Aboriginal site threat

ADVOCATE, Libby Bingham – 24 Jan 2013

THE future of Devonport tourist attraction Tiagarra Museum and Cultural Centre at Mersey Bluff will be discussed next week.
The Six Rivers Aboriginal Corporation has called a meeting with the Devonport City Council for Thursday.
Since Tiagarra and SRAC were placed under  voluntary review last year, Tiagarra has been closed to the public, and opened only by appointment.
The review came after the registrar of Indigenous Corporations appointed special administrators at SRAC in July last year  after receiving a request from the former directors.
Danny and Natasha Keep, of Hobart-based firm Business of Community Pty Ltd, were sent in to take over for a period of months.
Mr Keep said the new SRAC board and general manager were appointed at the end of the year to take over again.
Mr Keep said it was clear the business model at Tiagarra had been flawed for a long time and was not sustainable, particularly during winter months.
He said as a tourism venture, Tiagarra had failed to deliver a commercial return for many years.
He said the future for Tiagarra may lie more with harnessing the growing interest from school groups as well as being part of the Devonport City Council tourist trail.
“Tiagarra is incredibly important and unique, in Tasmania particularly, as a celebration of Aboriginal culture and history, not just as a museum,” Mr Keep said.
He said Aboriginal studies now formed part of the secondary school curriculum and there was an opportunity to build partnerships with education institutions and other stakeholders to establish Tiagarra as a local centre for Aboriginal culture.
New SRAC general manager Michelle Pearce said the aim was to work with the council regarding Tiagarra.
“It is absolutely significant to the local Aboriginal community and the Tasmanian community,” she said.
Devonport City Council acting general manager Evonne Ewins said the council was keen to meet over Tiagarra’s future.
Tiagarra is on Crown land, which is leased by the council  and sublet to SRAC.
Mrs Ewins said the council maintained the building.
Three years ago, due to an $80,000 loss, Tiagarra was temporarily closed with the then Mersey Leven Aboriginal Corporation (now SRAC) citing a major review of operations as the reason.
 When Tiagarra reopened, $40,000 in state government funding was used to restock the centre and undertake renovations.
 A $4000 federal heritage grant paid for a consultant to assess the Tiagarra collection.
Mrs Ewins said the council had been meeting SRAC through the Tiagarra special committee because it was “very interested” in Tiagarra’s future.
In 2010 the council signed a partnership agreement with SRAC to work together on Tiagarra.
Mrs Ewins said the council received feedback about Tiagarra being closed over the summer from tourists who were interested in visiting Aboriginal sites.