M.A.D.E museum in strife after blowing budget

The Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka is facing calls to reign in spending and dramatically alter its operations after exceeding its annual operating budget in just seven months. 

Low revenue has largely been blamed for M.A.D.E’s financial woes, which were revealed in a City of Ballarat report yesterday.

The report states: “The linear trend line for M.A.D.E’s non-council income is in descent and an analysis of expected future non-council funds has indicated the centre is unlikely to attract adequate ... revenue to continue its current form.”

Prepared by the council’s city strategy division, the report makes a series of recommendations to help M.A.D.E reduce costs. 

Councillors will consider the report at a meeting on Wednesday.

Options suggest closing the museum on Mondays, more limited curation of exhibitions and replacing the on-site commercial cafe with a free coffee spot.

Reducing the centre’s social media activity and limiting PR and marketing campaigns – which would reduce M.A.D.E’s profile – are also suggested, along with harnessing the support of “locals interested in history” to help curate and interpret the council’s historical collection.

In the report, council officers said continuing to support M.A.D.E in its current form was expected to deliver “only a modest benefit to the Ballarat community in the foreseeable future”.

“This type of a facility is more in line with a facility of state significance, however, there are no indications state support will be provided to contribute to the operations of the centre,” the report states.

“The areas where M.A.D.E has had greatest success have been in the virtual space, and while this is laudable, does not provide significant direct benefits to Ballarat residents.”

The centre spent its 2013-14 operating budget of more than $750,000 by December.

It has continued to operate because the council contributed extra money. 

The council’s chief executive officer Anthony Schinck said the city was in the process of preparing its 2014-15 budget and its $750,000 annual contribution to M.A.D.E would not be increasing.

“Given M.A.D.E has lots of aspirations for what the centre can be, we want to be able to continue that work,” he said.

“The suggestions we’re making are really for the board to consider.”

Mr Schinck said free entry for locals was not proposed to change. 

He said M.A.D.E received funding from the council but was a separate business entity.

M.A.D.E director Jane Smith was unavailable to speak to The Courier yesterday.

Mr Schinck said the council was satisfied with the work being done at M.A.D.E and the contemporary programming put in place during the institution’s first year of operation.

“We need to be able to monitor the way our investment into ... entities is expended and the benefit the community gets from that,” he said.

“Our understanding is the revenue has not achieved particular targets.”

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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