The fate of the financially embattled Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka will be decided at the next Ballarat City Council meeting, with deputy mayor Daniel Moloney resigning from the board on Wednesday.
Cr Moloney said he had resigned on ethical grounds, to avoid any perceived or potential interest when a commissioned feasibility study on the centre is tabled at the meeting on February 21.
Council provided the museum with $1 million in funding in its 2017-18 budget, during which time the feasibility study was to be shared.
The resignation was announced at the Ballarat City council meeting last night. City of Ballarat chief executive officer Justine Linley confirmed that council was not officially required to have a representative on the museum’s board at all times.
Current options on the table for the centre’s future include shutting it down completely, continuing to run it in its current state, and a financial or marketing overhaul of the facility.
I haven’t arrived at an actual position [on MADE’s future] just yet, I want to see a bit more of the arguments, because it hasn’t been operating very well financially in the pastBallarat City councillor Daniel Moloney
Cr Moloney said it was an unusual circumstance, but it was important that his position as a representative of the community was what came first. He has been on the board since January last year.
“When there are such wildly different options being presented, it’s hard to be able to guarantee I can fully act in the best interests of a separate organisation such as MADE,” he said.
“As councillors, we have an ethical and moral responsibility to be quite clear on our separation of duties.
“I’d be really disappointed if people interpret my decision to stand aside for what I believe is ethical reasons as preempting a decision.
“I know that there’s a bunch of staff members there and a dedicated board that are working really hard.”
With interactive exhibits detailing the history of the Eureka Rebellion, the educational museum currently houses the Eureka Flag, on loan from the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Around 60,000 people visit the centre annually.
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The facility appointed marketing specialist Rebecca MacFarling as chief executive in October, months after the resignation of acting CEO Sarah Masters.
Ms Masters, who was the ex-general manager, took on the interim position in August 2016, a role which was planned to last only six months.
Cr Moloney said the decision would hinge on how criteria is weighed and whether financial implications for ratepayers were seen as more important than tourist and cultural outcomes.
“I haven’t arrived at an actual position [on MADE’s future] just yet, I want to see a bit more of the arguments, because it hasn’t been operating very well financially in the past,” Cr Moloney said.
“It’s a really significant site in the nation’s history, but at the moment we’re not exactly respecting it all that well.
“I’d like to see something that does respect the past but also delivers a better financial outcome for residents.
Prior to an $11.1 million state and federal government makeover in 2013, the museum was called the Eureka Centre.
Cr Moloney said it was unlikely another councillor would be appointed to the board following his recommendation, as they would face the same “minefield of ethical questions” in the lead up to a decision.