News Chronology: 2023 on…

Also read News Chronologies  for the eight years: 2014-2019;  2020; and 2023 on…
And PHM being Destroyed not Saved: 2023 Call to action
For Inquiry into Museums and Galleries webpage: Read more
For the Inquiry Committee’s Two Final Reports: Read more  and media release Read more
For informed research, analysis and opinions, see What the Experts Say: Read more
To read about Museum history and issues with a recent Heritage nomination, Read here.
‘Letters to Editors’: for related letters to the editors of newspapers, see the PMA web site, here: Read more


2 June, 2023
‘It’s time for another look at the Powerhouse Museum saga’
Arts and cultural critic, John McDonald, writes in his regular newsletter: ‘Labor came to power in NSW with a promise of ending the long drawn-out vandalism inflicted on the PHM by their predecessors. After two months in office there has been little indication from relevant ministers such as John Graham and Pru Car, that the government is following through on this commitment. Instead, there has been a great deal of prevarication, while the management of the PHM fast-tracks its destructive program.
It’s entirely predictable that members of the business lobby and sympathetic bureaucrats will tell the incoming ministers it’s impossible to stop these processes; that it will cost millions to get out of contracts; that the only way to go is full steam ahead; that it’s a great deal for the western suburbs. It’s predictable that PHM management will take every opportunity to suck up to the new government and make their case as forcefully as possible. Let’s put these claims against the counterclaims:
The entire redevelopment is massively unpopular. It serves the vested interests of a few, and effectively destroys a major public asset. Community opinion and expert opinion are solidly opposed – and have been for almost a decade!
If the project proceeds as planned, there will be three separate buildings under the “Powerhouse” label, in Ultimo, Parramatta and Castle Hill [and the Observatory]. The Ultimo site is currently being emptied of its collection in preparation for a rebuild that will remove fifty percent of current exhibition space. The Parramatta building, set in a floodplain, has had so many features excised it no longer meets international standards for a museum. It’s hard to say exactly what it actually is – aside from a kind of overgrown function centre. … a massive white elephant that delivers nothing to the vast majority of people of Parramatta. As for Castle Hill, it promises to be a glorified storage depot in the outer suburbs where the bulk of the PHM collection will be left to gather dust in perpetuity. It will double as a place of exile for most of the museum departments, such as conservation, curatorial, etc, that will be relocated to this impractically distant location.
There is much talk about “residencies” in Ultimo and Parramatta, but why? What is the point of the Powerhouse turning itself into a hotel for artists, designers and students while forgetting the core business of a museum – which is to preserve and display important items of cultural heritage.
… However many millions it will cost to stop and undo this ongoing catastrophe, this will represent a fraction of the cost of proceeding as planned. Once demolition begins in Ultimo, this heritage site is gone forever. As it is proposed to close the museum for three years while the work is being done, this already represents an enormous loss of revenue and a waste of human resources. What are staff members doing for the next three years? When the makeover is complete, attendances will never come close to justifying the expense.
Labor has spoken out about the Coalition’s mania for privatisation, but they should recognise that what is happening at the Powerhouse is little more than the privatisation of a major public asset by a small group of people with a particular agenda. An industrious member of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance has told me about a plan to have a new department called “Community Curatorial”, to be headed by one Ivan Muniz Reed, a co-founder of the independent exhibitions agency, The Curatorial Department, with Glenn Barkley, husband of Powerhouse CEO, Lisa Havilah. Mr. Muniz Reed’s big idea is the “decolonisation of the museum”. … I can only say it is a problematic, pernicious ideology cloaked in heroic colours.
… The turnover of staff at the PHM over the past year has been unusally rapid. … existing staff are too demoralised to speak about problems, feeling they will be victimised and sacked if they complain. The proposal to send everyone to Castle Hill and Parramatta … is hardly more than a way of forcing long-term employees to resign, so the culture of the PHM can be rebuilt from the ground up with fresh, willing drones. There’s no concern whatsoever about the knowledge and expertise that will be lost.
Dear Ministers: we stand on the brink of a cultural debacle of mammoth proportions that you have inherited from an irresponsible and secretive former government. It is overwhelmingly opposed by the community and by expert opinion. The museum with the largest and most diverse collection in Australia is being taken apart before your eyes, and turned into a contemporary art and fashion hub, with “residencies”. It is a national disgrace and an international embarrassment that suggests we do not care for our own heritage, and are not fit to borrow from other countries. The most urgent action is required. If the ongoing proposals are implemented in their entirety we will have created a black hole that will absorb ever greater amounts of public money, with scant capacity to generate revenue. Aside from sheer moral cowardice there is no reason whatsoever – be it cultural, economic or even popularist (it’s the opposite of popular!) – to continue down this path to perdition.’ Read more Here: J McDonald 2 June 2023

 16-18 May, 2023
Powerhouse Museum and Climate Change?
On 16 May, Climate Control News reported on an entry on the Powerhouse Museum’s website, that: ‘Powerhouse yesterday became the first museum in Australia and latest signatory of the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment. Through its renewal the museum is taking radical action to embed low carbon solutions into its infrastructure projects and operations across all Powerhouse sites, leading the way to net zero emissions by 2025. This aligns with the Powerhouse Climate Action Plan that is the pathway for the museum to achieve net zero carbon emissions in operations by 2025.
A key distinguishing feature of the plan is the centrality of the museum’s ‘Caring for Country Principles’, developed in consultation with First Nations communities on which Powerhouse sites are located. The commitment Powerhouse has made to World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment includes reducing existing buildings’ energy consumption, eliminate emissions from energy and refrigerants, remove fossil fuel use drastically, and compensate for residual emissions. By 2030 Powerhouse will be operating climate positive across all sites.’
Powerhouse chief executive, Lisa Havilah, and Powerhouse climate action and sustainability manager Carmel Reyes, further discussed their plans.
Read Powerhouse Climate Action Plan: or PHM Climate Action Plan 2023
Read Climate Control News: or:  16 May Climate Control and PHM

HOWEVER, Read also:  Comments from colleagues Comments re Climate 18 May 2023

16 May, 2023
Advertisement: Local Publicity Agency – Powerhouse Renewal
In a mailout seeking Open Tenders, the NSW Govt has advertised to appoint a local publicity agency to promote the current proposed Powerhouse plans. It says:
‘Tender Details: The Powerhouse is one of Australia’s oldest and most important cultural institutions. It is Australia’s only museum of applied arts and sciences with an exceptional collection of approximately 500,000 objects. The Powerhouse is undertaking significant renewal through the creation of Powerhouse Parramatta, expansion of Powerhouse Castle Hill, the digitisation of Powerhouse Collection, and the renewal of Powerhouse Ultimo. The Powerhouse renewal is focused on redefining museums and with a $1.4 billion dollar investment by the NSW Government is the largest cultural project in Australia.
To deliver this major renewal program, Powerhouse seeks to appoint a local publicity agency to collaborate with international communications agency Bolton & Quinn to:

  • Promote Powerhouse as a significant global brand.
  • Deliver significant Renewal stories across all Powerhouse sites.
  • Profile strategic projects and programming across all Powerhouse sites.
  • Focus on six primary communities requiring specialist cultural understanding.
  • Deliver executive profile opportunities locally and nationally.’

It adds: ‘…Open Tenders – An invitation to tender by public advertisement with no restriction placed on who may tender. Tenderers will normally be required to demonstrate in their tender that they have the necessary skills, resources, experience, financial capacity, and in some cases licences, accreditations, etc., to fulfil the tender requirements.’  Read more Here, or Here: NSW Govt tender for PHM Publicity

[Note: Powerhouse Museum Alliance asks:

  • Will the Ultimo State Museum site remain they key management location? Or is it to be a minor adjunct to Parramatta, which does not have the appropriate spaces for the broad collection, and should have its own local institutions.
  • Where is the published program of exhibition and project themes for what is to take place in each site?
  • Do they realise there is inadequate professional staff to properly interpret the collection?]

17 May, 2023
‘Firm decisions crucial to future of Powerhouse’
In his Opinion editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald, Editor Bevan Shields summarises the current situation: ‘A$500 million redevelopment of the Powerhouse Museum seems on hold as authorities return to their indecisive habits on what to do about the Ultimo institution. The people of NSW are adamant they want a museum on the site but years of confused policy risks stripping the Powerhouse of purpose and turning it into a second-class attraction as other Sydney cultural institutions bloom.’
‘Then-premier Mike Baird decided in 2015 that the much-loved complex, which includes the city’s former powerhouse and tram sheds and was converted to a museum as a Bicentennial project in 1988, would be relocated to a new $915 million facility in Parramatta and the Ultimo site redeveloped. After considerable public outcry, the Berejiklian government reviewed Baird’s decision in 2017 and determined it should stay put. The following year it reversed the decision and suggested closing Ultimo sometime between 2020 and 2021. In July 2020, it went back on its word to close the site and relocate the collections. In 2021, the Berejiklian government allocated $500 million to transform the Powerhouse precinct into a commercially oriented fashion and design hub.
The latest proposal has also been met with full-frontal attacks from conservationists, arts administrators and some who pushed for the museum’s establishment in the 1980s. They want the Ultimo site’s partial heritage listing to be expanded to its entirety, as recommended by the National Trust … Meanwhile, public confusion is being stoked by architects arguing the toss: one company that drafted a conservation management plan claimed the museum had low to moderate heritage significance; another architect, Alan Croker, said his pro-heritage listing report to the NSW government was buried because it would have scuppered the new development.’
‘… For its part, NSW Labor in the approach to the March state election affirmed qualified support for Ultimo as a world-class museum but admitted concern over the shift in focus from a science and engineering museum to fashion and design… Certainly, the way through the current confusion will be fraught … Perhaps the Powerhouse’s rebuild cost of $500 million can be revisited. After all, the cost of the Art Gallery of NSW’s monumental new Sydney Modern wing was held to $344 million and it is looking for 2 million visitors in its first year….The people of Sydney said years ago they wanted a museum on the Ultimo site. The challenge facing the Minns government is to clear the confusion that now overhangs redevelopment of an increasingly stale part of Sydney.’ Read more Here,  or Here: Opinion SMH 17 May 2023

16/17 May, 2023
‘Plibersek, City of Sydney, enter row over $500m Powerhouse redevelopment’
Linda Morris writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘Prominent federal Labor minister Tanya Plibersek and the City of Sydney have weighed into the growing row over the future of the $500 million redevelopment of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, upping pressure on the Minns government to hit pause on the knockdown rebuild of the museum’s modern wing.
… Plibersek was at the forefront of community rallies to save the Powerhouse at Ultimo seven years ago when it was to have been relocated to Parramatta, and the Ultimo site sold off. She told this masthead: “I want to see the site maintained and restored so it can be enjoyed by future generations. Before the NSW government decides to approve the removal of any of its history, they need to be sure it’s the right thing to do. Heritage listing is a matter for the NSW government but I am glad the new minister is bringing transparency back to this process.”
Plibersek’s intervention lays the groundwork for a rethink of the redevelopment, which could involve a more modest refurbishment at a reduced cost to taxpayers. Savings could potentially be redirected to western Sydney arts including Parramatta’s Female Factory, an important site of Australia’s convict history.
… The Minns government has yet to commit to the Powerhouse redevelopment and is consulting widely, including business groups that argue the redevelopment is needed to revive the Pyrmont precinct. “Unfortunately, the Powerhouse forecourt on Harris Street has stood like a barren wasteland for far too long,” said Paul Nicolaou, executive director of Business Sydney. “The planned $500 million investment is important for the whole Pyrmont precinct. Chinatown and its many wonderful businesses will benefit greatly from having a world-class museum nearby.”
On Monday night [15 May], the City of Sydney voted to call on NSW Arts Minister John Graham to review the project’s scope and all contractual obligations entered into by the previous Coalition government. Council also urged Graham to take “all possible steps” to ensure the heritage value of the site was respected and protected as part of any future scheme. The motion was sponsored by Labor’s Linda Scott and supported by Lord Mayor Clover Moore, both of whom acknowledged the strength of local community opposition to the redevelopment. …
[The motion was approved by Council: Read the motion HERE: Council motion 15 May and view Councillor Scott presenting the motion: Webcast Here:    (Go to item 11.9) ]
‘The museum’s chief executive Lisa Havilah says the redevelopment is needed to expand exhibition spaces, mount and show travelling international exhibitions, and improve visitor experiences.
Controversy over the redevelopment reignited last month when a draft report by eminent heritage architect Alan Croker recommended significant parts of the modern extension be heritage protection. Croker’s contract was terminated last year before he could deliver his preliminary findings. The government’s arts agency denied it was because of the report’s content.’  Read more Here, or Here:  SMH Plibersek, City of Sydney enter row 16 May

15 May, 2023
‘Questions in Parliament for the Powerhouse Plans’
In his Update Issue 494, Sydney Independent MP Alex Greenwich advises that:
‘Politicians need to stop treating the Powerhouse as a political football and start working towards the best outcome for the museum and the inner city. Since former Premier Baird announced relocating the museum to western Sydney and redeveloping the land, the future of this vital public institution has been uncertain. Recent plans for a design museum complemented with existing permanent exhibitions are even in doubt now that it was revealed the previous government changed heritage consultants when the expert advice received was in favour of keeping not demolishing the award-winning Wran Building.’
‘I’ve submitted questions in Parliament about the government’s plans for the Ultimo Powerhouse site and museum:  HERE. 
This link notes that:
Greenwich, Alex to the Minister for Transport representing the Special Minister of State, Minister for Roads , Minister for the Arts, Minister for Music and the Night-time Economy, and Minister for Jobs and Tourism
(1) What are the Government’s plans for the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo?
(2) What are the plans for the Powerhouse buildings?
(3) What are the plans for the Powerhouse operations?
(4) When will the community have a say on these plans?
Question asked on 10 May 2023 (session 58-1) and printed in Questions & Answers Paper No. 2
Answer due on 14 June 2023
He also refers to ‘Recent media reports question previous decisions on heritage values’ and ‘protection of the museum’s collection.’ (See news entries below from Sydney Morning herald and The Guardian).

15 May, 2023
Campaign Update: Bulletin 87
In his regular Bulletin, Tom Lockley writes: ‘If you want to save THE Powerhouse MUSEUM in its present building, retain the heritage of the Bicentennial celebrations and incidentally save a quarter of a million dollars of public money, please [sign] a petition being organised by Kobi Shetty, who has followed our great supporter Jamie Parker as MLC for Balmain. Please do it NOW!’  Here
Acknowledging that various committed groups had been working on this campaign for 8 years, he reports that: ‘John Graham, the NSW Minister for the Arts, met with Lionel Glendinning, Jennifer Sanders and Lindsay Sharp on Friday afternoon. Jennifer reports that ‘there was good and frank discussion across the key issues’, and it is great to see that at last, people with museum expertise are being heard. Many details cannot be divulged, but it is clear that our representatives presented a compelling case for the saving of THE Powerhouse MUSEUM along the lines indicated in the Powerhouse Museum Alliance manifesto…’ HERE:PMA Key Requirements to Save the PHM Jan 2023
As well, ‘…the new Government is still under pressure to continue with the current plans of the preceding Government. …The Powerhouse Museum Alliance concludes that ‘it is critically important that we continue to make a strong case for the Powerhouse Museum, the entire site including the Harwood Building, to be saved as promised. The program of work commissioned by the previous government is still progressing as reported in the media: the Development Application is to be submitted in a month’. The plan is for demolition is to commence at the end of the year, and the opening of whatever the final result will be some years hence. However, the Minister has promised that there will be no further degradation of the museum until he has the outcomes of a proper investigation of the situation. …Massive amounts of data are already available for analysis. Principally, the two legislative council Inquiries have demonstrated grave flaws in the process, but the Government has treated their findings and recommendations with contempt. Data has been gathered over the years in many ways, as is recorded in the massive Powerhouse Museum Alliance website and the Save the Powerhouse Facebook site. The Government archives are also available to the incoming administration. Read More here: Campaign Update 15 May

13 May, 2023
‘…a ruinous, massively expensive rebuild is under way’
Arts critic John McDonald includes in his regular newsletter, that ‘A shocking story in the Herald revealed that the Powerhouse is set to close for the next three years while a ruinous, massively expensive rebuild is under way. Former director, Lindsay Sharp, and others have rightly denounced this as untenable. To close a major museum for three years, sending the curators to offices in Castle Hill and Parramatta, dumping major parts of the collection any-old-where… only to re-emerge with a product that nobody wants at a final cost approaching $2 billion, is the most absurd act of cultural vandalism ever perpetrated by any government in this country. It was wholly the initiative of the Coalition, so Labor must be as good as their election promises and put a stop to this wildly expensive, incredibly short-sighted project. As it appears there is a concerted effort to push through with the plans, the new government has no time to waste making further inquiries. Do you have to inquire about a tsunami when it’s looming over your head?’ Read here.

12 May, 2023
‘Save our Powerhouse from dodgy redevelopment’
Greens MP for Balmain, Kobi Shetty, circulated a petition to save the Powerhouse Museum and wrote: ‘The Powerhouse Ultimo is an iconic cultural and historic landmark that deserves to be protected. Over the last decade the future of the Powerhouse has been in the hands of development-hungry politicians, and this local gem has only just survived thanks to key advocates and a massive community campaign. That is why it’s so disappointing that the new Labor minority government hasn’t halted the controversial $500 million redevelopment plans for next month despite strong community concerns.  Our community has expressed concerns over the proposed demolition of state-significant sites, a dodgy heritage assessment process and the risks of damaging artefacts in the rebuild.’ She said: ‘I have made it a priority to meet with the Minister for the Arts as soon as possible so we can find a better solution for our community. Join me in calling on the minister to rethink the controversial redevelopment plans, stop the demolition of heritage sites and ensure a transparent planning process. Show your support here. 

10/11 May, 2023
‘Say goodbye: Powerhouse Museum set to shut its doors for almost three years’
Linda Morris writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘The Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo would likely shut for almost three years to allow for the knock-down and rebuild of the museum’s 35-year-old wing. Management of Australia’s leading science and technology museum will begin moving dozens of staff out of the Ultimo location from next month when an application for the site’s redevelopment could be lodged. A construction period of 30 months is estimated for the $500 million redevelopment, which will upgrade exhibition and circulation spaces and reorient the museum’s entrance towards the city. The museum was expected to close in December, with tenders to go out early next year, and in this scenario the rebuilt museum would not reopen until 2026. The broad timetable for the redevelopment was disclosed for the first time in a briefing called by new arts minister John Graham, who has ordered transparency around the planned rebuild.’
In opposition to current plans, ‘…the museum’s founding director, Lindsay Sharp, has called for the government to halt the redevelopment and consider undertaking instead a less expensive but “radical evolution” of the 1988 campus that would be capable of “taking the museum far into the future”. It would be possible, he said, to renovate and extend the museum for about half the cost of the planned rebuild without shutting down the site entirely and having to rebuild audiences once it reopens.’…”The government can get maximum, sustainable value for around half the cost. Truthfully, it would be a really exciting museum experience.”
‘Graham, whose government will have the final say if the project should go ahead, said the government supported a museum of the highest excellence at the Ultimo site that had “a clear and distinct identity, and which built on its traditional focus on science, engineering, transport, design, the technical arts, and education”. He added that the government remained “committed to the Wran legacy and transparency. We are working through the details of this significant project in an orderly manner, including upcoming community consultation in the coming weeks”.’ Read More here; or Read Here: SMH 10 May 2023

10 May, 202
‘Powerhouse Museum: whistleblower staff claim more exhibition items damaged or put at risk’
Kelly Burke follows up her report from 9 May (below) in The Guardian, writing that ‘Current workers blame policy of ‘open display’ for compromising safety of collection, in new allegations the museum rejects as ‘lies’… Powerhouse Museum staff members have raised further allegations of damaged exhibition items, as pressure rises on the NSW Labor government to intervene in the Ultimo museum’s future. In April, Guardian Australia reported claims that the museum’s 1950s Catalina seaplane was damaged with white spray paint late last year, after being lowered from the ceiling in August; and that a 20th century Bleriot monoplane was put at risk while the transport exhibition hall was gutted.… On Tuesday, Guardian revealed that another priceless antique was potentially at risk: the world’s oldest working rotative steam engine, the 1785 Boulton & Watt. The museum has denied these claims of damage and risk, saying that the safety of the collection has been ensured “at all times” and that “the care and preservation of the museum collection is our highest priority”.
‘Since then, more staff members have come forward with other instances of damage to exhibition items, including a Victorian-era indication board from Sydney’s Central station; a rare 1970s Mellotron keyboard; a dress designed by Ron Muncaster; and two works by HSC design students…. More exhibition items have been damaged, current staff members claim, in instances they blame on recent staffing cuts, an introduced policy of open display (removing protective barriers and “do not touch” signs), and the use of the space as a party venue.’
Kelly Burke continues with further details including comments from museum management and external specialists. Read more:   or Here: Guardian 10 May, 2023

9 May, 2023
‘Cultural vandalism’: Powerhouse Museum’s landmark steam engine under threat, experts warn
Kelly Burke writes in The Guardian, that: ‘The world’s oldest working rotative steam engine could be at significant risk, experts say, if Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum goes ahead with plans to dismantle, store and then electrify part of the 1785 Boulton & Watt: a priceless antique whose components are “as fragile as 200-year-old glass”. The warnings about the engine – a gem of the museum’s collection – follow serious claims of neglect of other exhibition items which were recently raised by current staff and former board members, after Guardian Australia broke news of an allegedly “buried” report that could have thwarted its controversial $500m redevelopment.
On Thursday, the new Labor arts minister, John Graham, met with executives to thrash out the contentious future of the Powerhouse, Australia’s largest science and technology museum. Touring the institution, Graham was met by members of the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, a collective fighting to keep it intact. One member delivered a letter to the minister, calling on him to make publicly available all documentation by the previous Coalition government over the new $915m Powerhouse Parramatta, scheduled for completion in 2025; and the conversion of the Ultimo site into a commercially driven creative arts, design and events precinct.
Under that plan, the world’s oldest working rotative steam engine – the 1785 Boulton & Watt – will be dismantled and placed in storage before being reassembled at the redeveloped Ultimo site, where the power source that creates the steam will be converted from gas to electricity….’
‘In a statement, a Powerhouse spokesperson maintained that the steam engine would be safely dismantled and stored, as it has been in the past. “The care and preservation of the Museum collection is our highest priority,” the statement said. But experts have described the move as “extremely risky”. … ‘The Boulton & Watt has been part of the museum’s collection since its arrival in Australia in 1888. In the 1920s it was electrified, then restored back to its original steam operation in the 1980s, at a cost of about $2m at the time, according to the founding Powerhouse director Lindsay Sharp.’… And ‘University of New South Wales emeritus professor David Phillip Miller, one of Australia’s leading experts in technology of the industrial revolution, said that ‘dismantling of the Boulton & Watt – and introducing an electrical component – would be an act of “cultural vandalism” that formed part of a “greater travesty”: the dismantling of the Ultimo museum’s entire steam engine collection…’
“The working Boulton & Watt draws people from around the world,” said Debbie Rudder, who was previously the Museum’s curator of power technologies for 23 years. “Historians, industrial revolution enthusiasts, steam enthusiasts come from Britain and all round the world to Sydney to see it operating.”
‘The museum spokesperson said the Boulton & Watt had a history of being safely dismantled, stored and reassembled, both in 1888 when it arrived in Australia and in the 1980s when it was restored and housed in a custom-built space in the newly designed museum….But an April 2023 independent report, commissioned by the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, strongly advised against ever moving the steam engine again “unless absolutely essential”, due to “cumulative fatigue” of its fragile components that have weakened over time. The report’s author, Sydney mechanical and structural engineer Steve Muscat, told Guardian Australia: “It’s like [playing with] the tab on a can of coke. You can only do it so many times before the tab snaps.”… Similar advice was given to the museum more than 40 years ago. The UK’s world steam engineering expert Jonathan Minns travelled to Sydney in 1980, where he advised the museum’s then director Lindsay Sharp that once the engine was installed in its purpose-built space, it should never be moved again. “Jonathan was unequivocal,” Sharp said. The engineer, who died in 2013, warned him that components of the engine were “as fragile as 200-year-old glass”. Sharp said Minns repeated this advice in a report that current staff at the Powerhouse, some who are speaking to Guardian Australia, were unable to locate among the conservation archives. The Powerhouse’s executive did not respond to questions about the Minns report.’ Read more Here, or Here:  Guardian 9 May 2023

8 May, 2023
‘Too soon to tell – is the Powerhouse Museum saved and what happens next?’
On his Blogspot Indefinite articles, cultural researcher and writer, Stephen Cassidy, provides links to a number of documents, saying: ‘Over the years I have written several articles about the decline of the once mighty Powerhouse Museum, one of the gems of Sydney and an internationally renowned institution. It was steadily undermined by a State government more at ease with pork-barrelling the suburbs it had long neglected than fostering a great museum and major tourist attraction. Rather than extending and upgrading the museum into the Western suburbs, it seemed intent on establishing a de facto entertainment and functions centre in Parramatta. Now, with a new State Government, that all may have changed.’
A former Membership Manager at the Powerhouse Museum, who regrets that this aspect appears to no longer exist, he adds: ‘Hopefully, with the election of the Minns Labor Government in NSW, there may be some hope of an end to this embarrassing debacle with the Museum, though there are no guarantees. I include extracts from a breaking update distributed on behalf of the broad alliance that has been battling for years to reverse this policy failure and halt the sad decline of the Museum. [Powerhouse Museum Alliance; distributed paper attached] I haven’t written about the saga for several years because I was so unhappy about the whole sorry business. …’
He continues: History of a train wreck Here are the three earlier articles I wrote about the Powerhouse Museum. The process they outline can best be described as a train wreck – apt given the long association between the Powerhouse and trains.
Better late than never – does Powerhouse Museum turnaround signal new promise?
Going, going, gone – the final spiral of a cultural icon?
The grand design of things – the lost unrealised potential of the Powerhouse Museum
Extract from update by Powerhouse Museum Alliance
An abridged and edited version of an update distributed yesterday, 5 May 2023, follows. It summarises developments so far and suggests the way forward.
Read Here for links to his Blog: or Read Here: Stephen Cassidy Blogspot

5 May, 2023
‘Powerhouse Museum: an 8-year update! What now? Issues, comments, suggestions …’Speaking for the Powerhouse Museum Alliance, Grace Cochrane wrote in a mass mailout:
‘This update is sent to hundreds of colleagues, both as individuals and in institutions and organisations across NSW, Australia and other countries, who have established important relationships with the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, and who have expressed concerns about our previous government’s plans to firstly demolish and move the Museum, and then ‘save it’ while vastly changing its role and program. You may like to follow this up, to further support the future of the Museum (see below). In summary:
–  Yes, keep the main Museum site in Ultimo; Parramatta to have own institutions
–  Yes, keep all buildings, and get state heritage listing for 1988 buildings and historic Harwood building
–  Yes, as core business stay with ‘applied arts (industrial and decorative arts, crafts, design) and sciences’ (including industrial and technological) and social history, as always!
–  Yes, encourage release of the secret design briefs and secret business cases
–  Stop anything leading towards demolition in Ultimo; encourage only appropriate ‘renewal’

‘Just a few weeks after the NSW State Election (25 March, 2023), it is now possible to identify reversals that may be made by our new government, to the destructive plans for the Powerhouse Museum initiated by the previous government in 2014. Even though the Museum was ‘saved’ in its Sydney city site in 2020, it is still unclear exactly what its future role is, or what its relationship will be with the proposed Parramatta venue. We want it to remain with its original purpose, on its current site, in its current buildings – albeit with appropriate renewal to better access the collection through exhibitions and related events.’
The document continues with more details of issues and expectations, and links to members of NSW parliament for those wanting to pass on their concerns. Read Here:  Mailout May 2023

2/3 May, 2023
‘Second report casts doubt on Powerhouse demolition plans’
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Linda Morris follows up previous reports, writing that a report by architects Robertson and Hindmarsh, for Heritage NSW, provided: ‘A second study challenging the plan to demolish the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo has added to pressure mounting on the Minns government to step in and halt the $500 million redevelopment.
The Powerhouse Museum was named as an example of the state’s best-built heritage of the last quarter of the twentieth century, alongside 33 other buildings likely to be of state heritage significance in the report by architects Robertson & Hindmarsh. The report was commissioned to provide Heritage NSW with expert guidance about the comparative value of the museum’s modern extensions that were left off the heritage list in 2020 and other buildings including schools and office towers of the period.
The study’s findings add weight to the work of eminent heritage architect Alan Croker, who found the modern extension deserved to be conserved and protected…The Robertson & Hindmarsh report rated the Powerhouse on a shortlist of buildings deemed of architectural or design merit. Two of three appendixes are missing from the publicly available copy of the report in Heritage NSW’s digital library. But the Herald can disclose that the missing documents for the Powerhouse quote the museum complex as historically and architecturally significant for its reuse of existing industrial buildings in “one of Sydney’s largest and more successful architectural adaptions”.
… As one of the few remaining legacies of the former Wran government, Croker says he wants to be able to complete his draft conservation plan. “In order to protect its important values, whilst still allowing change, it is essential that no further works or changes be done on the site that could threaten or compromise these values until an appropriate and comprehensive set of conservation policies and guidelines for change are in place,” he said.
Architect of the 1988 adaption, Lionel Glendenning says the new plans effectively reduce the museum to the brick shell of the former power station, as if the Powerhouse Museum had never existed. He has urged heritage listing for the entire site and estimated the government could save taxpayers $250 million if it limited the scope of redevelopment and concentrated on re¬opening shuttered exhibition spaces, reversing unsympathetic alterations, completing overdue maintenance, and opening entry to the Goods Line.’…Heritage listing for the entire museum’s site was not supported in 2020. It was held that though the Wran building was innovative for its adaptive reuse of the site, it impacted the visibility and legibility of the state heritage-listed buildings within the site, including the former Power House buildings, and the Ultimo Post Office. (But PHM notes that the new proposed design ‘blocks completely any view of the Power House and takes over all of the Harris Street frontage including the forecourt – a brick box looking over Harris Street and the historic Vernon Post Office.’ ) Read more Here: or Here: SMH Second report casts doubt on Powerhouse demolition 3 May 2023

27 April, 2023
Sydney Powerhouse ‘a half-empty neglected mess’ amid redevelopment, museum staff claim
Kelly Burke reports in the Guardian that:  ‘Staff and former board members at Sydney’s Powerhouse allege the museum’s collections have been neglected and put at risk of damage, as Australia’s flagship science and technology museum undergoes a controversial $500m conversion into a commercially driven creative arts and events space.
Guardian Australia has spoken to multiple members of staff who have have shared their concerns that the upkeep on the historic buildings in Ultimo appears to have been neglected and the quality of programming downgraded in order to smooth the way for its conversion into what the previous New South Wales government touted as a “creative industries precinct”.
In addition, staff, former board members and volunteers at the museum have alleged that objects in the museum had been placed at risk during major modifications to exhibition spaces and at parties and events held at the site, and that unrectified leaks in the building had threatened exhibits….
One former Powerhouse board member told the Guardian the museum had been reduced to “a half empty neglected mess”, while a written statement from the museum board’s former long-serving president, Nick Pappas, accused the former state government of conducting “a miserable land-grab under the guise of supporting the cultural needs of western Sydney”, resulting in the “unjustified and catastrophic destruction of a beloved and award-winning public edifice and cultural institution”.
In coming weeks, the majority of Powerhouse staff will be relocated from the Ultimo site to the institution’s storage facility at Castle Hill while a new Powerhouse museum is built in Parramatta – a $915m project scheduled for completion in 2025.
Yesterday, the Guardian revealed heritage architect Alan Croker’s allegations that the former NSW government had “buried” his company’s work on a conservation management plan (CMP) for the Ultimo museum after it found the entire site should be heritage listed.
Such a finding would have prevented the government’s plans to demolish at least one-third of the museum’s existing buildings and significantly modify others….
Dr Lindsay Sharp, who served as founding director of the Powerhouse in the 1980s before going on to become the director of the UK’s sprawling network of science museums, said he was astounded by photos he had seen of parties held at the Ultimo site.
“You’re looking at absolutely irreplaceable, iconic objects,” he said. “Of course there is a way of opening up exhibits for the public to get up close to, but it has to be done in a professional way. As a museum director, as a museum professional, you just don’t believe what you’re looking at here.”
The cavernous transport hall where the Catalina seaplane is housed was gutted in mid-2021, with most of the museum’s extensive transport collection – including an early 20th-century Bleriot monoplane, a 1904 motorcycle, a 1939 Chevrolet, a Victorian boneshaker bicycle and an 18th-century sedan chair – now removed.
Staff also shared photos of large glass and steel display cases being dismantled with angle grinders while prized exhibits, such as the fragile Bleriot, were left uncovered and risked exposure to industrial dust, which has the potential to damage machine parts and corrode surfaces.’ Read more Here; or Here Guardian Kelly Burke 27 April

27 April, 2023
Powerhouse Museum ‘Hidden report puts $500m project under a cloud’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that: ‘A $500 million redevelopment of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo is under a cloud after a long-hidden report surfaced that recommended state heritage listing of parts of the museum now slated for demolition later this year.
Arts minister John Graham has called for the government arts agency to provide him with a copy of the draft report by heritage consultant Alan Croker, whose firm’s contract ended shortly before he could officially deliver his final draft.
Croker found significant parts of the 1988 museum extensions deserved conservation and protection. Croker’s draft conservation management plan shows the site was of historical and exceptional cultural significance for its collection of 19th-century historic buildings on the site of the first power station constructed for Sydney’s electric tram network, and its later adaption in 1988 into a museum precinct. These findings were not included in the planning documents used to justify the redevelopment of the Ultimo museum for a new main entrance, reoriented to the Goods Line and new public square, rooftop gardens and multistorey annex running the length of Harris Street across its forecourt. The “renewal” plans are now being finalised by the winning architect team, Architectus, Durbach Block Jaggers Architects, Tyrrell Studio, Youssofzay + Hart, Finding Infinity and Arup.
The plans require the demolition of the arched galleria constructed when the former power station was converted into Australia’s iconic science, applied arts and technology museums. Croker’s firm Design 5 rates the galleria that references the Garden Palace, which burnt to the ground in 1882 and housed the museum’s foundation collection, as being of exceptional significance; the half-arched building on Harris Street, less so.
Croker’s contract was terminated by Create NSW days before finalising the report in April last year that confirmed the “Powerhouse Museum in its setting reaches the threshold for state significance”.
A spokesperson for Create NSW characterised the work of Design 5 as research and said the contract was ended on March 28, 2022, due to missed project deadlines.”Any inference that the contract was terminated due to the content of the research is false,” they said…Croker said he presented an initial draft in December 2021 to Powerhouse executives and staff for formal comment, and his contract was ended abruptly without ever receiving that response. Current design plans, he said, were based on an “incomplete understanding of the importance of the buildings and the museum on the Powerhouse site”. Graham said he had raised questions about “a second CMP” on the Ultimo Renewal project in Budget Estimates in September. “I have now begun being briefed on the matter,” he said. “I have requested the relevant documents be delivered to my office.” The nature of the contract, the content of the work, and motivations for ending it are expected to be carefully examined by his office. “I have also asked for advice as to what documents can be released publicly,” he said. Read more Here; or Here  SMH Linda Morris Hidden report 27 April

26 April, 2023
Revealed: the ‘buried’ Powerhouse Museum report that could have stopped $500m redevelopment
Kelly Burke writes in the Guardian, that Alan Croker, ‘A prominent heritage architect alleges the NSW government terminated his contract and hired another company after he advised that the Ultimo site should be heritage listed. A heritage architect hired by the previous New South Wales government to consult on major redevelopments at Sydney’s Powerhouse museum is alleging that his research was buried. He alleges this was because it would have scuppered controversial plans to demolish much of the beloved Sydney institution.
Alan Croker, who has previously consulted on architectural landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House, told Guardian Australia his company, Design 5, drafted a conservation management plan (CMP)for the heritage significance of the Ultimo site in October 2021.
However, his recommendation that the entire site be heritage listed threatened $500m plans to turn the Powerhouse into a commercially-oriented fashion and design hub. The final report from a second company was published under then premier Dominic Perrottet in mid-2022. It meant the government could demolish most or all of what was constructed at the Powerhouse in the 1980s, when the former power station was converted into Australia’s largest science and technology museum….
Croker believes his CMP, a draft of which was handed to the government in April 2022, ended up “buried somewhere” because its findings were “not what the powers that be wanted to know”. His findings would have laid the groundwork to expand the heritage listing to the Ultimo site in its entirety, as per the recommendation of the National Trust. “It’s time somebody told the truth about what happened,” Croker told the Guardian. “This ongoing silence is not right.”…
Croker said communication with Create NSW stalled soon after he presented his findings in December 2021. He alleges that a series of public consultations, which were to be included in his report, were initially delayed, while requests for feedback to enable him and his staff to proceed to the next stage were ignored.” The silence from the Powerhouse Museum and the government became increasingly loud,” Croker said.
… Before it was elected in March, Labor promised to “save” the Ultimo Powerhouse and end the secrecy still shrouding many of the plans for the site. The new arts minister, John Graham, attributed the lack of transparency to the previous government’s “obsession with commercialisation and privatisation”. “We are going to be a lot more public about what’s going on there … it’s got to be a museum, that’s not up for negotiation,” Graham said three days before the March election. On Tuesday the minister said the allegations raised were concerning. “I’ve asked for advice [from various departments] on which of these documents can be made public,” he said.’ Read more Here; or Here Guardian Croker report buried 26 April

21 April, 2023
‘Crisis in our museums reaches far and wide’
Also as: ‘Sydney Powerhouse and APY Lands reveal crisis in our cultural sector’
Henry Ergas writes in The Australian, that the ‘destruction of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum highlights everything that’s wrong with our cultural institutions’, saying: ‘… there is an urgent need for a proper review of the strategy, governance and future of our major cultural institutions. Nothing more starkly highlights the problems than the fate of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum which, until not so long ago, ranked among the world’s greatest museums of the applied arts and sciences.
Now, eight years after the state’s LNP government triggered an endless series of abrupt policy moves and reversals by announcing that it intended to shut the Powerhouse’s Ultimo site, the museum’s treasures have largely been placed into storage – with several priceless items, including the Bleriot monoplane, which is the oldest historical aircraft in Australia, being severely damaged in the process.
Meanwhile, the very idea of having a museum of applied arts and sciences seems to have been surreptitiously jettisoned in favour of what can be described only as a cross between yet another contemporary arts centre, a fashion venue and a glitzy entertainment mall. There have been, for sure, moments of comic relief. It was, for example, heartening to hear the then arts minister, Ben Franklin, echo Andy Warhol’s prediction, made back in 1975, that eventually “all museums will become department stores” by stating that the Powerhouse’s new “core” would be a “precinct (showcasing) fashion, design, photography, film, broadcasting and First Nations”. “Gone are the days when museums and galleries are big rooms filled with glass cabinets,” asserted Franklin, who has clearly not wasted any time in the world’s leading scientific museums; and gone with them, it seems, is any mention of science and technology in an institution whose governing legislation is called the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Act.
As for what is to come … somewhat unusually for the head of an institution that holds, in trust for the public, an extraordinary collection of historical objects, the hip CEO boasts of her willingness to “ignore the weight of history, language and architecture”. Ignore them she certainly has. Although the data is shrouded in secrecy, it appears that since January 2019, when Havilah came on board, the number of expert conservators has fallen by two-thirds; for the first time in decades, the museum lacks a specialist curator for engineering and transport; as for educational staff, whose tours were among the museum’s great attractions, their numbers have plummeted from 24 to three. Slashed too is exhibition space. The misnamed “renewal” of the complex at Ultimo – which amounts to a demolition – seems likely to halve the display area, while entirely gutting the site’s state of the art storage facilities. Nor is that loss offset by the new site at Parramatta which, despite its imposing size, cannot host or store large, museum quality, objects and exhibitions. As a result, what was a depot in Sydney’s outer suburbs is being “repurposed” into the Powerhouse Castle Hill that will hold – and occasionally exhibit – the collection’s magnificent transport and engineering objects at a site where visitor numbers are a minute fraction of those at Ultimo. All that is, of course, being done at Pharaonic cost – in the order of $1.5bn – although a sixth of that amount would have sufficed to upgrade the Ultimo complex, retaining, rather than destroying, the integrity of its Sulman award-winning building, which was specifically designed to display the Powerhouse’s works. Little wonder the cost-benefit appraisal justifying the massive outlays conveniently overlooked that option, which was the least costly and least harmful …
Topping off those creative efforts, which could have landed private sector accountants into the soup, the latest forecast claims the renovated Powerhouse will generate more commercial revenue each year than the National Gallery of Victoria, which is Australia’s most popular museum. That forecast is entirely fanciful; but what it reflects is a strategy of converting the Powerhouse into a function space and shopping centre, where the collection that has been meticulously built up since 1880 merely provides unusual adornments and striking accoutrements.
There are, nonetheless, some of us who cling to the view the Greeks and Romans held that the sciences are among the highest of the muses. …The founders of the Powerhouse understood that; infused with the spirit of the Enlightenment, they believed that truth and humanity were companions on knowledge’s endless frontier. And its founders also understood that enthusing tomorrow’s Australians with the lure of discovery was crucial to this country’s future. The institution they built, spanning all of “the useful arts”, was designed to promote that endeavour. Now it is being reduced to a parody of everything it stands for, with even the term museum being stripped from its branding.
It may be that this vandalism is an extreme case …But that it is being allowed to happen speaks to a crisis of cultural purpose, direction and governance. Our muses are ill; so too are many of our great museums. Unless they are cured, the harm will spread – and a wasteland of the Australian mind will spread with it.’  Read more Here: The Australian – Henry Ergas 21 Apr 2023 : See also over 300 comments following the article Here: Comments Ergas article 22 April 2023

April 15-16, 2023
Mission not accomplished’
Relevant to the circumstances of the Powerhouse Museum, Christopher Allen writes in The Australian about current issues in galleries and museums, that ‘We should not be content to leave our organs of collective memory to people who have forsaken the original purpose of these institutions.’ He continues, regarding national institutions, but also relevant to state institutions, that: ‘The federal government has at last announced much-needed emergency grants to avert disaster, but this does nothing to solve longer-term problems that arise from inadequate funding, institutional mismanagement, or frequently some combination of the two. Thus the enforcement of so-called “efficiency dividends” seems like a perverse approach to funding, and yet it has not prevented the proliferation of bureaucracy and what the anthropologist David Graeber has called “bullshit jobs”, too often at the cost of curatorial positions and expertise. These meaningless positions, concerned with “engagement” or “corporate development” and so on – which should be the director’s job – are also a response to government’s ill-conceived priorities (“key performance indicators”). The emphasis on visitor numbers in galleries, for example, can lead to populist programming and gimmicks to attract crowds at any cost. In all of this we seem to have drifted a long way from the original purpose of galleries and museums in particular…But returning more particularly to museums and galleries, it seems that we have rather lost sight of the purpose of these institutions. Too often they behave as though their mission was to provide a form of entertainment, which explains the populist bias towards fashion and design as well as the desperate chasing of trends in contemporary art. At the same time, they seem driven to impose their social ideologies on exhibitions, on programming and perhaps most of all on the permanent collections and displays. But neither populist pandering nor ideological indoctrination is the true mission of public museums and art galleries. Their primary duty, as places of communal memory and reflection, is to collect, conserve, research and exhibit works of art, cultural documents, and historical or natural artefacts. Exhibitions should be engaging, welldesigned and appealing, but they should not be populist; and they should be open to new readings and alternative perspectives, but they should offer these as possibilities rather than attempting to impose them as dogma… I already mentioned the way that curatorial expertise has been sacrificed for bullshit jobs, and this goes all the way to the top, and helps explain the weakness of our public gallery directors. Most of these people know little about art and are visibly more concerned with politics, fashion, money and ideological self-positioning than with the serious cultural role that they should be playing …The question, however, is whether we are content to leave our most important cultural institutions, our organs of collective memory as suggested above, to people like this. Reform will not be easy, because so many functionaries will cling to their positions until they retire, but it could start with conscious change at the level of boards and management. Otherwise, one may well ask why governments should be expected to increase funding for dysfunctional organisations.’ Read More Here:  The Australian Christopher Allen 15 April 2023

10 April, 2023
‘Forget the bridge and Bondi Beach: Culture at heart of new tourism plan’
Also as:  ‘Culture, not scenery, is NSW tourism’s new hot spot’
Linda Morris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, on the new Labor Government’s proposals for cultural organisations. ‘Sydney’s musicians, galleries, museums, restaurants and theatres will be at the forefront of a new national and global tourism rebrand as the Minns government takes its lead from federal Labor and commits to “bringing cultural vibrancy back to NSW”. The state’s tourism pitch to international and interstate visitors will shift focus from the icons of the harbour, Bondi Beach and Sydney Opera House to experience-based tourism under the watch of incoming Arts and Tourism Minister John Graham…NSW will also get its own arts and cultural policy by year’s end, … with Graham declaring it one of his biggest priorities.
She notes in particular: ‘Graham has also flagged changes in priorities to the Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta and Ultimo, as Labor takes charge of the controversial museum project eight years after former Premier Mike Baird first took the idea to relocate the Ultimo museum to voters. That decision was overturned in the face of public protests, with the Powerhouse to now operate across the two campuses.
The $915 million Parramatta Powerhouse will be given a new name when the Minns government opens the building in the next two years. It will likely drop the use of the word Powerhouse altogether, so it can forge a separate identity from its sister museum. “We want Parramatta to grow with its own identity, its own place, its own name over time,” Graham said.
Labor will also abandon an unpopular split between fashion and design at Ultimo, and science and technology at Parramatta. It has not committed to the detail of the Coalition’s $500 million redevelopment at Ultimo, now in its design phase, which calls for the demolition of the museum’s 1988-built atrium extension to the heritage-listed buildings of the Ultimo Power Station and the old post office. “I’m very conscious [Powerhouse Ultimo] is a big part of the Wran story,” he said. “[Former NSW Premier] Neville Wran supported the arts and that institution and I’m conscious the redevelopment is controversial and has been kept secret for eight years. “We are going to be a lot more public about what’s going on there, what’s planned and I want to invite the public in on the conversation. I want a vibrant museum that is evolving over time, it’s got to be a museum, that’s not up for negotiation. Read more here,  or Here:  SMH 10 April Labor cultural policy

 28/29 March, 2023
‘… Minns’ interim ministry swears in’ (28 March) and
‘Long time for Labor but they swear they’ll avoid the snags’ (29 March)
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Michael Koziel wrote about the swearing-in of ministers to office in the new Government. While counting is still taking place in some seats, he identified the ministers, and included comments made by the NSW Governor Margaret Beazley. As well, he noted:
‘Making brief comments to reporters outside, the 47th premier acknowledged votes were still being counted and said his cabinet knew there was a huge responsibility on their shoulders. ‘‘We don’t know the final composition of the next parliament, but my team and I are ready to hit the ground running, and we can’t wait for those responsibilities of office,’’ Minns said. The full Minns ministry will be selected in the coming days.  Read here: or Here: Ministry 29 March

29 March, 2023
‘ALP behind in key seats as hopes of majority fade’
In  the Sydney Morning Herald, as the COUNTCONTINUES, Matt Wade and Lucy Cormack, acknowledge that:
‘The Minns government’s hopes of forming a majority have faded as NSW Labor fell behind in the count for several crucial seats, reinforcing the role a historically large crossbench will play in parliament. Labor was ahead in 46 seats late yesterday, including the electorate of Ryde where it has a slender lead, but the newly elected government is trailing in a handful of electorates that it will need if it is to pass legislation without the support of the crossbench. A total of 47 seats is needed for a majority. As the count walked back Saturday’s early calls of a majority Labor government after 12 years in the political wilderness, Premier Chris Minns said he was still confident of landing 46 or 47 seats, insisting no deals had been made with the incoming crossbench.
‘‘We have had fruitful discussions with the crossbench, consistent with the principle that we took to the election that we wouldn’t be horse-trading on policy deals,’’ he said. ‘‘There hasn’t been and that’s consistent with my promise at the election.’’ Read more pge 4: or here: SMH 29 March

29 March, 2023
‘Chris Minns sworn in as NSW premier as Labor majority appears more unlikely after election’
Tamsin Rose writes in The Guardian, that: ‘Party remains two seats short of governing in its own right as three crossbenchers promise supply. Labor is unlikely to form majority government in New South Wales, after three further seats were called for the Liberals on Tuesday. The party is expected to lose in other tight races in the coming days. Failing to reach 47 seats could impact Chris Minns’s agenda, and he may need to work with crossbenchers to govern. While election analysts, including the ABC’s Antony Green, said otherwise, the newly sworn-in premier remained confident he would be able to form a majority or fall just one seat shy.
“We have had fruitful discussions with the crossbench … consistent with the principle that we took into the election that we would not be horse-trading,” Minns said on Tuesday. Read more, or Here:  Guardian 29 March

25-27 March, 2023
Results of NSW State Government election
From a very early stage in polling counts, and with many more votes to be counted, it was clear that the NSW Labor Party had won the election. Many continuing reports were provided along the way… These include:

25 March, 2023 (updated 27 March)
‘Minns to be next NSW premier after voters savage Liberals’
Alexandra Smith writes in the Sydney Morning Herald ‘Chris Minns will be the next premier of NSW after voters savaged the Liberal Party in seats across Sydney, paving the way for Labor to govern in its own right for the first time in 12 years.’ Read here, or  SMH 25-27 March

25 March, updated 26 March 2023
As it happened: NSW election results 2023 as Chris Minns defeats Dominic Perrottet to become next NSW premier
In ‘live updates’ Michael Kozier and Billie Elder record the progress of the election and evolving results in the NSW electorates. Read here.

27 March, 2023
‘From enigma to premier: How Chris Minns and Labor won the election’
Alexandra Smith identifies in the Sydney Morning Herald some of the perceived turning points in election issues. Read here.   Or here:  SMH 27 March, 2023 NSW Election

26 March, 2023
‘The people who will make up the next government’
Christopher Harris reports in the Sydney Morning Herald, that incoming Premier ‘Chris Minns has indicated that he will keep the same front bench he took to the election. These are the Labor personalities likely to make up the team.’ Among them is John Graham, who had spoken supportively about the Powerhouse Museum on 22 March (see earlier report):
‘John Graham is expected to be Minister for Roads as well as the Arts when the Minns ministry is sworn in. He has been a member of the NSW upper house since 2016. Graham grew up in government housing in Albury, moved to Newcastle and graduated from Newcastle High before completing a bachelor of economics at the University of Sydney. Before joining parliament, he worked in the higher education sector, was assistant general secretary for the NSW Labor Party and was deputy chief of staff to former NSW premier Nathan Rees. He was a vocal critic of the previous government’s lockout laws. He is married with two children.’ Read all here. 

26 March, 2023
‘Comments on Museum issues for the new government, including the Powerhouse Museum’
In his regular newsletter, arts journalist John McDonald comments on a number of issues facing the incoming Labor government in NSW. Among them he notes:
‘A few days out from the election – and much to my surprise – the Labor Party made the bold announcement that it would put a halt to the Powerhouse debacle. … Labor has a huge task ahead if it means to make good on its Powerhouse commitment. First, it must halt the extravagant, inappropriate makeover plans for the building in Ultimo, and channel some of the money into intelligent maintenance and renovation.
The ghastly edifice in Parramatta which is well on its way to being built, must be cut loose from the Powerhouse, and given a new name, perhaps in honour of David Borger, who worked so hard to keep this disastrous project going when nobody else in Parramatta wanted it. (“Dave’s White Elephant” has a nice ring). Once again, money might be sensibly redeployed in giving Parramatta a proper art gallery, which is what it asked for in the first place. The final indignity is that those ungrateful Parramatta voters – who obviously don’t read the SMH – punished the Coalition in the election.
In relation to the Powerhouse there are dozens of things that need to be stopped, and dozens more that need to be done. You can read all about it at the PHM Alliance website. One thing that’s going to be both important and tricky, is to clean up the administration – meaning a complacent, supine top brass and trustees. Over the past few months we’ve watched the Powerhouse dump the word “museum” from its title and go headlong into contemporary art and fashion – abandoning everything that constitutes its unique historical identity. Along with the MCA and Sydney Modern, do we need another contemporary art museum?
One of the nastiest rumours was that the curators were going to be shunted off to Castle Hill, which would have meant about three hours daily travel for most of them. There’s also much blather about “decolonising the museum” – a modish term that should set off alarm bells whenever it is heard, as it serves as a guarantee of ideological narrowness, the closing down of debate, and the stupefaction of audiences.
I’m not suggesting that everyone associated with all those utterly irresponsible and foolish schemes promulgated under layers of secrecy and spin should be removed. They will simply have to change their tune and learn to kiss a new set of arses. Can they manage a 180 degree turnaround, with pike? If Labor follows through on its promises it’s a huge tribute to the tireless folk at the PHM Alliance, who never gave up hope over almost a decade of conflict with an arrogant and brutal government hell-bent on destroying a unique part of Australia’s cultural heritage. Medals should be awarded.’ Read all here.  John McDonald 26 March 

22 March, 2023
NSW Labor announces ‘Only Labor will save The Powerhouse Museum’
Shadow Minister for the Arts, John Graham, with Skye Tito, Labor candidate for Sydney and Philippa Scott, Labor candidate for Balmain, spoke to a large group of Save the Powerhouse, Powerhouse Museum Alliance, North Parramatta Residents Group and other supporters on the forecourt of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. They had circulated their plans for properly saving and renewing the Museum in Ultimo which included:
‘NSW Labor supports The Powerhouse Museum. We want a museum of the highest excellence at the Ultimo site which has a clear and distinct identity and which builds on its traditional focus on science, engineering, transport, the technical (and decorative) arts and education…. The NSW Parliament Select Committee on the management of the Powerhouse Museum has revealed the shroud of secrecy that the NSW Government has sought to apply across the operations of The Powerhouse Museum for the past 12 years. NSW Labor remains concerned about the focus on event rather than museum spaces in the Government’s plans. This reflects the Government’s obsession with commercialisation and privatisation. A NSW Labor government will release key details of the plans for the Ultimo and Parramatta sites that until now have been kept secret.’ As well, it notes: ‘NSW Labor champions major investment in the arts and culture in western Sydney and we acknowledge the value of the major investment in physical infrastructure that has taken place.  The Powerhouse Parramatta deserves its own identity and name and to develop in relationship with its specific context.’ For full document Read here, with photos of rally: Labor media release 22 March 23

3 March, 2023
‘PHM “Renewal” timeline – contradictions and Backflips’
Save the Powerhouse reported in email and on their Facebook page, about the inconsistencies of the government planning process and ‘consultation’. They write, about recent consultation sessions:
‘Even if we’ve become used to the irregularity and secretive nature of the planning process for the so-called Powerhouse Museum “renewal”, the recent chain of events almost defies belief!
The process began conventionally back in December 2021, when a Concept Proposal (Stage 1) State Significant (ie considered specially “important” to the State) Development Application was submitted to the Planning Department by Infrastructure NSW  Read here.  This was then placed on Public Exhibition for several weeks in June and July 2022, a design competition was subsequently conducted, and a winner announced.(July-Dec). Nothing unusual there, and all within the “rules.” But this month, on:
Tuesday 21 February – Stage 1 (Concept Proposal): the Response to Submissions, Assessment, Recommendation and Determination were all completed in a single day even though 88% of the 107 submissions received OBJECTED to the Project!  Read here.
Monday 27 February (only 6 days later) – Stage 2 (Detailed Design)  (Read here) the SEARs step was completed and the EIS step started and
Friday 3 March (4 days later): pre-election caretaker mode started when all NSW Government action is frozen –but not the public service which continues normally!
This sudden frenzy of activity, just before the start of the caretaker period is dangerous because it could open the way to irreversible decisions (such as signing unbreakable contracts) just before or immediately after the election.’
After reporting on questions asked, they concluded: ‘…according to our own observations and reliable reports, not more than a total of 20 people came to the entire consultation series despite a massive publicity campaign (full page newspaper ads, postcards and even door knocking) marking one more PR disaster and waste of public money, and providing yet another reason to choose a better option at the ballot box on March 25!’ Read here: Save the P Contradictions and backflips

As well, the Powerhouse Museum Alliance’s summary of Key Requirements to Save the Powerhouse Museum, was among papers handed out at the sessions. Read here: PMA Key Requirements to Save the PHM Jan 2023

29 February, 2023
Re the ‘Approval; ‘Campaign to Save Powerhouse Museum: urgent action’
Writing in his Bulletin 83 about ‘Australia’s major museum of arts and sciences in Sydney’s most evocative heritage building’, advocate Tom Lockley argues that current: ‘consultation and information sessions may be used to justify a Government application for a detailed Significant Development Application (SSDA). An SSDA essentially allows the state Government complete control over the project. This means that the Government might even make more irrevocable decisions about the fate of the museum before the ‘caretaker’ election period begins.’
He provides summaries of both the Government’s proposals for demolition and development on the Ultimo site, and well-argued alternatives. Also listed are links to relevant documents and reminders to take part in current ‘consultations’, including:

  • If possible, attend the final ‘consultation and information’ at the Powerhouse Ultimo (500 Harris Street, Ultimo), Thursday 2 March: 5 pm-7 pm. It would be good if we could have as many people as possible attending at 6 pm.
  • and / or email :
  • If you take part in the online survey be sure to use the comments spaces to make your opinion clear, and we strongly recommend that you also send an email to outlining your comments.
    Read More Here:  Campaign Bulletin No 83

23 February 2023
‘Minister has Approved the application for the Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal’

In an email circulated by the Department of Planning and Environment, it was announced that:  ‘The Department is writing to inform you that the Minister has Approved the application for the Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal (SSD-32927319 ).’
It adds that ‘Further information can be accessed from the Major Projects Website.
Read more:  23 February 2023 Govt Approval
See also:
 Links to Major Projects Website, relating to the Powerhouse Museum:
Assessment requirements: for Powerhouse Museum
Planning portal for Powerhouse Museum
Takes you to Request for View to read Scoping Report:

Associated with, and following this announcement, many concerns are still widely expressed about the purpose, rationale, process and conclusions.
Read informed documents on our PHM website here:  PHM Being Destroyed not Saved: Call to Action.

23 February, 2023
‘It’s Official: Powerhouse Ultimo’s Multimillion-Dollar Redesign Has Been Granted Approval’
Ben Hansen, writing in Concrete Playground, reported that the ‘Powerhouse Museum Ultimo is set to look a whole lot different thanks to a $500-million makeover — and the plan for the revamp has just been given the green light. The approval for the concept that won 2022’s design competition is the latest step towards kicking off construction on the project’
Powerhouse Trust President Peter Collins AM KC said: “We will now continue to consult with the community and stakeholders as we refine the final design of the museum and ensure the community provides input into the renewal during the next phase of the planning process.”
Hansen adds, following up earlier opportunities for ‘consultation’, ‘If you’d like to have your say, you can participate in the consultation on the design by completing the online survey before Friday, March 10.’   Read more.

23 February, 2023
Comments on  ‘the Approval’
Save the Powerhouse group commented on Facebook that: ‘Following our complaints to the Department of Planning (our letters of 11th and 18th of February) and our publication of the 19th of February (“Is the NSW Government above the law?”), the Department has announced this morning that their SSD SSD-32927319 – Stage 1 Concept Proposal). This represents an advance of 3 steps of the DA process (Complete Assessment, Recommendation and Determination) in a single day and attempts to justify, after the event, the “Prepare for SEARs” current status of SSD-54612708 – Stage 2 Detailed Application…/powerhouse…
It does not justify however the current “Community Consultations” which started yesterday 22nd of February and will end on the 2nd of March, the day before the Caretaker Period starts.
Community consultation must only take place during the Exhibition period, when the public has been fully informed about the project by the SEARs, the EIS and the documents exhibited. All of these are still to be produced. Given that all planning decisions are legally frozen during a Caretaker Period this announcement may be disappointing but is certainly not the end of the fight to Save the Powerhouse. This will continue until the 25th of March – your opportunity to change the NSW Government. Read more: Save the Powerhouse comments on Approval

12 February, 2023
‘What’s in a name? Powerhouse drops the m-word from its title’
In the SunHerald, Linda Morris reports that ‘The word “museum” has been dropped from the Powerhouse Museum’s title in all external publicity under a $1.5 million-plus rebranding campaign and revamp of its visual identity. The shortening of its title on advertising banners and online is an attempt to reposition one of Australia’s oldest cultural museums as it prepares to operate across three sites: Parramatta, Castle Hill and Ultimo…But critics say the rebrand is an expensive waste of taxpayers’ dollars and proof that the museum now sees itself as an arts centre and presentation venue, not an institution committed to presenting, interpreting and conserving its priceless collection. Museum consultant and former Powerhouse trustee Kylie Winkworth said the word museum had been defenestrated from the organisation and building, “along with the membership program, family audiences and troublesome volunteers”.’
Morris also records that: ‘Melbourne design team Studio Ongarato was commissioned at a cost of $764,000 to develop the new visual identity for the Powerhouse [and that] Separately, digital agency Paper Giant has been engaged, at a cost of $800,000, to conceptualise, design and build a new website “that will provide global access to the digitised Powerhouse Collection and is a digital platform to showcase the practice of the museum, its exhibitions, programs, content and archives”. Separately, digital agency Paper Giant has been engaged, at a cost of $800,000, to conceptualise, design and build a new website “that will provide global access to the digitised Powerhouse Collection and is a digital platform to showcase the practice of the museum, its exhibitions, programs, content and archives”… The museum is now to be known across its three sites as Powerhouse Castle Hill, Powerhouse Parramatta and Powerhouse Ultimo. In the official staff style guide, a copy of which has been seen by this masthead, all references to the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) have been retired from internal communications and external publicity.’
But …’ Winkworth said the contortions in language and semantics go back to management’s failure to develop a compelling concept and brand for its Parramatta development, which a parliamentary inquiry described as more entertainment centre than museum. “It won’t be called a museum because it won’t actually be a museum.” ‘ Read here:   or  Here: ‘What’s in a name’ SunHerald 12 Feb

 February 2023
Invitation: ‘Meet the candidates’ in Ultimo, 15 February
The Pyrmont Action/Friends of Ultimo groups, supported by Save the Powerhouse, invited people to meet local government candidates and discuss local issues, including saving the Powerhouse Museum. They said:
‘You are invited to the Pyrmont Action/Friends of Ultimo “MEET the CANDIDATES” Forum:
– WHEN: Wednesday 15 February, 2023, 6:30pm-8:00pm
– WHERE: The Station, 58 Bowman St, Pyrmont
Hear from the Sydney and Balmain electoral candidates
Make YOUR voice heard in the community Q&A session.
Read Pyrmont Action/Friends of Ultimo’s ELECTION MANIFESTO  or: 230117 Election Manifesto
 In the Manifesto they note: ‘that the priority item in the Manifesto is to “restore the Ultimo Powerhouse Museum to its traditional status as Australia’s leading Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences” which is a major community concern, by cancelling current plans to turn it into a glorified function centre focused on fashion – for half the cost.
Others are the Pyrmont Peninsula Place Strategy (PPPA), the Blackwattle Bay overdevelopment and school and public transport issues in our local area.’ Read the invitation here: Pyrmont meeting 15 Feb 2023 

7 February, 2023
Radio Interview by Andy Park with Lisa Havilah, PHM
On ABC Radio National, Andy Park interviews CEO of Powerhouse Museum (MAAS) Lisa Havilah, and about her background, and current plans for the ‘renewal’ of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, and plans for Parramatta. He introduced her saying “coming up in a moment you will hear from one of the most forward-thinking arts leaders in the country who is tackling the sometimes controversial project of renewing and expanding the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney Lisa Havilah…Well in one form or another the Powerhouse in Sydney has been an important institution for more than a century showcasing the best of science and the applied arts and making its mark on a generation of children just like me, who visited there on their excursions and walked amongst the giant steam engines and wonderful forms of transport in the transport hall. But it also became a political hot topic several years ago when the state government announced the Museum would be moving to Parramatta. Now that decision was later changed. In Parramatta will now be a second home for the Powerhouse with a major renewal also beginning for their original space in Ultimo. So what does it take to guide an institution through a time of change like that?’
A circulated transcription of the interview prompted many very critical comments about the both the questions and the responses. Read a transcription of the interview here, followed by a number of anonymous  critiques of the proposal and arguments for continuing in what is seen as a very destructive way. Read interview and comments here: ABC interview with Havilah

12 February, 2023
Save the Powerhouse group circulated their comments about the ABC interview (above), saying:
‘MAAS CEO Lisa Havilah’s remarks in an ABC interview …on February 7 were greeted by many with disbelief and derision. Introduced by RN’s fawning Andy Park as “one of the most forward thinking arts leaders in the country” (according to whom?) “…who is tackling the… project of renewing and expanding the Powerhouse Museum”… With her focus clearly on “Powerhouse Parramatta” , she firmly defended the NSW government’s flawed “investment decision to establish Powerhouse Parramatta right in the heart (of) western Sydney “ because “Sydney is shifting socially and culturally…(so that) we really see this investment decision by NSW government as a responsibility to rethink what Museums should be…for their communities  and we really see this new approach to Museums now as community…knowledge holders.”
Save the Powerhouse identified a large number of critical issues associated with the rationale and procedures associated with the project. Read here:MAAS CEO fails to sell Renewal policy

24 – 26 January, 2023
Powerhouse Museum Ultimo: Community Consultation
Sydney Morning Herald, 24, 25, 26 January 2023, and Daily Telegraph, January 26.
The Powerhouse Museum published full-page advertisements on these days, saying of the ‘renewal of the Powerhouse’, that ‘the project has moved to its next stage in the planning process’. See advertisement here:  PHM consultation advert. 24-16 Jan 2023
A digital Find Out More link opened up to the Museum’s website, which provided information about proposals and developments in Parramatta and Castle Hill, as well as the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. Open here.
Considerable public concern is now being expressed, as over eight years of lobbying, community consultation has clearly not been taken seriously, and nor have the recommendations in two long-term government inquiries. Despite the decision in 2020 to ‘save’ the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, while also proceeding with a new museum/entertainment centre in Parramatta, and transferring all the collection (and soon the museum staff) to Castle Hill, there remains NO CLEARLY DEFINED future for the Ultimo site.
So a major question remains: what is the consultation about? There is no public documentation of what was provided to the architects as content and purpose of the museum, and no rationale for destroying the award-winning buildings of 1988. Despite being a museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, it seems to be narrowed down to ‘fashion and design’, with a token technology presence. It is also noted that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is for  ‘the Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal of a Creative Industries Precinct integrated into the operations of the Powerhouse Museum’, not the Powerhouse Museum, ie: ‘The renewal will see Powerhouse Ultimo deliver a programming focus on design and fashion.  One of the objectives is to enable and support development of the NSW creative industries….’
It is also not clear exactly what the very essential working area of the adjacent Harwood Building will contain, and it could also be rationalised that it is likely to be taken over by the neighbouring University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
The website includes two key paragraphs:
‘In preparation for the lodgement of the second stage State Significant Development Application (SSDA2) to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), community consultation on the Powerhouse Ultimo design will commence in February 2023. We invite the public to join us at public information sessions held at Powerhouse Ultimo where project team members will be present to discuss plans and respond to community questions and feedback. Sign up below to receive updates, including links to register for upcoming sessions.’
As well: ‘Foundation University Partner, the University of Technology Sydney, has committed $10 million to Powerhouse Ultimo, a significant investment that will help boldly reimagine the Ultimo precinct, realised through the landmark $480–500 million renewal of Powerhouse Ultimo. The institutions will work together to foster a dynamic creative industry ecology and expand the international profile of Australian design and fashion both nationally and internationally.’
So – is this more public box-ticking? Will they listen to anything we have to say: Go to the website here, for links to ‘more information or feedback content’.

7 February,  2023:
This was then followed on 7 February, by a further NSW Govt Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal advertisement seeking Indigenous consultation, saying:
‘Curio Projects (heritage consultants), on behalf of infrastructure NSW (the proponent), are commencing Aboriginal community consultation for the proposed Powerhouse Ultimo Renewal at the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, NSW (see map below). We are writing to you in order `to compile a list of Aboriginal people who may have an interest in proposed project area and hold knowledge relevant to determining the cultural significance of Aboriginal objects and/or places’. Read here: Indigenous Consultation Ad 7 Feb 2023

1 January, 2023
In a widely circulated message, Save the Powerhouse community group; reminds us that:
‘Branch Secretary Brian Yao reports that at its December branch meeting, the Pyrmont/Ultimo branch of the Labor Party voted unanimously for the reversal of the proposed “renewal” of the Powerhouse Museum.
The motion, proposed by Bill d’Anthes, “calls on the Labor Leader of the Opposition, Chris Minns and the Shadow Arts Minister, John Graham to pledge that when elected to Government (in March 2023) to review and reverse the decisions leading to the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo being dismantled…”, that “the Powerhouse at Ultimo must be retained in its current form as a Museum of Technological Sciences and Engineering…” and that the Powerhouse collection currently in storage in Castle Hill should be completely returned.
Wishing all Powerhouse supporters everywhere a happy New Year and renewed determination to continue the battle!’