WA Museum visitors baulk at paying general admission charge from October 10 as free offer ends

Visitors to the new WA Museum will start paying for general admission after its grand opening offer ends, prompting calls to extend the freebie as households struggle with high costs of living and emerge from COVID hibernation.

When construction of the state-of-the-art WA Museum Boola Bardip was declared practically complete in December 2019, Arts Minister David Templeman announced free entry for the first 18 months of operation to celebrate its opening.

The $400 million contemporary complex, which wraps around heritage buildings, was opened in November 2020 so the freebie was due to end in May this year.

A government spokeswoman told The West Australian on Friday it had been extended until the end of the October school holidays to encourage people to visit the city and support local hospitality operators and small businesses.

“We encourage everyone to take up the opportunity to visit this incredible new attraction in the coming months,” she said.

“From October 10, children 15 and under will continue to be free, with a modest entry fee of $15 for adults and $10 for concessions that will go directly to the operating costs of the museum.”

The opening of the brand new WA Museum Boola Bardip. Minister for the Arts David Templeman. Picture Jackson Flindell The Sunday Times
Camera IconArts Minister David Templeman at the opening of the new museum. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The Sunday Times

Shadow culture and the arts minister Peter Collier said the charges were reasonably modest but called on the State Government to extend the free offer for a further 12 months, saying it could well afford to do so with its big budget surplus and get kudos from the public.

“The intent of the new museum was to make it accessible to all West Australians as much as possible,” Mr Collier said.

“Coming out of COVID … an environment where everyone has been closeted for the last two years … if we want to get people out and about, returning to places like Northbridge where you have community involvement, you couldn’t find a more profound example of that than the museum.”

Several visitors to the museum agreed, including Raymi and her son 10-year-old son Byron, who have been there half a dozen times after waiting four years since the old one closed.

“That’s really sad because it’s just such a wealth of knowledge and an amazing museum,” she said upon hearing free entry was ending.

“The extension should be a bit longer.

“I just think it’s tragic – I know a lot of families who haven’t had the opportunity.

Raymi and Paul with their son Byron, 10. Jackson Flindell
Camera IconRaymi and Paul with their son Byron, 10. Jackson Flindell Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

“With COVID, a lot of people hadn’t gone out and have only just started to do it. With visitors, it’s just amazing to showcase how it’s been redone.

“I know they need profitability but the public deserves something for free for a little bit longer. We’ve just paid for parking.”

Raymi, whose husband Paul was visiting the museum for the first time, said the couple would “definitely” hesitate to visit at $30 a pop.

“We would limit it – there’s budgetary constraints,” she said.

“I don’t think they’ll get as many people through the door.”

First time visitors Daniel and Michelle said they wouldn’t come again if they had to pay.

“We (WA) are in such a good position financially, so it doesn’t really make sense,” he said.

“I’d find something else to do.

“Keep it free.”

But another couple, who visited for the first time with their 15-month-old son Isaac, said the price was reasonable for such a great museum.

Janet and David, with son Isaac, said it would take several visits to fully appreciate. “We love WA history and this is a wonderful way of showcasing it,” David said. “And have everyone understand history, and the time and place of where we are.” Jackson Flindell
Camera IconJanet and David, with son Isaac, said it would take several visits to fully appreciate. “We love WA history and this is a wonderful way of showcasing it,” David said. “And have everyone understand history, and the time and place of where we are.” Jackson Flindell Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

“I don’t think it will stop us. We study history and we appreciate these things,” David said.

“And there’s lovely places inside as well just to break out and have your own quiet time,” Janet added.

David, an architect, was particularly impressed with the building design.

“It’s wonderful. I love how they married the old building with the new building and how nice it frames the city,” he said.

“From the higher levels, you can see how the whole city skyline is captured in a long landscape window.

“It’s rooted in its place, within WA and within Perth city itself.”

Recent State budget papers revealed $7.5 million would be spent over the forward estimates to meet increased operational costs for Boola Bardip and the free entry extension.

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