LGBTIQ museum among ACT government ideas for Parliamentary Triangle
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LGBTIQ museum among ACT government ideas for Parliamentary Triangle

A national LGBTIQ museum and gallery is among ideas the ACT government has raised for an expanded Parliamentary Triangle cultural precinct at a federal inquiry into Canberra's cultural institutions.

The territory government said a centre focused on the stories of LGBTIQ people in Australia was one of several "noticeable absences" among the capital's national museums and galleries, whose revenue and results have drawn the scrutiny of a parliamentary committee inquiry.

An LGBTIQ museum and gallery could receive and expand existing collections, and focus on exhibitions about LGBTIQ arts and culture, the quest for equal civil rights, the AIDS epidemic, and the history of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

The ACT government also proposed museums focused on bushfires, natural history, sport, immigration, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and history as other missing national institutions Canberra could establish.

"There is an opportunity to promote the entire Parliamentary Triangle as a national institution, similar to the way that the National Mall in Washington has a stature of its own," it told the inquiry.

"It would be appropriate for the Australian government to articulate a 30- to 40-year plan for the further development of Australia’s cultural institutions infrastructure, consistent with the expansion and diversity of the Australian story."

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The ACT government met representatives from Smithsonian institutions in Washington DC earlier this year and is pushing for the creation of a "Smithsonian" cultural precinct in the National Capital Authority-administered triangle and its surrounding area.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr on Thursday referred to the ACT's nation-leading "yes" vote in last year’s same-sex marriage postal vote and said Canberra was ideal to host a national LGBTIQ museum and gallery.

He said funding for national institutions sat with the federal government, as Commonwealth assets, but that the territory government could partner with new institutions to bring major exhibitions to the ACT.

The ACT government urged an end to years of budget cuts for Canberra's national museums and galleries, and lashed what it said was a "zero-sum" situation where funding would not increase despite growing need.

"This represents a funding decision process which is unsustainable and will result in long-term loss of organisational capability across the national institutions," it said.

"Funding pressures often also result in institutions shifting responsibilities between themselves and competing for resources out of necessity."

The parliamentary inquiry, announced in March, is investigating how Canberra's museums, galleries and other institutions are increasing their revenue from the private sector and finding their own income.

Many submissions, while championing innovations made at the institutions, have blasted the federal government-imposed efficiency dividends that have led to staff cuts, reductions in exhibitions and outreach to regional Australia.

The National Gallery of Australia has told the committee it is at a crossroads after years of efficiency dividends while the Australian War Memorial said it cannot sustain the policy nor the Coalition government's average staffing level cap.

Doug Dingwall is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service and politics.