Annual Report for 2015
This has certainly been a challenging year, but one that I sincerely believe has advanced the affairs of the Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute (BMI). My report will outline the new initiatives and highlights as well as acknowledging the support the BMI receives from the community including members, volunteers, philanthropists, sponsors and hirers of our venues.
Following the Strategic Planning Day held in April 2014 a number of follow up sessions were held with Wayne Strong leading the discussion. From these, each committee developed Action Plans that will drive future development of the BMI. I want to thank Andrew Miller for his work on leading this process internally.
In February, members of the Executive met with CEO of the City of Ballarat, Anthony Schink to share concerns in regard to the future of the BMI. At the time Mr Schinck was very supportive and he stated that he was confident that there were many ways the BMI and the City of Ballarat could work together. I am confident that the partnership we seek with the City of Ballarat will come to fruition.
In April the Executive met with Ms Sharon Knight MLA Member for Wendouree and at another meeting met with Mr Joshua Morris MLC, Member for Western Victoria. These meetings were helpful and the BMI has secured a $150,000 grant from Victoria’s Heritage Restoration Fund. The BMI still seeks $150,000 to complete the restoration and much needed maintenance work on the structure of the building of the façade.
Mark Schultz, Director of Governance Today came and spoke to the Board twice about the need to establish robust practices for good governance, risk management and succession planning. His insightful presentations were taken on board and I am confident that future Boards of Management will refer to his sound judgement.
We are now operating in a very different climate where the Board of Management has responsibilities towards its staff, volunteers, members and hirers as well as the general public to ensure their safety in the workplace and venues. To meet our legal obligations the Board has engaged William Whiteside from Sustainable HR Consulting, a Human Resources company, specialising in Risk Management to produce policies that cover HR practices, Occupational Health and Safety, Good Governance and Code of Conduct.
Following advice that the BMI was successful in gaining a grant of $50,000 from the Williamson Foundation, the BMI, using its own recurrent funds to supplement the cost, appointed SJ Weirs to install the Finishing Kitchen. It is now waiting final fitting of appliances. Sincere thanks to Andrew Miller, Vice President of Building and Board Member for his diligence and focused commitment to this project.
Over the past 12 months the BMI has developed its new website www.ballaratmi.org.au. The website reflects this new era for the BMI, focussing on its place within Ballarat’s arts and historical community. The design of the website will enable its use on PC, tablet and smartphone. The website has been designed by Jamie Phillips from Digital Outlaw and Mark Castle from Launch Interactive. They have been generous with their time and sponsored the site. I’d also like to thank Fiona Watson, Board Member and Vice President of Marketing for the many hours she also has committed to this project by writing the content for the site. Roisin Kelly-Goldsmith will be managing the site on a weekly basis and working on the newsletter to ensure that members of the BMI and the general public are kept up to date with news and events at the BMI.
Staff and volunteers
We have a small group of people who work at the BMI and a larger group of volunteers who support them. Rosemary McInerney in the lending library continues to provide an excellent service with the support and knowledge of volunteers who love to help on a regular basis. Kath Blackwell having given over ten years’ service, retired as a part time library assistant in November 2014 but we are very pleased that she has chosen to continue to volunteer in the library. During Rosemary’s annual leave we were fortunate to secure the services of qualified Librarian Veronica Moriarty who, during her short time with us, brought many added skills to the library desk.
Ross Furness, Venue Manager along with Denis Best, promotes and maintains our spaces for hire. Bookings have increased but there is always a need to hire/use our spaces more so we encourage the community to support and promote the BMI for functions.
Our volunteers and tour guides continue to bring their many skills, time and friendship to the BMI and for that we are very appreciative. There is a group of volunteers who assiduously catalogue our Heritage Collection. We hope in the future that this information will be available to a wider audience.
The BMI was very fortunate to receive a generous donation of $57,000 from a Philanthropic Foundation that wishes to remain anonymous. This money will fund acoustic enhancements in the Minerva Space, improving the quality of the sound for both film and when electronic musical equipment is used.
The Board was indeed grateful to receive the following donations:
$5,000 from Haymes Family Foundation (2014)
$6,000 from Haymes Family Foundation (2015)
$2,000 annual donation from Val Newman
$2,000 Rotary Club of Ballarat West
$1,000 Rotary Club of Wendouree
These donations assist greatly with the BMI planning for its future.
As was reported earlier, last year the Williamson Foundation gave a grant of $50,000 to fund the refurbishment of the Finishing Kitchen.
The BMI Building Fund is a Deductible Gift Recipient authorised by the Australian Taxation Office.
Events throughout the year
A Night To Remember
During the year The Friends of Minerva have organised some excellent cultural events to raise money for the BMI. Margi Orr, one of Australia’s leading Soprano singers, accompanied by Yolette Stewart, entertained an appreciative audience in the Minerva Space with songs from Scotland, France, Germany and Austria.
Breeches Bible from 1585 re-discovered
The discovery of the 1585 Breeches Bible made headline news for the BMI worldwide. This significant and very rare book, rediscovered by volunteer Marion Blythman, makes it the oldest book in the collection. Marion was studiously working in the Heritage Reading Room away amongst the collection and came across an unusual book she had not seen before. Volunteer Roger Burrows, specialising in research and antiquarian books said that the Breeches Bible is important, as it was the first mechanically printed and mass-produced bible in English. It certainly was a significant day for the BMI. Well done to the sharp eyes of Marion.
Magic of the Harp
Friends of Minerva presented an afternoon of delightful, world-class musical entertainment with The Magic of the Harp. Three of the world’s finest harpists, Maria Christina Cleary, Catriona McKay and Mary Doumany were joined by the brilliant Scottish fiddler Chris Stout. This concert was a great success, and I must thank our sponsors Digital Outlaw and FRP Printing, who donated the cost of production and printing of the program and tickets.
The Greek Party
The BMI has developed an excellent relationship with the Art Gallery of Ballarat and the The Greek Party was a combined function between the two. The party, held in November, was a celebration of the Eikon Exhibition. The Minerva Space was decked out with the blue and white flags of Greece, with food supplied by Ballarat’s own Vicky Marios and the music by Sotiris Sotiriou. The laughter and enjoyment was palpable and the talk was of when would the next dance take place.
The Twilight Talks aim to highlight the interesting and sometimes provocative lives of Ballarat’s community and during my year as President we have had a wonderful group of guest speakers. Importantly, the Twilight Talks are in keeping with the philosophy of the BMI, to educate, stimulate and raise awareness of one of Australia’s oldest Mechanics’ Institutes. An average of between 40 – 50 people have enjoyed the talks and hospitality.
I would like to thank the local media for its support of the BMI activities. In particular I would like to thank Alan Marini at The Miner, The Courier, Dominic Brine at ABC Radio and Helen Bath at Voice FM. The amount of publicity that we enjoy is fantastic. I would like to thank Fiona Watson for her expertise and support in attracting local media attention to support BMI activities. The reality is that we cannot afford to promote our events to the level that we have received from our local media outlets. A sincere thank you.
Committees of the Board of Management
Andrew Miller, BoM, Chair, Ann Cato, John Blythman, Graham Gooding, Ross Furness, Venue Manager Community representatives Rex Bridges, Robin Nuttall, Damien Orriss, Ken Wright
Projects included installation of Finishing Kitchen, seeking funding for restoration of façade, successful funding for acoustic improvement to Minerva Space, development of Risk Management Plan and ongoing maintenance of building.
Michael Morrow, BoM, Chair, Graham Gooding, Grantley Hastings, Phil Roberts Jan Ross Community Representatives Clive Brooks Robert Hook. A budget planning session took place during the year that gave Board members a better understanding of the financial constraints of managing the BMI. The BMI expects to continue to improve its operating results over the next financial year, based on this year’s finances and the continued growth in the hire of venues.
Friends of Minerva
Ann Cato Convenor, members Kathryn Cash, Janice Haase, Jenny Haymes, Geraldine Roberts, Jan Ross. Projects included Margi Orr concert and the Magic of the Harp and planning for upcoming events.
John Blythman, BoM, Chair, Ann Cato, Rosemary McInerney, Library Community Representatives Marion Blythman, Rex Bridges, Wilma Bridges, Clive Brooks, Roger Burrows, Pat Foster Judy Peters, Danni Stonehouse. Progress of partnership with Federation University. Heritage Library to be made more available to the public. Cataloguing of Heritage Library collection continues, with the hope that the database will be available for greater public access.
David Haymes, BoM, Chair (Leave of Absence), Fiona Watson, BoM, Chair, Jenny Haymes, Michael Unwin, Ross Furness, BMI Venue Manager, Community Representatives Lisa Hayden, Geraldine Roberts, Amy Tsilemanis
Projects included development of new website, production of bookmarks to coincide with Heritage week, seeking sponsorship of major events, promotion through local media of events and Twilight Talks.
Michael Morrow is stepping down from the Board of Management, not to distance himself from the BMI activities but rather to focus on establishing the BMI Foundation. I thank Michael for his astute guidance and look forward to his support as we guide the BMI onto a more secure financial footing.
There are a number of other Board members who are either not standing for re-election or who have chosen to resign. I want to thank you all for your support during my year: John Blythman, Jan Ross, Michael Unwin and Fiona Watson. I sincerely believe that together the Board has established some important frameworks that needed to be initiated that will help the BMI to function as an historic icon in a contemporary setting.
I thank all the Board and members of the Executive for the support I have received during the year. I wish the incoming President and Board my good wishes as they take the BMI into a new future.