Decision made after walkout

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
Bunbury City Council will continue managing and operating Bunbury Regional Art Gallery.
Camera IconBunbury City Council will continue managing and operating Bunbury Regional Art Gallery. Credit: South Western Times

A decision on the management and funding of Bunbury Regional Art Gallery was made with little fanfare this week — a stark contrast to the unprecedented walkout at Bunbury City Council’s meeting last month.

Mayor Gary Brennan was forced to end the last meeting early when tempers flared and Crs Karen Steele, Michelle Steck and Brendan Kelly walked out, dropping numbers below a quorum.

The agenda item — which included recommendations for the council to receive a governance review, for it to continue managing the facility and to consider a foundation to help generate funding — resumed this week where it was cut short last month, with Cr Betty McCleary finishing her closing address.

The three recommendations were put to a vote and all three were passed.

Cr Steele voted against all three recommendations, while councillors Tresslyn Smith and Monique Warnock voted against all but receiving the governance review.

Cr Steck did not attend the meeting and, in a somewhat surprising move Cr Kelly voted in favour of all three.

Cr Kelly told the South Western Times he walked out of the previous meeting in protest of the debate, rather than the decision surrounding the gallery.

He unsuccessfully tried to suspend standing orders at the previous meeting in a bid to allow all councillors to speak for or against the item.

“My concern the previous week was not so much about the decision that would be made eventually, but allowing people to contribute to debate so you can make an informed decision,” Cr Kelly said.

“I conceded there wasn’t any upside about any type of protest if you like. I think that the three recommendations will only lead to a next stage ... if there’s a blocker somewhere along the way, it will emerge.”

A sticking point in the gallery’s future has been funding, with State Government changes meaning the council now has to apply for financial support through a competitive funding model.

The council has received $170,000 a year, but that will end in June.

Mr Brennan said he was “very pleased” a decision had been made and he remained confident in the gallery’s funding future.

“I can’t see the State Government not funding BRAG — it is the most important regional art gallery outside of Perth,” he said.

“Its track record speaks for itself, not only in exhibitions but also the activities that are there.”

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