Hon Walt Secord, Shadow Minister for the Arts.
It is important to put into context the Deputy Premier and Nationals’ leader John Barilaro’s announcement of a $100 million Regional Cultural Fund for community halls, libraries, museums and art galleries.
It is the same government that is providing $600 million to Sydney arts organisations like the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Theatre Company and the Art Gallery of NSW.
Yes, rural and regional areas are getting a sixth of what Sydney is receiving.
NSW Labor is calling on the NSW Nationals to revise the structure of its Regional Cultural Fund and expand it to include programs and staff – and not just the bricks and mortar.
The fund has a ‘dog-eat-dog’ competitive nature – where the Nationals have pitted regional communities against each other in a desperate fight for funds in a rural and regional version of the Hunger Games.
While I welcome any funds for rural and region communities, I am unable – in good conscience – to welcome this announcement. It is another cruel National Party trick.
In recent months, I have visited a range of art galleries across NSW and have spoken to curators, directors, staff and volunteers, including those in Broken Hill, Tamworth, Inverell, Orange, Bathurst, Cessnock, Grafton, Bega, Newcastle and the Margaret Olley Gallery in the Tweed.
They have world-class spaces, but they need ongoing funds for staff and to support their programs as well as cataloguing and digitalising their collections.
Sadly, under the Nationals, rural and regional families are not getting their fair share from the State Government – and this needs to change.