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Ms Tara Cheyne MLA
Minister for the Arts
ACT Legislative Assembly

Dear Minister

We are pleased to present to you the 2019–20 Annual Report of the Cultural Facilities Corporation (CFC), which has been prepared in accordance with Section 7(2) of the Annual Reports (Government Agencies) Act 2004, other applicable legislation, and the Annual Report Directions.

We certify that information in this Annual Report, and information provided by the CFC for whole of government reporting, are honest and accurate, and that all material information on the operations of the CFC has been included for the period 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020.  We also certify that fraud prevention has been managed in accordance with the Public Sector Management Standards 2016.

Section 13 of the Annual Reports (Government Agencies) Act 2004 normally requires the presentation of annual reports to the ACT Legislative Assembly within 15 weeks after the end of the reporting year.  For 201920 reports, however, an extension of time has been granted under this legislation, to 18 December 2020, in view of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on agency operations. 


201920 was the most challenging year of the CFC’s existence as a result of the successive impacts on its operations of the major bushfire threats and severe smoke haze experienced in Canberra during the summer months, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The CFC took a range of measures in relation to the bushfire threats and smoke haze situation, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its staff, volunteers, visitors and tenants, as well as to protect the collections and places it manages.  These measures included closing sites at times, particularly Lanyon, which was directly in the path of the Orroral Valley Fire but fortunately did not suffer any damage.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and consequent health-related restrictions, had a significant impact on the CFC’s activities from mid-March 2020.  The CFC’s various sites were closed to the public for most, or all, of the final quarter of the 2019-20 year, and normal programming suspended.  Staff were encouraged to work from home where their work functions could be carried out remotely, and measures were put in place to support their health and wellbeing.  Staff members, including the CFC’s large regular casual workforce, continued to be engaged and provided with work, in some cases by placing CFC staff in agencies such as ACT Health that needed resources.  A robust framework was established to manage and report on COVID-19 impacts on the CFC, including through regular meetings of a CFC COVID-19 Crisis Management Group, and regular updates on key developments to the Minister, Board, staff and other stakeholders.

The combined effect of the bushfire threats, severe smoke haze and COVID-19 pandemic led to the organisation failing to achieve most of its 201920 performance targets, and ending the year with a considerably worse than budgeted result, due particularly to a major downturn in theatre revenues.

The challenges of COVID-19 did, however, produce a range of new opportunities, allowing the CFC to innovate rapidly in customer engagement and work practices.  New digital programming included the Canberra Theatre Centre’s CTC@Home initiative, presenting free livestreamed performances by Canberra region artists, while both CMAG and the ACT Historic Places developed new online resources. 

There were many other positive aspects to the 2019–20 year.  A major highlight was Opera Australia’s production West Side Story at the Canberra Theatre.  Other highlights included Bangarra’s 30th Anniversary season and Shakespeare in Love at the Canberra Theatre, and major exhibitions at CMAG, including Activism : forces for change in Canberra and Hi-Vis Futures.  Activities at the ACT Historic Places included Suburban Apparitions | Magic Lanterns at Calthorpes’ House, in conjunction with Enlighten 2020; and an Indigenous program at Lanyon, Fireside Storytelling : Wiradjuri Echoes.  Overall, and despite the year’s challenges, over 290,000 people attended the CFC’s venues and programs in 2019–20.

During the year, the CFC continued to work closely with other ACT Government agencies to plan future directions of the city centre and future cultural facilities in Civic.  Particular areas of focus were the work towards a major new theatre for Canberra and towards a Civic, Arts and Cultural Precinct Plan, and the provision of detailed input into the heritage listing of the Civic Square Precinct.  

In providing this Annual Report to you, we acknowledge that the CFC’s achievements in 2019–20 were due to the efforts of many people.  Firstly we thank our fellow Board members, who provided direction and guidance to the CFC throughout the year.  In December 2019, Virginia Haussegger concluded her six-year term on the Board, making significant contributions through her expertise in communications, her commitment to promoting the role of women, and her personal generosity in supporting the CFC’s work.  In February 2020, we welcomed new Board member, Julian Widdup.  Julian’s strong background in finance and risk management will be a major benefit to the Board.

As Chair and Chief Executive Officer, we are ably supported by the very dedicated staff of the CFC.  This year, we especially appreciated the efforts of staff as they managed through major bushfire threats, smoke haze challenges and the COVID-19 situation, with courage, resilience and skill. 

A series of senior staff changes in 201920 saw Bruce Carmichael retire from the position of Director of the Canberra Theatre Centre and Shane Breynard resign from his role as Director of CMAG.  We congratulate them both for their significant contributions to the CFC.  We welcomed Anna Wong, who joined the senior management team as Director, ACT Historic Places, and Alex Budd as Director of the Canberra Theatre Centre.  We thank Sophie Chessell and Gill Hugonnet for so capably filling the roles of acting Director of CMAG, and acting Director of the Canberra Theatre Centre. 

The CFC benefits from the generosity, assistance and support of many volunteers.  These include the CFC’s three advisory committees.  Other volunteers make a vital contribution to the work of the ACT Historic Places.  We record our gratitude for the contribution made by all our volunteers and advisory committee members during the year. 

Finally, we are pleased to acknowledge the contribution of our principal funding agencies and our many sponsors, donors and supporters.  The CFC receives its primary funding from the ACT Government and, in 201920, we particularly welcomed and appreciated the decision by the ACT Government to provide major additional funding to the CFC in the year ahead, to help manage the impact of COVID-19 on our finances.

Our sponsors and donors again provided generous support.  The CFC was grateful for the extent of donations to CMAG, including monetary donations by private individuals such as longstanding donor Meredith Hinchliffe.  We were fortunate to enjoy the support of many other sponsors and donors, too numerous to mention here but documented in full in this Annual Report.

The efforts and commitment of the CFC’s Board, staff, volunteers, sponsors and supporters continue to be vital as we seek to take a major role in the ACT’s creative recovery from COVID-19, as well as continuing our role of providing cultural leadership, enriching the cultural life of Canberra, and delivering the highest standards of service to the community. 

We commend this Annual Report to you and look forward to working with you in the year ahead.

Yours sincerely

The Hon Richard Refshauge SC
Cultural Facilities Corporation
11 December

Harriet Elvin
Chief Executive Officer
Cultural Facilities Corporation
11 December 2020