Heritage Perth is history

HERITAGE PERTH will be history at the end of this month when its funding from Perth council runs out.

The independent advocacy group runs the award-winning Perth Heritage Weekends, but a council review estimated it could save almost half the $300,000 it funds the organisation each year by doing the work itself.

Commissioners will next week vote on a recommendation by council staff to not renew Heritage Perth’s funding past June 30, and to embark on a “transition plan” so it can be “voluntarily cancelled”.

This year’s Heritage Perth Weekend has been cancelled, although the council has scheduled one for 2020.

Funding

The city’s report states there’s “limited evidence of Heritage Perth Inc’s ability to raise funds or matched funding” outside of what they get from the city, but there’s no mention of the large sums the body has received from Lotterywest, including $50,000 last year.

The Heritage Perth board, which includes city commissioners Gaye McMath and Andrew Hammond, has “resolved not to continue” in the face of the budget cut.

City staff say a voluntary “handover plan” is “an indication of [Heritage Perth’s] faith in the city’s ability to continue the good work of Heritage Perth”.

The Voice asked Heritage Perth director Leigh Barrett if she was happy with the situation, but we didn’t hear back.

From 2006-2017 it was run by Richard Offen – an irrepressible heritage buff with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Perth – and critics are sceptical if the organisation will have the same joie de vivre if it loses its independence.

Councillors Jemma Green and Reece Harley were on the Heritage Perth board before Perth council was suspended.

Cr Harley says while the council might keep some form of the heritage weekends going, ultimately the city would lose out.

“It won’t offer advocacy because that’s not the role of council officers. It might continue to offer events related to heritage themes but there are absolutely no guarantees.

“The difference with an independent incorporated association established for the sole purpose of celebrating the city’s heritage is stark.

“The city’s reputation on heritage matters has improved vastly thanks to the work of Heritage Perth and Richard Offen over the last 10 years. I hope heritage issues don’t fall by the wayside with the dissolution of Heritage Perth”.

Commissioners had voted to stop funding Heritage Perth in June last year, but granted it a stay of execution by doling out funding for another year while it completed a “heritage strategy” for council.

by DAVID BELL

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