VANGUARD - Expressing the viewpoint of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)
For National Independence and Socialism •


Museum workers lead action to save SA Museum

On Saturday 13 April about 2,000 people held a rally outside Parliament House on busy North Terrace Adelaide to protest about proposed cuts to jobs and research at the South Australian Museum. 

The rally was organized by the Museum workers and their union the Public Service Association and concerned members of the SA community who had made donations, both large and small to the Museum.

In the week leading up to the rally, concerned supporters of, and donors to, the Museum paid for a full page advertisement in the local Adelaide Advertiser headed "An Open Letter: The Future of SA's Museum Is At Risk"

The letter started,

"Dear Premier Malinauskas,

Capturing 165 years of continuous research and tens of thousands of years of First Nations’ cultural knowledge, the collections housed at the South Australian Museum are not only one of the most significant cultural assets in SA, they are among the most significant in the world".

A newly appointed head of the Museum, CEO David Gaimster, and the Museum Executive and Board decided to ram through a "restructure" of the Museum at the expense of research carried out by highly skilled scientists and researchers in the natural sciences including zoology, mineralogy and palaeontology and natural history generally.

Over the last three decades of economic rationalism, the Museum staff had been reduced to just 73 people and the SA Museum, a state government Statutory Authority, was trying to get rid of the top 27 research positions.

During this period, the SA Museum and other SA Government icons next to the Museum, (Library and Art Gallery) had experienced outsourcing of support services such as cleaning, catering, security, maintenance and research assistants. In some areas of the Museum, scientists and researchers relied on the goodwill of volunteers to complete their work.
One speaker at the rally said that the loss of the 27 individual research staff equated to the loss of 474 years of expertise and knowledge.

Research into and management of biodiversity is threatened with cuts to scientific staff. Since British colonial invasion, more than 300 species have been lost. Studies of collections as to Museum assists in species adaption and survival.

Speakers at the rally included Ngarrindjeri/Kaurna Elder Major "Moogy" Sumner who expressed concern that the cuts to research would be a loss for First Nations communities. With only one position in the restructure reserved for Indigenous expertise, it was possible that the cultural knowledge of First Nations women could be lost. Lack of funding would bring an end to the repatriation of the thousands of First Peoples’ remains from collections from the UK and other European countries and the USA. 

The SA Museum Act 1976 states that a core function of the Museum is " to carry out, promote, research into matters of science and historical interest, and to accumulate objects and specimens of scientific or historical interest".

One of the placards at the rally summed up just how the proposed restructure by calling the Museum ATM standing for "Automatic Tellya Museum 

Key In Pin
Select Research
Press Enter
Insufficient Funds"

with a picture of a small child trying to make sense of it all. 

The Public Service Association Secretary spoke on behalf of all unionists employed at the Museum and informed the rally participants that the Museum had not even complied with its own Enterprise Agreement in trying to ram through cutbacks to staff at a time when what was actually needed was an increase in funding of both Museum staff and resources.

The SA Government has been caught out. There is plenty of money for supporting the US war machine and football events and stadiums, all at the expense of areas of society that the Government thinks will not get it re-elected for another 4-year term of office. Adelaide Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith, a former Chair of the SA Museum Board and Minister of Education in the Rann Labor Government, said that multiple State government had stagnated funding of the museum. She said there had been no real funding for over 20 years. Cultural institutions, she said, had been neglected by a bread and circuses culture.

More broadly, the struggle of the Museum workers is another example of how most of the surplus value created by the working class as a whole ends up in the hands of the ruling capitalist class rather than being used for the benefit of the working class and those unable to work, such as children, unemployed, and the aged.