17 December 2017

Mums and Dads Pay a Hefty Price at Boggo Road

This very telling graph reveals how much various 'crime and justice' heritage sites around Australia currently charge school groups to visit. I'll discuss aspects of this below.

School group prices, heritage 'crime and justice' sites, Australia, 2017. (C. Dawson)

So Brisbane's Boggo Road costs $30 per student, making it a hefty 2.5 times more expensive than anywhere else in the country. This is rather surprising, as those other places include much bigger and better sites, such as the world-heritage-listed Port Arthur and Fremantle Prison, and also Melbourne Gaol. In terms of size and significance, Boggo Road is more aligned with places like the old prisons at Adelaide, Maitland, and Dubbo

There isn't even a museum at Boggo Road, and a significant part of the site is currently closed and in need of refurbishment. Meanwhile, the Port Arthur price includes two-day, all-buildings access AND a harbour cruise! Many other sites feature museums and have professionally-developed education programmes in place.

So what's the underlying difference between Boggo Road and the rest of the places here? What makes it so much more expensive?

The straightforward answer is that the other places are managed by not-for-profit government-linked entities. This includes both state and local governments. Some are managed by the not-for-profit National Trust. Boggo Road, on the other hand, is managed on an interim basis by a private business. This is a direct result of former premier Campbell Newman's controversial and secret decision to hand management to a small business in 2012. It is worth remembering that Boggo Road is a publicly-owned asset.  

It is also worth noting that until 2005 (just prior to a six-year closure when the surrounding site was redeveloped), Boggo Road was run on not-for-profit lines and school groups were charged just $4 per student. And that is when there were museum exhibits there, and almost all the buildings inside were accessible.

Now, I'm a father of four and I have long experience in receiving letters from school about upcoming excursions that require payment - including for the school bus. So that $30 entry fee to Boggo Road would be topped up with a few dollars more for transport. For a part-day trip with a short tour, that's a lot to ask for many parents. To be blunt, slugging mums and dads in this manner smacks of short-term opportunistic greed, but it does provide strong evidence for my argument that the five-year Campbell Newman experiment has failed and Boggo Road needs a different approach to management.

St Helena Island is not included in this list because the price package includes a necessary boat trip to the island.