Is this Ballarat's next Eureka moment? | OPINION

It is with outrage that I write this piece. It is an outrage that is shared by many others. Outrage that the Eureka Flag is not to be returned to the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

There is outrage that the City of Ballarat appears to have moved quickly and surreptitiously to make what appears to be an ambit grab to secure the long-term custodianship of the Eureka Flag for the new “Eureka Centre”.

Outrage that the City of Ballarat appears to be ignoring a loan agreement with the Art Gallery of Ballarat to locate the historic flag only temporarily at the former, so-called Museum of Australian Democracy (MADE) at Eureka.

The closure of MADE by the City of Ballarat raises serious questions.

What were the terms of the original loan agreement?

Was it ever intended that the flag would return to the Art Gallery when MADE closed, or the original loan agreement had run its course?

There is also outrage that benefactors of the Art Gallery (and indeed the City of Ballarat) and supporters of the Eureka Flag appear to have been completely ignored in the apparent haste to support the new Eureka Centre.

Its predecessor, MADE, was a failed facility with no credibility, no status, poor security, little use and no proven business case.

Why should we expect the Eureka Centre to be any different?

Was the board of the Art Gallery well advised or complicit when it weakly agreed to a loan of the flag in the first instance?

What is behind the apparent haste of the board to stitch up a new loan agreement with the City of Ballarat?

Why did the board apparently consider it was acceptable to its members and the public to enter a new loan agreement without consultation as to whether such a course was appropriate for such an important national icon?

If the board of the Art Gallery has indeed been complicit in this matter, then it needs to explain publicly why.

Was it leaned on by the City of Ballarat? Did the council threaten to remove support of any form?

Did the current chair of the Art Gallery board have an unacceptable conflict of interest in also being a sitting City of Ballarat councillor? It is essential that the city shows some transparency and gives a full and open disclosure about its plans to hijack the Eureka Flag, as confirmed in correspondence to this writer.

The Eureka Flag belongs to the Art Gallery of Ballarat, which has always properly cared for it on behalf of the people of Australia. It must be returned there without delay.

The Art Gallery provides context, curatorial care, interpretation, and – most importantly – is readily accessible to all who love the Eureka Flag.

Our civic leaders might have the legal right to make decisions without consultation about matters great and small.

They do, however, appear to have totally underestimated the depth of feeling in the community about the Eureka Flag and its location.

The Eureka Flag is a symbol of an earlier fight to be heard.

A fight to be effectively represented, and a fight to be treated morally and with due respect.

Will this issue be Ballarat's new Eureka moment?

Neville Oddie is a Member of the Order of Australia.