Joint doorstop interview with Liberal candidate for Mayo, Georgina Downer, at The Cedars, Adelaide

Topics: Adelaide City Deal; $129m cultural plan for Adelaide.

Simon Birmingham: Thanks so much for coming along today. This is a significant announcement, the next step of the Adelaide City Deal being signed and delivered between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Premier Steven Marshall. Today, we’re announcing one hundred twenty nine million dollars to support arts, cultural, and heritage investment in SA. South Australia has long been the Festival State, the arts capital of Australia, and this investment is going to cement SA as a must-visit destination for arts, culture and heritage tourists from right around the world. We know that arts and cultural investment can make a phenomenal difference to the visitor-economy, and the tourism numbers coming into a state. Last year, for example, Tasmania saw visitor numbers surge by 15 per cent from international visitors, while SA grew by 4 per cent. A big driving factor in Tasmania’s growth was because of the investment in the Mona Gallery, and the fact that so many more arts and culture tourists flocked to Tasmania. We believe we can see the same type of uplifting tourist growth to SA, visiting a world class Indigenous Art and Cultures Gallery that will be built on the Lot Fourteen site. Visiting The Cedars Heysen Art Gallery here in Hahndorf, seeing some of the original art in a fabulous location here in South Australia, visiting historic sites such as Old Government House, all of them put together, ensuring that we have an amazing cultural experience for visitors.

I particularly want to pay credit to my many colleagues who have helped to make sure this happens, to Nicolle Flint in particular, the Member for Boothby, whose advocacy for some of the heritage sites such as the Old Government House and Wittunga House, they are critical investments in terms of the appeal of heritage and activity, as well as her advocacy for the overall package of investment here at The Cedars, as in elsewhere. It’s a demonstration that the strong Liberal team we have SA is working together to get the best possible results for South Australia, and of course the strong collaborative relationship we have between Premier Marshall and his government, with their extensive vision for how to strengthen and grow the state’s economy. Working hand in glove with our desire to keep creating more jobs by growing critical industry sectors like the tourism industry. Ultimately, this is about seeing more visitors flock to South Australia, to get the best possible arts and cultural heritage experience. I’m very confident that these projects will be iconic attractions for people not just around Australia, but for arts lovers from right around the world. To say a little bit more about this particular project here at The Cedars, I’m thrilled to have Georgina Downer, the Liberal candidate for Mayo here who has equally been a tireless advocate for this particular project, as well as investment in SA and of course the Adelaide Hills is such a prime location for so many arts and cultural attractions and Georgina, thank you for your brilliant work on this project, and if you’d like say a few words.

Liberal Candidate for Mayo, Georgina Downer: Well this is just such a fantastic day for the Adelaide Hills, for The Cedars. This project, that the Heysen Foundation has been working on for many years and I think it’s a testament to Peter Heysen, the Heysen family, and the Foundation, that they never gave up on their vision to redevelop this site, to really promote the legacy and the history of this area. The legacy of Hans Heysen, Australia’s most celebrated landscape artist, a true environmentalist, a fantastic migrant story that we will be able to preserve here forever more in an innovative new site, plus a beautiful sculpture walking environmental experiences. So, this is something that will be putting South Australia, Australia on the international arts tourism map. It’s great for our community, it’s great for our tourism industry, it’s great for the Adelaide Hills. We will see increased tourism numbers here which will help all our small businesses in this area and I couldn’t be more delighted for my community.

Simon Birmingham: Thanks so much Georgina and as you said we’re joined today by Dr Peter Heysen, Peter is the grandson of Sir Hans Heysen, the nephew of Nora Heysen and of course this site means so much to South Australia and Georgina rightly said, not just to our artistic and cultural heritage but also to our natural environment and to the history of our migrants and their successful and amazing contribution they’ve made to this state. So Peter, thank you for your advocacy and in that can I also think James Sexton who’s here with us today, and all of those as part of the organising group and committee who have developed extensive plans to make this project viable and an exciting vision for the future here at The Cedars.

Dr Peter Heysen: Thank you Simon, thank you Georgina for all your efforts. It’s great news, I think grandfather would be very happy because he loved this land, he loved the environment, he loved the tree. and at least it will all be preserved here. And we mustn’t forget Nora, Nora was the first woman to win the Archibald Prize and the youngest person, had an absolute outcry by the men who thought women shouldn’t be allowed to exhibit at the Archibald. But she was the first woman to break through the glass ceiling in the art world. So this place, there will always be their works of art here for people to see, so they and their achievements will never be forgotten. I’m so grateful to all those that have helped. Thank you.

Simon Birmingham: Thanks Peter. We’ll take questions on the arts and cultural announcement first and then if there are other matters happy too to deal with them.

Journalist: So in terms of the 85 million going to towards this amazing national indigenous arts gallery, why has South Australia being chosen?

Simon Birmingham: Well, this this won’t necessarily be the only arts or cultural gallery featuring Indigenous art and culture in Australia but it is going to be a very exciting one. We’re backing in Steven Marshall’s vision for South Australia in terms of the critical role that can play here. It’s well known that the South Australian Art Gallery has one of the most extensive collections of Indigenous art and cultural items and artefacts anywhere in the world and yet most of them live in a warehouse, out of sight, out of mind for far too many people. The interest however from around the world in Indigenous art and culture is enormous and also we want to make sure that Australians can learn far more about the Indigenous art and cultures of our First Peoples nations and so we’re backing Steven Marshall’s vision here because we think it’s critical to get those artefacts, those pieces out on display, to tell the story of our first nation’s people. But it doesn’t mean that it’s at the expense of other projects anywhere else around the country.

Journalist: So, obviously Alice Springs was earmarked for a very similar project, will there be funding at all given to Alice Springs to have a gallery like this?

Simon Birmingham: We continue to look at projects right around the country based on their merits and their viability, and certainly we recognise the amazing stories to be told in Central Australia and we keep working hard in terms of investment in the Northern Territory. It’s why for example, we’ve made the huge investment into Kakadu to make sure that we transform Kakadu as a location for visitors to be able to pour into the Northern Territory. Really boost the tourism capabilities of Kakadu, as well as most critically tell the Indigenous stories there We’ll keep looking at every project like we did Kakadu, like we did the art gallery here in South Australia, project by project, based on how they stack up.

Journalist: Another question would be how much convincing did it take from Steven Marshall from our State Government, for you to actually give us this amazing project?

Simon Birmingham: Well Steven Marshall, Nicolle Flint, Georgina Downer they’re all very persuasive advocates, and certainly we’ve had many people championing different aspects of arts and cultural investment in South Australia for quite some time. And what this has demonstrated is that you can look at each of those different calls for funding, whether it’s for the Indigenous Art and Cultures Gallery, The Cedars here at Hahndorf, or Old Government House and actually say, you know what, rather than doing this in a piecemeal approach of a project here, or a project there, we can create something that is so much more dynamic for South Australia by doing the whole package of arts, culture, and heritage investment in one hit. And it’s to the credit of each individual whose champion that they’ve been able to do so.

Journalist: Do we have any kind of time frame as far as when we might see these projects take shape?

Simon Birmingham: There’s some planning work to take place, I don’t know if Peter wishes to touch on that in terms of this particular project around the Indigenous Art and Cultures Gallery. I was speaking to the Premier just on the way here and he indicated clearly that that these investments in terms of the Indigenous Art and Cultures Gallery and importantly, I hadn’t mentioned it yet, the International Tourism and Hospitality training facility, also at Lot Fourteen. The Investments we’re making there from the federal government will help the state government to bring those projects forward. I still have to complete demolition of those projects, of the site this year and next year. But by having confidence that this 129 million dollars is flowing out of Canberra into SA, it means we can get these critical projects done faster and reap the tourism benefits sooner.

Journalist: So roughly in the two year mark (indistinct) demolition?

Well for Lot Fourteen, it will be a case of you get past the demolition and obviously the State Government will have more to say about the sequencing of the different pieces. Just on Friday we announced another 20 million dollars as part of this City Deal for the innovation hub that will exist at Lot Fourteen, and I’ve got no doubt that there’s more to come.

Dr Peter Heysen: I would have thought for the new building here it would probably be two to three years. We’ve got to work on the plans, we’ve got an idea of what we need which you know about. But we’ve got to work out how it will work, and I suspect that the building will take probably 18 months after that, so I would think in two to three years it should be finished.

Journalist: So just talk us through your vision, what are you going to be using this million dollars for?

Dr Peter Heysen: We’ll come back to the, one of the reasons for it, at the moment the House and Nora’s studio, are really trying to be art galleries as well as museums. So we want to get the works about to be shown properly in the right environment, so that’s the first thing. The second thing is to allow space for visiting artists, emerging artists, also to allow for other cultural functions, education, and we also want to have meals available for people that they come here. There will also be a shop of course, because the place has got to pay its way, but it also sits in some interesting land, we’ve put the biggest spread of native grasses here, and we hope that people will be able to walk around the place and enjoy their native environment.

Simon Birmingham: Thanks Peter, and I think that is an important point that you have a number of features here. The art itself is an incredible experience, the house and the studio themselves are pieces of history and of course the natural environment is what inspired to Hans Heysen in the first place, and we want to make sure that together, you’re able to have that full rich experience here at The Cedars, of the history, the art, and the environment.

Journalist: Can I just ask another question, so you’re not ruling out funding for an art gallery like we see in South Australia in the Northern Territory?

Simon Birmingham: Every project is considered on its merits, on its viability, on the stage of development. This project has been around for some time. In terms of advocacy for investment here at The Cedars, what’s been important is the work that the family have done to put in place legal structures, plans that ensure the long term viability of the site, the art and its access to the people of the world. And that’s the type of I guess example, where you keep working closely with a community, with project proponents until you get to a point in time where something is absolutely able to take off and warrant support.

Journalist: And is it all locked in because I know Anthony Albanese has been highly critical of City Deals such as these, and he said that he would overhaul them? Are you worried at all that this could fall by the wayside if Labor wins?

Simon Birmingham: Every cent of this one hundred and twenty nine million dollars will be budgeted for in the Liberal Government’s surplus budget that we will hand down in May. Now if the Labor Party proposes to cut it that would be another good reason for people to vote for the Liberal Party in this year’s election.