Did David Gonski provide a parachute for outgoing Australia Council boss
Jennifer Bott?

Bott announced yesterday she would be quitting her post as CEO in
September, six months before her contract expires, to take up a job at the
fundraising arm of the University of New South Wales.

Bott’s new role as chief executive of the UNSW Foundation will see her
working closely again with Gonski, a consummate networker in both the arts
and the corporate world, who until recently was Bott’s chair at the Australia
Council and is also chancellor of the very same educational institution for
which Bott will be raising bucks.

Katrina Strickland connected the dots in The AFR this morning but
she also quoted Bott denying any knowledge of the claim, made in The Fin
yesterday, that Federal ministers were unhappy with her performance in the OzCo
job.

Robin Usher, writing in The Age, said that Bott’s departure and the
arrival of James Strong as Gonski’s replacement as chair of the arts funding body
meant that a “new era is about to begin”.

Usher revived a statement made earlier this year by former OzCo chair
Hillary McPhee in reference to Bott’s seven-and-a-half year tenure as CEO.
McPhee is quoted as saying that artists seemed to have been displaced from
the centre of the cultural debate during Bott’s term in favour of the “comfort
of output managerialism and corporate smugness”.

Whether Bott is entirely to blame for the change in the OzCo culture,
McPhee’s assessment of the organisation’s current mindset is depressingly
apt.

Peter Fray

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