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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 1 July 2010) . . Page.. 3238 ..


MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (12:59 am): One of the greatest disservices to the community by this ACT government and its colleagues in the commonwealth is the loss of hundreds of works of art that had been loaned to the Australian people by the late Sir Sidney Nolan. These works accompanied a gifted set of works, including the famed foundation collection of 24 Ned Kelly paintings.

This happened because the ACT and commonwealth Labor governments decided that the gifted paintings should no longer be housed and displayed at Lanyon as Sir Sidney wanted. They claimed that the Nolan Gallery at Lanyon was an unsuitable facility for the paintings, although it was a purpose-built building. They claimed that it had insufficient security and that the humidity levels were too high. They claimed that visitor numbers did not warrant the cost of having government staff located there. They claimed that housing the works at CMAG would provide a better opportunity for Canberrans and tourists to see them.

But in all these claims there was no foundation. The fact is that the ACT Labor government, in particular, did not want to spend money to upgrade the Nolan Gallery or to promote it or to develop a program that would attract visitors. It even ignored the recommendations of its own commissioned feasibility study, which recommended, amongst other things, that the expansion of the Nolan Gallery building to incorporate additional facilities would enhance the overall visitor experience and understanding of the works and would ensure these works were cared for appropriately, for example, with the provision of educational facilities, improved storage areas and upgraded climate control.

An integral part of this recommendation was to provide visitors to the Lanyon estate with improved introductory information, including a visitors and orientation centre—perhaps somewhere to have a cup of tea. Yet this ACT government ignored this recommendation because it did not want to put its hand in its pocket so as to provide the improvements that would address the issues about security, humidity and visitor numbers.

In doing so, it and the commonwealth have conspired to dishonour the extraordinary gift that Sir Sidney Nolan made to this nation and they have conspired to insult Sir Sidney’s widow, Lady Nolan, and to treat her disrespectfully. Indeed, Lady Nolan was so incensed by the treatment she received from both the ACT and commonwealth Labor governments that she has demanded the return of the works that Sir Sidney Nolan loaned to augment the foundation collection.

In the media, Mr Stanhope tried to downplay the importance of these works when he described the works as a few early sketches. I do not know which of the loaned works he has viewed, but many of the ones that I have seen are quite iconic in their depiction of the Australian landscape and others are unique and innovative in their artistic interpretation. Mr Stanhope’s description of these works is yet another insult, not only to the memory of Sir Sidney Nolan and his generosity but also to the people of Australia. And now those hundreds of loaned works will be lost to the people of Australia forever.


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