I am still caught up with the elation of the 2018 National Conference for Museums and Galleries Australia held in Melbourne last week.  It provided such a wonderful opportunity to connect with colleagues across the country and focus on important projects and initiatives resonating within the sector.

This year we became a part of the North Melbourne city-scape, known for the gritty urban television dramas portrayed across its streets. The conference took place at the Meat Market, an iconic heritage listed building re-imagined as a venue hire space for arts and culture activities. Many of the original cobblestone floors, period fretwork, stone arches and the captivating barrel-vaulted ceiling are still featured and stage lighting is utilised to make the most of this.

There we met to explore the relevance, responsiveness and responsibility – at an individual and collective level – that galleries and museums have towards their communities. Critical dialogues were initiated focusing on the complex contexts, multiple histories, and contested narratives encountered in our various spaces.

Local, regional, remote and international keynote speakers explored issues that provoked new thinking; ideas and initiatives around ways of knowing and ways of being; alternative frameworks for the diverse stories and methodologies in museum work; disruption, innovation and diplomacy, and referred to the role of the museum (and museum staff) as negotiator, translator and provocateur.

We were asked who is absent from our museums and why, and were invited to explore cultural leadership in the context of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. And whereas there was an understanding that a museum can bring people together in a safe place for difficult conversations it is also about a museum being about give and take, activation and engagement to make possible a different level of experience; a lived, personal experience.

Delegates were provided with unique opportunities to experience the cultural work of various organisations, with an impressive range to of tours.

Catering was thoughtfully organised with local social enterprises such as StrEAT and Asylum Seeker Resource Centre providing fantastic food options to delegates. Recycling options worked around all the meals served, with delegates also receiving their own Keep Cup to use during the conference as part of the delegate bag!

A digital app provided up to date information and alerts on all conference related events, presenters and a customised program based on individual delegate bookings. The presenter list and attendee list makes following up the conversations started at the conference easy.

A relatively large number of bursaries were received by WA members, and ensured that we are part of the national conversations.

Conferences are not just a series of conversations after a variety of presentations but much, much more. They are an important reminder to all of the value of this sector and its ability to share stories, knowledge and know-how. What better way than to get together and acknowledge this than in a conference?

My warmest thanks to the organising team, Melbourne and Canberra based, that delivered this great event. See you all in Alice Springs in 2019 for Our People, Our Places, Our Practices.

Soula Veyradier – President, Museums Galleries Australia WA