923. In the past we have been able to say, 'Yes, it's in that room', but we did not know where in that room. Now when the collections go to Rosny, every single item that is transferred is conserved; in other words, the measures needed to protect it are identified and it is given a unique bar code number that is entered into the computer. When it arrives at Rosny, the database identifies which room it is going to - room 104, compactus unit five, shelf two, second from the left. When you go in to see great-aunt Maud's wedding dress, you can actually key the information into the computer and see where it is on the shelf. It is a big process. People think it is like moving house; you just bring the truck in, load it and off you go, but it is quite an involved process. We will be a much better institution for it. Members may have seen on last night's news that the minister signed yesterday a memorandum of understanding with the University of Tasmania to provide a greater degree of cooperation between the museum and the university, largely as a result of the collections becoming much more accessible for researchers and students. That is another positive move for Rosny.

Mr FINCH - What about the general public at the Rosny site?

Mr BLEATHMAN - There will be public access. We are not promoting it at the moment because there is a danger when you are moving collections and you do not want to be treading around the public as you are going through them. Once the collections are in place there will be an ongoing public program at that facility. It will not be the high-volume public program of the city site; it will be a more structured experience with the collections and the research facilities.

Mr FINCH - When do you think that will be?
[4.15 p.m.]
Mr BLEATHMAN - We will have completed the move by the end of March next year. There will be a couple of incidental collections after that. Certainly it will be done by the end of next financial year.

Mr FINCH- I have only one more question, which I raised during the Estimates last year. I refer to the parking area at the far end of the dock. Are there any developments on that, any ideas, any thoughts at this stage?

Ms GIDDINGS - That relates to the Sullivans Cove Waterfront Authority. We have engaged some consultants, Peter Bruton Associates, to develop a strategic concept plan for the entire museum central city site. That will also incorporate the Dunn Street car park area. All of that fits within the waterfront authority's strategy. It will be an interesting site. I am sure there will be others with competing interests but the Museum and Art Gallery are keen to use that space for new exhibitions. That will enable us to bring international exhibitions to Hobart, which is difficult at the moment because of security and climate control issues. We do not really have exhibition space of sufficient quality to bring major exhibitions here.

Mr FINCH - So what goes on at the Dunn Street site and in that area is still an evolving process?

Ms GIDDINGS - It will be because although this might be what the Museum and Art Gallery wants, it is not necessarily what the people of Hobart want. The planning authority will go through a process to determine whether the site should be developed at all, or whether half should be developed and the rest be parkland, or whether the whole site should be used for some form of development. Those issues will have to go through the waterfront planning authority process.

Mr GADD - We will also need the Hobart City Council on board, because it actually owns the site.

Mr FINCH - Okay, they have an understanding that the Museum and Art Gallery would like very much to be part of the development of that site.

Mr GADD - They do. There is certainly not a consistent view among members of the Hobart City Council as to whether anything should happen on that site and, if it does happen, what it should be. We are doing very preliminary planning. The idea is to get some options and concepts to begin those discussions, but it is far from a fait accompli. That is the point I am making.

CHAIR - Will the discussions be with the Sullivans Cove Authority and the council? There is really a three-way process involved.

Mr GADD - The authority will be the main body. The work we are doing will feed into the waterfront authority and it will be the preliminary body to liaise with the Hobart Council.

CHAIR - We will watch with interest
Mr GADD - I am sure we will hear more between now and October.

CHAIR - Can you tell us for the record the number of staff employed at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery?

Ms GIDDINGS - The current staff is 60.79.

Mr BLEATHMAN - That is from all sources. There is a combination of consolidated funding and external research money that we have to have if we are going to attract research papers.

Ms GIDDINGS - We expect that to increase to 68.12 over the next financial year.

CHAIR - In the past, volunteers have been involved in the museums. Are friends of the museum encouraged to use particular skills they may have?

Mr BLEATHMAN - One of the really important things for museums is that sense of community. I know from speaking with Chris Tassell at Queen Victoria Museum in Launceston that Tasmania, and particularly our two institutions, has a higher level of volunteerism than other museums. The Tasmanian museum has at least 70-odd people who give us at least half a day a week of free time. That equates to many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in salaries. We have one gentleman who has entered 35 000 coins in our collection database over the past 15 years.

CHAIR - Did he work in Treasury, by any chance?

Laughter .
Mr BLEATHMAN - No, Lands Titles. Volunteerism is very important. There are about 700 friends of the Museum and Art Gallery. They have a wonderful say in bringing the museum to the people and the people to the museum. They work very well. We have an art foundation, which is the principal fundraising body for acquisitions at the museum, and it has 70-odd members. There is also the Royal Society, an ancillary body that has about 380-odd members. That community of broadly-based operational supporters well and truly help us.

CHAIR - Can you educate us about your relationship with other regional museums, for instance, Launceston, Burnie and Devonport? What is the interaction between you and those regional galleries?

Mr BLEATHMAN - We have a good working relationship with them all. Our collections database is a model that has been given to the Burnie regional gallery to use and Devonport is coming on line with that. We work really closely with the Queen Victoria Museum at officer level and we have established throughout the State the Cultural Collections Council, which are the major collections-based institutions in the State. That is us, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, the State Library, the Archives Office, the University of Tasmania, and the Commonwealth Archives Office. Last year we signed a joint memorandum of understanding for counter-disaster planning and disaster preparedness. That puts specialist staff throughout those institutions should anything untoward happen. We are starting to talk a little more to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery about collection rationalisation. We do not necessarily have to have 300 mattock handles from Chinese miners in the State, but we need to make sure that someone is collecting Chinese miners' mattock handles. That is a good starting point.

Tuesday 31 May 2005 - Estimates Committee B (Gidding)