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$6.7m budget boost for Ballarat Photo Centre!

The Victorian State Government will invest a whopping $6.7 million to bring to life the vision of the Ballarat International Foto Festival’s (BIFB) new National Centre of Photography.

BIFB director, Fiona Sweet, with Wendouree MP Juliana Addison and Buninyong MP Michaela Settle. Photo: Lachlan Bence / The Courier.

The investment is massive, by far the biggest single cash grant to go to an Australian photographic organisation, and it will be interesting to see where things go from here.

The National Centre for Photography will feature gallery spaces for temporary exhibitions, opportunities for community artists through workshops, a black-and-white darkroom, apartments for ‘artists in residence’, and one hell of a photo book library.

The space is housed in the 1860s heritage-listed Union Bank building on Lydiard Street, which was purchased by BIFB in 2018 for $1.3 million. At the time Inside Imaging reported that BIFB released a prospectus seeking $2 million in donations to ‘obtain, design and construct a functional and sustainable community asset’.

The National Centre for Photography will, according to the press release, ‘have the potential to attract thousands of new visitors to Ballarat. It will attract local, domestic and international artists and visitors through innovative year-round programming and international networking.’ An estimated 75.7 million in economic benefit will be generated across 15 years, with the centre hopeful to attract 54,000 visitors over two years.


The National Centre is estimated to generate $75.7 million in economic benefit across 15 years, and will attract 54,000 visitors over two years. (That’s 74 visitors every day for two years, which is ambitious but possible.)

The press release concludes with some quotes attributable to various politicians. Here they are!

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula
‘The Ballarat International Foto Biennale is one of Victoria’s iconic regional events and the National Centre for Photography will allow it to contribute to Ballarat’s economy and jobs strength year-round.’

‘We want Victorians to get out and enjoy our state by taking their holidays in regional Victoria – that’s why we’re backing landmark regional institutions like this.’

Minister for Regional Development Jaclyn Symes
‘Regional Victoria has so many talented creatives – projects like the Centre not only attract visitors to regional towns, they give artists a chance to keep their work local instead of having to go into Melbourne.’

Member for Wendouree Juliana Addison
‘Ballarat’s reputation as a creative city will be greatly enhanced by this investment – congratulations to the Ballarat International Foto Biennale creative director Fiona Sweet and the board.’

Member for Buninyong Michaela Settle
‘Ballarat has so much to offer visitors and the National Centre for Photography will create another great reason to visit. It will be a showcase for artists and a drawcard for visitors, creating jobs and strengthening our economy.’

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