Media Statement from the Gunnedah Shire Council

Following reports on Thursday, August 20, that the Gunnedah Shire Council had voted to reduce its financial contribution to Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society (DMMS) by $3,000 — a reduction of 15 per cent and also proposed to cut the society's lease of a council building to one year with a two-year renewal option, the council released the following Media Statement yesterday:

Gunnedah Shire Council have been involved in a number of discussions with DMMS ahead of the society’s lease and funding agreements, renewal – including a recent meeting with the Mayor, General Manager, Staff and members of the society.

The Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society is a valued organisation in Gunnedah and beyond, and is the recipient of one of the most significant financial contributions awarded to an arts organisation in the Gunnedah Shire.

It is generally Council's policy not to comment on contractual arrangements, but due to the media interest surrounding this matter solicited by DMMS, Gunnedah Shire Council would like to clarify that funding for the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society has not been significantly reduced. It will remain at the same level, excluding CPI increases.

It is part of any local government body's responsibility to make financial decisions that deliver value for money for its community, and as such Council regularly reviews its budgetary decisions to ensure there is a strong return on investment on behalf of the community. The community benefit study which will be undertaken, is part of the review process.

Community groups who receive benefits such as - in the case of the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society - a nominal rent, must demonstrate satisfactory performance and utilisation of premises. The society has been offered a further two-year renewal option providing all requirements are met.

This is a decision made during uncertain economic times where Council's budget must stretch to aiding businesses and community organisations struggling from the impacts of drought and COVID-19. There are a large number of beneficial community organisations who also need the support of Council and we need to be assured there is ‘enough to go around.’

We would like to offer a number of clarifications below

· The Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society lease was due for renewal, hence the reason for the review of the lease.

· Councillors believe the society may be concerned Council is reacting to derogatory comments towards the community and its members made by the Society’s president on national radio on June 21st 2020. This is not the case.

· We have reviewed the society’s financial position and believe this will not significantly impact them given the sizeable amount of funding they receive from a number of sources including a Federal Government Contribution and contribution from local organisations.

Gunnedah Shire Council remains a proud supporter of the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society and Poetry Awards, contributing substantial funds towards its ongoing operation, and hopes to remain in strong partnership with the society into the future.

Image: The Mackellar Centre is a council-owned building on the corner of Abbott and South streets.