MONA becomes first art institution to mandate staff vaccinations
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Tasmania’s MONA art museum has become the first arts institution in the country to announce mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for all staff.
Founder and owner David Walsh wrote in a note to staff on Thursday that some of them “might think we are trampling on their rights, but the one right they think we are restricting doesn’t exist”.
David Walsh, owner of Mona in Hobart, Tasmania.Credit:Peter Mathew
“Our staff don’t have the right to trample on the rights of their colleagues,” he said. “When you go to work unvaccinated there’s a small chance you’ll get COVID and an even smaller chance you’ll die. But each time you take that risk there is a small chance you’ll kill someone else … That’s not okay.”
Most of MONA’s staff were exposed to the public, he said, and there was a small chance that any visitor was “a reservoir for that beastly COVID virus”.
Walsh did not say he would not make vaccination a condition of entry to the museum.
“I’d like to mandate vaccines for the public, too, but that’d be unfair to, for example, kids,” he said. “We like kids at MONA. And we like risk at MONA. But we like our staff more.”
It follows similar moves overseas, including in New York where the “Key to NYC” program requires any visitor to a cultural institution to produce proof they have received at least one dose of an authorised COVID-19 vaccine, and also requires staff to be vaccinated.
Some private Australian companies have already announced vaccination requirements for staff, including Qantas, Virgin and food manufacturer SPC.
Walsh said he would allow his staff “a decent interval to get vaccinated” and would help them get an appointment if necessary.
He used the analogy of traffic lights: a “government-mandated intervention” that saves lives.
“Yes, it’s harsh to deprive someone of their livelihood for the good of others,” he said. “And it’s harsh to deprive someone of their licence for running red lights. Harsh, but necessary.”
Asked if they would follow MONA’s lead, the National Gallery of Victoria said they would “be guided by the state government in regards to health and safety measures”.
The Art Gallery of NSW said they were currently making plans for reopening and as a government agency they would act on NSW Health’s advice on the question of mandatory vaccinations.
The National Gallery of Australia said, “the safety of staff and visitors will always be our highest priority” and they would act on the advice of the Commonwealth and ACT governments.
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