Reflections on MA 12 – An Australian Perspective, Elizabeth Marsden

Today we have an outside perspective on MA12 by Elizabeth Marsden from Museums Australia.

An Australian perspective.

The conference for me brought out many similarities between the current Australian and New Zealand museum perspectives. The New Zealand convergence experience is an area which many Australian organisations have been watching with a keen interest over the years and is a trend which now occurs more regularly in Australia, especially in regional centres, and we share many of the same issues raised through such amalgamations. In particular I found Hammi Piripi’s presentation on the Te Ahu development an excellent case study and especially appreciated his comment of community ‘partnership rather than consultation’ being the key to success. Remaining relevant was an underlying theme which continued to pop-up. Indeed there appears to be a shared trans-national pattern here, with those museums closely aligned with their local population and government often being the most successful in terms of both relevance and financial stability.

Elizabeth Marsden and Phillipa Tocker

During the panel discussion, Wira Gardiner touched on a future challenge for New Zealand museums – to go beyond biculturalism towards greater multicultural representation. I found this comment particularly interesting as in Australia I feel we are arguably struggling with the reverse: being a multicultural country now seeking a more balanced and authentic representation of our Aboriginal Australians. While massive steps have been made with regards to this in Australia in the past three decades, I do feel our different approach to national identity has possibly slowed indigenous representation in Australian museums and we are now playing catch-up. Possibly the same is true with presenting a multicultural New Zealand?

I left the conference asking myself why there isn’t greater collaboration and conversation between Australian and New Zealand museums. Given we are such close neighbours with an interconnected history I feel there is a lot to be gained through greater involvement with each other’s national museum forums. Each of us excels in our own particular areas, and these represent ideas, experiences and methodologies from which we both could learn, but only if they are brought to the same table.

Elizabeth Marsden
Manager, Museum Accreditation Program, Museums Australia (Victoria)

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