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Q&A with Brett Adlington

With more than 25 years experience working within the regional arts and cultural sector, Brett Adlington is now taking on a new role as CEO of Museums and Galleries NSW.

This month, we caught up with Brett to not only congratulate him, but to hear about some of his incredible career highlights and get some insight into what may be lying on the horizon for Brett and our industry as he begins this new venture.

Firstly, congratulations on your appointment as CEO of M&G NSW! What are you most looking forward to about this new role?
Thank you! I think what I am most looking forward to, is being able to take a bigger picture look at our sector – and work with our team to develop strategies to further support museums and galleries across the state. While I have always enjoyed program delivery and looking at new ideas and initiatives to drive audience participation in the gallery – exploring how this fits in to broader policy directives across all levels of government is something that I have always been fascinated by.

You have over 25 years of experience working within the regional arts and cultural sector, with 11 of those being as the Director of Lismore Regional Gallery. What have been your biggest career highlights?
It’s hard to go past overseeing the development of the new gallery for Lismore, which opened late 2017. The opening day for that is etched in to my memory. But what really made me proud is seeing how that facility opened the doors to a much more diverse audience. We had an incredible team there that were so dedicated to ensuring our programs reached across the whole community. We’d been pretty active in ensuring access is front and centre of everything we did and introduced Auslan led tours in 2019 after providing Auslan interpreters at all kid’s activities and most events for the previous 8 years. In fact, at my farewell our Auslan guide told a story of how she came to the gallery one day and her young daughter said, ‘I’m home’. That was a pretty special thing to hear, but also highlights the incredibly valuable work the arts and cultural sector plays in peoples daily lives.

Do you have any new and exciting plans in mind for M&G NSW (that you can share with us, of course) as you prepare take on the role?
Our previous CEO has left the organisation in great shape, but with such a diverse sector – there are always new approaches and ideas to further this. I’m interested in ideas and projects that can speak to both museums and galleries. A great example of this is our Let’s Get Digital initiative, which is funded through the NSW Government’s Rescue and Restart package. The resulting projects come equally from museums, galleries and Aboriginal keeping places.
We’ll also be working alongside the state government to focus attention on continuing to build the capacity of the small museum sector. This sector, which holds a vast amount of the states history, can often be precarious due to its reliance on volunteers. A major project we will be overseeing is Collections & Stories, which will digitise hundreds of these objects, alongside professionally written stories.

What have you enjoyed most about working in the arts and cultural sector in regional communities?
I guess as I alluded to before, there is a strong sense of ownership of regional facilities by the local community. Oftentimes these facilities are one of the few places in which people can gather, and also see their own stories told.
Working in this space ensures that every single thing you do, you have to be mindful of your audience. There are many stakeholders, who each claim a part of your identity – and ignore that at your peril! But I don’t say that to be harsh, it actually ensures that staff are constantly questioning the ‘why’, so that the institution remains relevant to the community. It’s a balance, but quite a wonderful balance really.