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Transcript of launch, north Melbourne: Tarrawarra Museum of Art.

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24 April 2002



Thank you very much Marc. To you and Eva and to other members of the Besen family, to Sir James and Lady Gobbo, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, John Olsen and all the other very distinguished people here associated with the Arts and also with the philanthropic life of Melbourne.

This is a very special gathering, not only by dint of the people who are here but it’s also quite a milestone in the new partnership between the Government and generous Australian individuals who have had a vision over long years about building something which is representative of contemporary Australian artistic achievement, and in the process contributing enormously to our society.

Marc and Eva are examples of the great philanthropic tradition which is found in many parts of our country, but nowhere more so than in the city of Melbourne, because the philanthropic tradition of Melbourne is an example may I say to the rest of the country in so many walks of life. And to you Marc and to Eva, can I say on behalf of a very grateful nation, thank you for what you have contributed in so many ways to our country. You have contributed in the business community, you have contributed in a community sense in defining that word and that concept most broadly as possible, and certainly you have contributed in the Arts.

It is true that some of the changes that we have made to the taxation laws have helped to encourage and develop this new partnership, but you do need willing, generous individuals to make changes like that work. And this is, as I understand it, the first example of a public gallery if I can put it that way, that has been brought forth by that new partnership and it is so therefore a very important occasion. And I hope it is the harbinger of others. And the scale of the contributions already runs into millions of dollars of the contribution and of course your



own massive, in so many senses of that word, collection is something that so many people have spoken to me about and so very widely admired around the Australian artistic community.

I want to join in acknowledging the contribution of the Victorian Government in the refurbishment of this gallery which will be the temporary home. And it does make a very temporary home for the Tarrawarra Museum until the completion of the museum in the Yarra Valley. And I’ve had a look at the scale model and I know many of us will look forward, all of us will look forward very much to the opening of the Museum.

Marc came to this country as a young man and he has in every sense of the word made an enormous impression. He’s been a very successful and widely admired businessman and his wife and their family have contributed so much to our community. And what I want to particularly thank him for today is his recognition from an early stage of the importance of the Arts and most particularly the Visual Arts in defining how we see ourselves and defining Australia to the rest of the world.

We are a country that does well internationally and is seen around the world for many things. We have for a long time been defined around the world as a great sports loving nation and quite properly so. And long may it remain the case. But in more recent decades I think we have also begun to be seen increasingly around the world as a nation that performs above its size, population wise, in so many other fields.

And nowhere is that more apparent than in the Arts, and I regard the artistic achievements of this country and the artistic excellence of this country every bit as importantly as I treasure and value all the sporting prowess and the sporting achievements of this country. A nation for all its people is a nation that honours artists as much as it honours sportsmen. It honours successful businessmen and women as much as it honours other achievers, and also may I say honours its medical scientists and those who contribute so much to the relief of human suffering as it honours others in the community.

But today is an occasion for us to not only formally open this temporary home but also to honour two people who exemplify the finest philanthropic traditions of our country. And the contribution that Marc and Eva and their families have made to that tradition is one that I certainly on behalf of a grateful nation do that. And I thank you for what you have done for Australia, and I have great pleasure in declaring the Tarrawarra Art Museum open.

I know it will be successful and popular in its temporary home and it will in the years ahead become a great regional art museum and it will be a great monument to two very dedicated Australians who have given so much, and also might I meekly say, also a monument to a very successful new partnership between the Australian taxpayer and philanthropic Australian individuals. And long may that partnership flourish and long may the others who will emulate the magnificent example of Marc and Eva Besen.

Thank you.