$400,000 for the Jewish Museum of Australia

May 12, 2010 Agencies
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The Victorian Brumby Labor Government has announced it will provide $400,000 to the Jewish Museum of Australia to create a new gallery and an online learning portal.

Rebecca Forgasz, Lady Cowen, Sir Zelman Cowen's sister June Helmer, Tony Lupton and Minister Peter Batchelor

Arts Minister Peter Batchelor joined Member for Prahran Tony Lupton to announce the funding for the St Kilda-based museum.

“These are two exciting and transformative projects for the Jewish Museum of Australia and that’s why we are pleased to contribute $400,000,” Mr Batchelor said.

“The Zelman Cowen Gallery will provide a dynamic new centrepiece for the Museum, telling the Australian Jewish story, from the Jewish convicts who arrived on the First Fleet to the present day.

“It is a fitting tribute to Sir Zelman Cowen, a great Victorian, a pre-eminent figure in Australian Jewish life and a founding Patron of the Museum.

“The new online learning portal will make the Museum’s extensive collection and education resources accessible to a broader audience.”

Mr Batchelor said the Jewish Museum of Australia was one of the country’s leading community museums.

“The Jewish Museum of Australia is widely regarded as a leader in its field – one of the top community museums in the country and a respected and innovative cultural centre,” he said.

“It is recognised for its quality exhibitions, its dynamic education and public programs and its championing of diversity, cultural understanding and harmony.

“The redevelopment comes at an exciting time for the Jewish Museum with the appointment of a new Director, Rebecca Forgasz, who brings a fresh vision to the Museum.”

Mr Lupton, who worked closely with the museum to secure the funding, said the Brumby Labor Government had a long and proud history of support for, and partnership with, the Jewish Museum of Australia.

“This kind of ambitious project requires the commitment and support of a wide range of partners,” Mr Lupton said.

“The Jewish Museum has done a magnificent job raising funds, particularly during a time of global financial uncertainty, and the community has responded generously. It’s only appropriate that the Victorian Government plays its part too.

“We recognise the importance of celebrating and preserving the rich and diverse stories of Victoria’s communities, and promoting understanding between the many cultures and faiths that make up our State – and I commend the Jewish Museum for leading the way.

New Museum director, Rebecca Forgasz said: “The State Government’s significant contribution will enable work to move forward on curating, designing and then building the Zelman Cowen Gallery of Australian Jewish History. The Australian Jewish History Gallery is in many ways the heart of the Jewish Museum of Australia. It is what makes our Museum unique – it is the only Jewish museum in the world dedicated specifically to telling the story of Jewish settlement in Australia.

Despite the fact that Jews have been in Australia since the beginnings of white settlement, and have contributed enormously to Australian society, it is a story that is not well known – even within the Jewish community.

One of our principal aims in building the new Gallery is to create a place that will be a hub for education and discussion around issues of community, identity and civics in a multicultural society. We want to be a magnet for school students by presenting the Jewish story in new ways that are engaging and participatory, as well as relevant to current curricula. To that end we will be working to develop specific design elements and pathways that will enable children to access the exhibits and information in the gallery – something that is new for us but is very much seen as the way for Museums to move forward and develop new audiences.

“We were very sad that Sir Zelman was not well enough to be with us today, but delighted that Lady Cowen was able to represent him, along with his sister, Mrs June Helmer, one of the Founders of the Jewish Museum, and his daughter Kate Cowen.”

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