Ordinary Council Meeting – 23 June 2020

Cottesloe’s experienced ‘Art Panel’ wiped out in one fell swoop – and a move away from supporting the artists who are the ‘heart‘ of Sculpture by the Sea.

Plus, one first real step toward Reconciliation, albeit not an entirely inclusive one.

A range of other items were addressed at the last Cottesloe Council meeting for the 2020-21 year, including a Financial Hardship Policy for Covid-19, an approval of Rottnest Channel Swim for 2021, new ‘Rights of Way’ Policy and Strategy for the ongoing hard-sealing of Cottesloe’s historical back lanes.

And, a delay also in the upgrade of the steps & paths down to the Cove surf break – but Council worked hard to ensure this will not delay the work past summer 2021. The delay is due to higher than expected costs, which does seem at odds with last month’s decision to award a similarly high-priced tender for the replacement of a limestone retaining wall and new steps at the Main Beach. I hope Council’s hesitation to do the same thing for one of Cottesloe’s most popular and well known surf breaks does not reflect an undervaluing of surfers and surfing, or that Council prefers to be seen to spend where it’s most noticeable, on the Main Beach.

The alternative Cove options should be presented to Council in August.

“Mia Koorla”

Council approved the name ‘Mia Koorla’, which is Nyoongar for ‘place of native wisteria’, for the new Natures Play Space near the Vlamingh Memorial in South Cottesloe. This name, suggested by Cottesloe Coastcare, is to very much welcomed – however, I was hopeful a more inclusive process of selecting it could be used. This sadly was resisted by Council, due to the opening being imminent – but it begs the question, why wasn’t the naming process begun much earlier, so it could be properly inclusive?

I believe that seeking the input of traditional custodians before we choose a name shows respect, rather than picking a name then consulting on that. It is an important difference: ask first of those who we seek to reconcile with what they would like, or how a process could work.

I am hopeful however the Opening of Mia Koorla in South Cottesloe will be an inclusive, celebratory event that is another small toward Reconciliation in Cottesloe.

Art Panel & Artists

Out of nowhere, a recommendation appeared this month to disband the Art Acquisition Panel, introduce two new art policies not seen by the Panel, and at the same time move away from acquiring a sculpture from Sculpture By The Sea (an event that relies entirely on the largely unpaid work of sculptors and artists for its very success).

The irony of the Art Panel’s dismissal is that it has been one of the most hard working panels or committees, doing substantial work on its own steam. However, since late last year, the Panel’s meeting schedule has been reduced, and then abandoned altogether in February 2020. The reason cited for this and this sacking of the Panel was that the Panel wanted to get too much done with not enough Administrative support – however, the two new policies introduced at the same time (without Panel’s knowledge) had clearly had a significant amount of Administration work done on them. An irony I think may have been lost on some other Councillors – why wipe out a panel solely on the basis that it needs more Administrative support, and in the process commit considerable Administrative support to wiping it out? Instead, this could have been discussed with the Panel to prioritise items. A simple wiping out seems to be incongruous with actually supporting the arts.

In my view, there was not a clear rationale for the Panel being disbanded – but, I note the Panel did recently recommend the acquisition of modestly priced work from 2020 Sculpture By The Sea (within Budget allocations), and a Council majority disagreed with this. So, is there a connection? A Panel, acting clearly within the terms of its Art Policy AND within the Budget allocated to it just 3 weeks earlier, has now swiftly been sacked.

Either way, it is a very sad time for the arts in Cottesloe, in my opinion. At a time when the Federal Covid-19 stimulus for the arts community (first to be impacted, most likely last to recover) seems to fall way short, our Council is dismantling its long-standing and highly experienced Panel, and moving away from valuing artists’ work.

Do Cottesloe’s residents feel that art doesn’t really matter here?

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