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Premier’s review panel announced for SAM

David Eccles, Govt puts SA Museum restructure on hold, InDaily, 26 April 2024

Controversial plans to restructure the SA Museum and its research functions have been put on hold by the state government while an expert panel considers the plans under a Premier’s Review.

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily.

Premier Peter Malinauskas on Friday morning announced that the restructure had been put “on hold” after he and Arts Minister Andrea Michaels met museum board chair Kim Cheater and chief executive Dr David Gaimster earlier this week.

That meeting followed a meeting last week with “a number of interested parties concerned about the proposed changes to the Museum”.

In February, the Museum said it was preparing to axe all 27 positions in its Research and Collections Division, to be replaced with 22 restructured positions, prompting alarm among the scientific community and warnings that the changes and new direction could destroy the institution.

Museum chief executive Dr Gaimster told InDaily that plans were underway to change exhibitions and “reimagine” the 1856-founded site as a “dynamic contemporary museum, addressing not only the issues and questions of the past but the big challenges of the future”.

But opposition to the planned shake-up has continued to grow, with an open letter written to the state government and a rally on the steps of Parliament, while the state Opposition last week pushed for an inquiry.

The government has accused the Opposition of peddling misinformation about the restructure after it presided over significant budget cuts when in office, and said there were “no plans to get rid of the Egyptian Room or the Mammals Gallery, nor will the Repatriation of Ancestral Remains Program stop”.

Premier Peter Malinauskas announced a review of the proposed SA Museum restructure at a press conference this morning. Photo: Charlie Gilchrist/InDaily.

But this morning it announced that a three-person panel had been appointed to the Premier’s Review, which would be chaired by the chief executive of the Department of Premier and Cabinet Damien Walker and include SA Chief Scientist Professor Craig Simmons and Queensland Museum CEO Dr Jim Thompson.

The panel will consider and give advice on areas including research functions, repatriation and engagement with First Nations communities relating to their cultural heritage, collections management and public engagement.

It will also review contemporary approaches to displays, exhibitions and public access to the collection including digitisation, “delivery of public value to the people of South Australia ensuring the Museum utilises its resources to deliver the best possible outcomes for its audiences”, and “any other matters related to the appropriate balance of functions in a contemporary museum at the size and scale of the South Australian Museum”.

The panel is expected to report back in several months.

Premier Malinauskas said the museum was “a vital institution for our state”.

“Like the culture it so honourably documents, it is important the Museum adapts and evolves,” he said.

“But we need to ensure those changes are done sensitively and in a way which inspires community confidence.”

At a press conference this morning, he acknowledged that the protest held earlier this month played a role in the pause of the proposed restructure and the launch of a Premier’s Review.

“We have not been the authors of the proposition to change the Museum. The Museum board is – that is their prerogative,” said Premier Malinauskas.

“But having assessed their proposition and some of the concerns that exist around it, we’ve stepped in, put it on hold and we’re going to have a Premier’s-led review to make sure we get the right outcome.”

When asked why the government is investing in major sporting events while the arts sector struggled for funding, the Premier said the government supported the interests of all South Australians.

“The same people going to LIV Golf are not the same people going to Gather Round, who aren’t the same people going to the Museum… so we’re trying to cater to multiple markets to uplift the state as best as we possibly can,” he said.

“I reckon someone travelling from the northern suburbs who’s passionate about motorsport, they should have their time in the city just as much as someone who’s passionate and enthusiastic about opera in the city.”

SA Museum restructure
Liberal MPs Jack Batty and Dennis Hood outside the Museum on Friday. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily.


See also: Premier’s Review – South Australian Museum