Early this month Same Same reported on the drama created by the sudden and silent departure of the ALSO Foundation from the City Village community hub. The move left many of Melbourne’s key queer organisations (including Minus 18 and the Anti-Violence Project ) suddenly without a home, and some temporarily without access to their files and property.
Also arising from situation were accusations that the foundation had in fact overcharged community groups who shared their tenancy. Further developments in those accusations came this week when Same Same was contacted about them by Melbourne Queer Film (MQFF) director Lisa Daniel, who had just returned back to her position after time off.
When asked about the accusations of overcharging certain community groups, ALSO Foundation representative Daniel Perkins had told Same Same the organisation ‘openly negotiated for those groups who could afford it, to contribute to the rent of the space and the associated bills’ and that ‘groups who could afford to contribute, such as MQFF, in essence helped subsidise the space so that we could offer it to community groups for free.” He explained that ‘no one was ever kept in the dark about charges’.
MQFF’s Lisa Daniel now tells us this was absolutely untrue: “I read your report and details of what ALSO Foundation representatives told you,” a clearly frustrated Lisa Daniels told Same Same. “I can tell you without any hesitation what they told you were blatent lies. At no point was it ever discussed that we were ever subsidising any community groups, or was the paper work even actually revealed to us, let alone negotiated.
“Despite us asking time and time again to see paperwork and official papers regarding our tenancy with the foundation, we were given the run around and never shown them. There was always an excuse, and assurances of ‘oh trust us, its fine, it’s fine’. Eventually, we had to move our focus on the festival and we just let it go.”
It wasn’t till the sudden departure of the ALSO Foundation from City Village earlier this month, that MQFF found out the true state of their tenancy. In engaging directly with the City Of Melbourne who manage the whole City Village property, MQFF were shocked to discover the mammoth overcharge.
“We were negotiating our tenancy with the City of Melbourne and inquired as to what the charge would be. We were told the amount and it was a fraction of what we had been paying with ALSO. We were absolutely floored to find out that we were being overcharged over $6,000 a year for the past four years, by ALSO. We were speechless. Not only were we covering our rent but it appears we were covering their rent too and then some! ”
MQFF have now negotiated their own ongoing tenancy at City Village directly with the City of Melbourne and at least have a home. Other community groups such as Minus 18 and the Anti Violence Project are also currently negotiating their own tenancies.
“This is first year in the festival’s recent history that we are declaring a small loss for the festival. 2012 saw our usual record attendances and biggest program yet, however much of that loss is due to a lack of major sponsorship this for this year’s festival,” Daniels added.
“However if you consider what we were being overcharged by ALSO – I can’t help but think of all the ways that money could have assisted the festival over the years! Think of the ways that could have benefited the community and our programs, and even given us the opportunity to reward excellence in queer film through prizes to film makers.
“Had the over-charging not occurred, there is a good chance we may not even have had a loss this year in the festival. It’s just really disappointing and it’s shattered any confidence left in the ALSO Foundation as far as we are concerned.”
Same Same has attempted to contact representatives from the ALSO Foundation for comment several times. As of yet no response, official or otherwise has been returned and we are still eagerly awaiting comment.