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ANAM v Garrett: pyrrhic victory?

The board of the Australian National Academy of Music sets the record straight

ANAM v Garrett: pyrrhic victory?

By Diana Simmonds

THOUGHT you might like to read the entire media release/explanation of events from the point of view of the ANAM. Perhaps we could then have a discussion about whether Peter Garrett ever wonders what the hell he's doing in politics; and indeed, whether he sleeps well. We can also await his response to ANAM's position statement.

Here it is:

In response to recent news reports and in the interests of all at the Australian National Academy of Music and more importantly our wonderful young musicians, the Board of ANAM takes this opportunity to reply and clarify the matters of corporate governance in relation to the recent Federal Government's decision to axe present funding and in particular to the Ministers statement that 'ANAM was given the opportunity to meet the requirements of the funding agreement, but was unable to do so.'

The Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) Board is composed of eight distinguished business and arts figures, who have served the interests of the Academy for varying periods over many years thus stabilizing the structure of the operations of the Academy and overseeing the conclusive appointment of its present Artistic Director, Brett Dean and our brilliant team of teachers.

The Board members occupy high profile positions: Mr. John Haddad, AO (Chairman, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Board Member of the Victoria Major Events company), Mr. Kim Williams (CEO, Foxtel), Mr. William Conn OAM (Former Chair, Foundation for Young Australia, former CEO Potters Partners) Professor Barry Sheehan (former Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Melbourne and an inaugural Board Member of the Academy), Mr. David Maloney, (Partner Allens Arthur Robinson), Professor Peter Roennfeldt (Director, Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University), Ms. Sophie Rowell,(Leader Australian String Quartet) and Mr. Robert Clarke (Managing Director).

Since the appointment of Mr. Peter Garrett to his portfolio in 2007 the Board has made consistent and assiduous attempts to work effectively with the Federal Government to ensure ANAM position and its future.

In December 2007, the Board of ANAM welcomed the new Arts Minister and sought a meeting with him to know his views in relation to the Academy and its future- no response was received.

On the 23rd May (five months after the initial request) John Haddad Brett Dean and Bob Clarke met with the Minister and members of his Department in Melbourne.

No mention was made at that meeting of any of the points contained in the Ministers letter of the 25th August 2008.

The Chairman and the Minister met again on Saturday 26th July 2008. No substantial matters of concerns were raised by the Minister and his support of the Academy appeared positive.

There was no further contact from the Minister or the Department until receipt of the letter of 25 August 2008 setting out a list of requirements that needed to be fulfilled if ANAM was to receive future funding. From the outset it appeared to both the Board and the Artistic Management of ANAM that these new requests could not be met within such a short time frame.

The letter was of such concern that the Board arranged a further meeting with the Minister which took place at his office in Sydney on Friday 26th September 2008 at 9am.

In attendance - Kim Williams, Bill Conn, John Haddad and Mark Taylor from the Department.

The Minister did not offer any further advice and repeated his instruction that ANAM respond to his letter by the 31st October 2008.

In order to comply with the very tight time frame demanded the Board needed to establish a close working relationship with the department and recommended the establishment of an Implementation Working Group comprising the Department, the Academy and Melbourne University - this was agreed by the Department.

The Ministers letter of the 26th August 2008 included but was not restricted to the following: an amended bursary policy, a commitment to diversify income, a review of the framework of the constitution and a succession plan of ANAM Board members to satisfy geographical diversity.

The Board rejects the inference that it only met twice to address the concerns of the Ministers letter, the reality is that a great deal of work was done in meetings and by email so that each of the points set out in the letter had the complete input from Management and each Board Member.

On the 3rd October the detailed response was forwarded to the Minister ; however had the Board been advised that he did not agree with the formation of a working committee the response may have been entirely different.

No further information was received from the Minister until his letter of the 22nd October advising that funds would only be provided to the 31st December, effectively closing the Academy.

As widely reported, this letter came as a shock to the Academy and in the reply letter to the Minister on the 27th October the Board said "all of us at the Academy were shocked and saddened by your letter."

It should be noted that, while important, none of the instructions contained in the Ministers letter either individually or collectively could be considered so vital that the future of the Academy hinged on their implementation, and none of them had been raised before as of such vital importance for the Minister to close the Academy.

The Board would like to sincerely thank all the friends of the Academy for voicing their support during the past weeks. In particular to recognize the professional and creative excellence of the Academy team and pay tribute to the splendid way they are completing this years program during this difficult time.

The Victorian Government for its encouragement and understanding of the important contribution the Academy makes to the music environment in Australia and in particular the entertainment provided by the students during the hundreds of performances at South Melbourne Town Hall throughout 2008.

Also, the University of Melbourne for its close cooperation with the Academy in fulfilling the original aspiration of the Federal Government's Creative Nation initiative.

The history of the closure of the Australian National Academy of Music will forever remain a sad period in the development of music excellence in Australia.

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