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Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill stands down casual staff as visitor numbers dip

Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill stands down casual staff as visitor numbers dip
March 16, 2020

Ballarat heritage attraction Sovereign Hill has ceased offering shifts to its casual employees as visitors numbers fall due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

With the attraction impacted by dipping tourist arrivals, Sovereign Hill Chief Executive, Sara Quon has written to casual employees outlining options.

As reported by the Ballarat Courier, she wrote "With deep regret I have to inform you that from Tuesday 17 March, we will not be offering hours to staff employed as casual in accordance with their employment arrangements. We will be rostering permanent full time and part-time staff for all roles. This will be in place for the foreseeable future.

"From Tuesday 17 March, casuals will not be required until further notice. To help our casual employees transition as best as possible, and to register for Government Income Support Payments, from today, we will pay casuals the coming two weeks of your roster even though you will not be required.

"This decision will be a shock. We understand the severe financial impact this will have for all our casual employees and their families. Our casuals perform a wonderful job with us in a range of roles and this decision has been made with a heavy heart and deep regret. Casuals will remain employees of Sovereign Hill. We will continue to evaluate the situation each week and do all we can to get our casual staff back to work when this crisis ends and our visitors return.

"I am attaching some information for you on Government Income Support Payments that will become a new payment called JobSeeker Payment from 20 March 2020. This information will tell you how you can apply for income support. We can assist you with any documentation or support you need for this - please contact People and Performance."

The letter stated volunteers will not be affected, and permanent and part-time staff will be required to take over casual roles, including dressing in period costume.

In a media statement issued today, Ballarat's most visited tourist centre said it would remain open, “but the number of visitors visiting the museum has dropped substantially in the last months”.

The statement added “we expect that this impact will become worse and will be felt for many months.

"The financial impact of this will be severe. To ensure we can sustain the museum as financially viable through this unprecedented emergency, we will not be offering hours to staff on casual contracts.

"We will be rostering our permanent full-time and part-time staff for all roles. This will take effect on Tuesday 17 March. We have informed the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), who are working with us to minimise the impact on all staff."

A statement from Quon stressed Sovereign Hill will remain open.

She advised "Sovereign Hill remains open every day. Large open places like our outdoor museum, that have space for optimism and room to safely connect to others, will be vital in sustaining people over the coming months.”

President of the Sovereign Hill Museums Association Damien Butler also issued a statement in conjunction with Quon.

Butler wrote “as a Board, we have a duty to our community and our whole staff.

"The actions management are taking now are essential to sustain the museum through this unprecedented emergency."

Images: Sovereign Hill (top) and Chief Executive Sara Quon (below).

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