Update on the Powerhouse Museum

In 2015 the NSW government announced a decision to relocate the Powerhouse Museum from its purpose-built adaptation of Ultimo’s historic power station to a site at Parramatta in Western Sydney. Since that time this has prompted a continuing level of concern and public debate.

In August 2016, we made a submission to the NSW Parliament’s Inquiry into museums and galleries, which was focused on both the Powerhouse move and the broader landscape of how museums and galleries were faring across NSW. You can find the submission on our website at https://www.museumsaustralia.org.au/sites/default/files/uploaded-content/website-content/SubmissionsPolicies/ma_submission_to_nsw_inquiry_into_museums_and_galleries_14_aug_2016.pdf

We argued that the proposed relocation of the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo to Parramatta required much further consideration as part of a coherent long-term plan for museum and gallery development throughout Sydney and regional NSW. We noted that there was widespread concern about the process to date, and that the move should be put on hold while greater consultation and investigation of options took place – this was to provide the best solutions for both the people of Western Sydney and the Powerhouse Museum in its role as a leading state and international institution. Finally, if the relocation was to proceed, we argued that the NSW government must commit adequate relocation, capital development and ongoing operational funds to enable an exemplary 21st Century cultural facility to thrive.

The NSW Parliamentary inquiry is still underway. The government has carried out more planning for the Powerhouse proposal, including developing a business case that is yet to be made public.  Some additional investments in cultural infrastructure around the state have been made and a new infrastructure plan for the regions is being developed. Meanwhile, the staff at the Powerhouse Museum (one of MGA’s largest members and supporters) continues to work professionally under these circumstances of great uncertainty and public dispute.

Museums Galleries Australia understands that a decision by the state government is imminent.

We stand by our recommendations in the submission, are concerned for the safety and accessibility of the museum collections, and would support more recent proposals for enlarging the cultural infrastructure of the state rather than relocating it. The Smithsonian model of different museums and galleries under the one organisational structure (such as a new purpose-designed museum for Western Sydney and a well-funded Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo) has been suggested by many and has significant support.


Alex Marsden
National Director
16 April 2018

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