On 11 March 1971, the Hon G.F. Freudenstein was appointed the first Minister for Cultural Activities in New South Wales. (1) The Minister proposed the establishment of an organisation to enable him to carry out his responsibilities and the Premier agreed. On 13 May 1971, the Minister received notification from the Premier that the organisation would be titled the Ministry of Cultural Activities. (2)
The Minister was appointed, and the Ministry of Cultural Activities established, as a response to the increasing emphasis within the community on quality of life, the impending opening of the Sydney Opera House, and to alleviate the heavy burden on the Ministry of Education and Science for administering cultural and scientific institutions. (3)
After Freudenstein was appointed, a raft of legislation was transferred from the Department of Education and Science to the responsibility of the new Minister for Cultural Activities. On 15 April 1971, legislation relating to cultural institutions such as the Archives Office, the State Library, Sydney Opera House, Art Gallery, museums, and the Sydney Observatory were transferred from the Minister for Education and Science. (4) On 29 April, additional legislation was transferred from the same Minister.
On 5 May 1971, the administration of grants to cultural, literary, musical, dramatic, and artistic activities was also transferred from the Minister for Education and Science to the Minister for Cultural Activities. (5) On 13 August 1971, responsibility for grants-in-aid to the Anthropological Society, Geographical Society, Library Association, Linnean Society, Royal Australian Historical Society, New South Wales Film Council, and the Travelling Scholarships for Art was also transferred from the Minister for Education and Science. (6)
On 3 March 1972, the administration of the Trustees of Schools of Arts Enabling Act 1902 was transferred from the Minister for Education and Science to the Minister for Cultural Activities. (7)
Mr CG Meckiff commenced duties as Secretary of the Ministry of Cultural Activities on 17 June 1971 and was officially appointed as the Ministry’s Permanent Head on 17 September 1971. (8) Throughout 1971, senior positions were created and filled and during this time administrative correspondence and records from the Departments of Education and Technical Education were transferred to the Ministry of Cultural Activities and registered in the Ministry’s record system. (9) During the transfer, the Ministry received assistance from the Departments of Education and Technical Education in managing accounts, salaries, staffing, and other clerical work.(10) The Ministry of Cultural Activities began operating fully from 1 February 1972. (11)
The Ministry of Cultural Activities had three main functions. Firstly, administrative support to the organisations for which it was responsible; to offer advice on matters such as management and legislation; and to ensure that activities involving more than one of the authorities under its jurisdiction were properly coordinated. (12)
The Ministry comprised a head office and the following cultural organisations: Archives Office of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Library of New South Wales, Australian Museum, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney Observatory, Advisory Committee on Cultural Grants, Library Board of New South Wales, NSW Film Council, and the Sydney Opera House Trust. (13)
One of the most significant events in the Ministry’s history was the opening of the Sydney Opera House on 20 October 1973. (14)
On 3 January 1975, the two portfolios of Sport and Cultural Activities were combined. Three days later on 6 January 1975, the Department of Culture, Sport and Recreation was established and the Ministry of Cultural Activities ceased to exist when its responsibilities were transferred to the new Department. (15)
1. Ministry of Cultural Activities Annual Report for 1972, in the Parliamentary Papers 1972-73, vol.1, p.827.
2. loc. cit.
3. ibid., p.828.
4. ibid., p.827.
5. loc. cit.
6. loc. cit.
7. NSW Government Gazette 3 March 1972, No.25, p.769.
8. Ministry of Cultural Activities Annual Report for 1972, in the Parliamentary Papers 1972-73, vol.1, p.827.
9. ibid., p.833.
10. ibid., p.828.
11. loc. cit.
12. loc. cit.
13. Ministry of Cultural Activities Annual Report for 1973 in the Parliamentary Papers 1973, vol.1, p.257.
14. Department of Culture, Sport and Recreation Annual Report for 1975 in the Parliamentary Papers, 1975-76, vol.1, p.785.
15. ibid., p.786.