Committee aiming for brighter Tiagarra future

ADVOCATE, p.629 Jan 2014

WHETHER  it is open or shut, Devonport ratepayers must fork out $30,000 a year to maintain the Tiagarra Aboriginal Culture Centre and Museum building, which closed its doors to the public in 2012 after operational losses.
However, at least a decision on the future of the nationally significant Aboriginal site and museum has moved a step closer, after a working committee has been formed that includes the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.
Newly appointed Tiagarra working committee chairwoman Alderman Annette Rockliff said a meeting held late last year to determine interest in developing a sustainable model for Tiagarra brought together for the first time the right kind of expertise and clout to possibly facilitate reopening Tiagarra and attract the significant funds it needs.
The meeting included TMAG, Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania, Arts Tasmania, Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation for Education, Aboriginal Education Tasmania, the Department of Economic Tourism and the Arts, Six Rivers Aboriginal Corporation and Devonport City Council.
“It was exciting to bring these groups to the table with all the experience we could possibly need to help take Tiagarra where it needs to go from a cultural, tourist and economic point of view,” Alderman Rockliff said.
Except for school bookings Tiagarra has been closed during two peak tourist seasons so far.
Alderman Rockliff said it hurts Devonport’s tourism reputation if people arrived at Tiagarra and it was shut.
But she was optimistic that with everyone at the table, “we can make some positive steps forward we were not able to make before”.
“The outcome of the meeting was positive and stakeholders all have a strong interest in looking at options for the facility – this has not been the approach before and it opens up new possibilities to be explored,” she said.
A spokeswoman for SRAC said it was not in a position to say anything before  the committee met again next month to start to look at options for Tiagarra.
Devonport Mayor Steve Martin said the interest in developing the Tasmanian Aboriginal story was extremely high across the state and Devonport was in a unique position with what it already had at Tiagarra.
He said Devonport’s Tourism Development Strategy identified two themes that underpinned the Devonport story, being the rich maritime history and the significant Aboriginal story.
Alderman Rockliff said the maritime story had already been told at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre and there was an opportunity to realise at Tiagarra.
The issues facing Tiagarra included:
 - Ageing infrastructure;
 - Council owns the building and leases it to Six Rivers Aboriginal Corporation;
– It’s in the interest of all to determine a way forward as soon as possible;
– Facilities like museums and galleries often do not generate revenue to fund ongoing operations;
 - A future model has to look at where funds can be generated to ensure viability;

At this point SRAC is not in a position to run Tiagarra; and   Tiagarra remains closed while SRAC continues to offer school and group bookings.