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National Gallery of Australia faces staff cuts of 10%

The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) is expected to lose about 10% of their workforce, or about 30 staff, to deal with a funding shortfall.

NGA Director Nick Mitzevich said the process will begin with an initial voluntary redundancy process, “before skills and roles are mapped against the new plan, organisational capabilities, core services and resources”.

“We will be consulting with all employees during this process, and those team members who are leaving the Gallery will be paid their full entitlements and offered wellbeing support and career assistance opportunities.”

Announced on Tuesday 23 June, the job cuts come as the NGA plans for the future by reshaping and restructuring its operations with the objective of both modernising the Gallery and securing its long-term organisational sustainability.

The new structure is designed to focus the Gallery’s programs and create greater opportunities for the Australian and international community to engage with the national collection beyond its physical presence in Canberra.

“We, like every arts and cultural institution, have to look to create a future where we can sustainably deliver on our mandate,” Mr Mitzevich said. “We have needed a plan that will both improve and protect the Gallery’s long-term offering and our financial stability. Inevitably, that means change.”

The union representing NGA employees, the Community & Public Sector Union (CPSU), said the Gallery is struggling with rising utility costs, building maintenance, falling interest rates and the ongoing efficiency dividend implemented by the Federal Government.

The pre-existing budget woes have been exacerbated by COVID-19, with 80% of the NGA’s audience traditionally coming from outside Canberra.

CPSU Deputy National Secretary, Beth Vincent-Pietsch, said national institutions are struggling to cope under the pressure of years of budget cuts. The CPSU is calling on the Federal Government to exempt Australia’s cultural institutions from the efficiency dividend and restore funding of the National Gallery.

“The NGA is a much-loved part of our national identity. It is one of the keys to our cultural memory and understanding. More than that, it has a legislated mandate to collect, exhibit, and restore the very best of Australian and international art. This government’s underfunding is crippling the NGA’s capacity to meet its mandate.”

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr also expressed disappointment about the job losses and said further support is needed for national institutions.

“Rebuilding our tourism industry is an important component of Canberra’s Recovery Plan. Our tourism industry contributes over $2.5 billion a year to our local economy and employs tens of thousands of Canberrans,” Mr Barr said.

“Supporting our national institutions is fundamental to this recovery. These institutions collectively bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to Canberra each year, and the ACT Government has proven a track record of significantly supporting them through our Major Events Fund.”

Mr Barr was especially critical that “when the Commonwealth can fund $500 million for the redevelopment of the War Memorial, there should not be job losses in other institutions”.

He said the ACT Government has provided advice to the Commonwealth on ways that the national institutions could raise more income and avoid situations where people have to lose their jobs. Allowing them to retain the parking revenue they receive is one practical example.

In addition to personnel changes, the Gallery will also be improving and upgrading ICT services, including the delivery of new systems which will develop the online accessibility of the national collection, and improve data optimisation, asset renewal and service stabilisation.

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