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Minister for Science & Innovation Dave Kelly with Kalamunda MLA Matthew Hughes and Perth Observatory chair Colin Armstrong.

Observatory funding secures years of star gazing

By Melissa Sheil

WHICHEVER way the vote goes for the upcoming March State election, Perth Observatory will come out victorious after receiving funding promises from both Labor and Liberal candidates.

On Tuesday Kalamunda MLA Matthew Hughes promised Labor would provide $1.6 million to the observatory with his Liberal opponent Liam Staltari pledging $2 million.

Perth Observatory administrator Matthew Woods said staff and volunteers were astonished and relieved with the funding commitments, the observatory having struggled with dire financial pressures for several years.

“We’re all a bit like stunned mullets right now,” he said.

“We’ve got a long list of things we’d love to do so we’ve got to have a think and prioritise but really it’s just great to have some security.

“The observatory has really been suffering a death by a thousand cuts during its 120 years so to not be scratching for a living anymore will be a new and welcome change.”

The funding will offer security in covering day to day operational costs and STEM education programs as well as the opportunity to embark on some new projects and research.

As Western Australia’s oldest operating observatory and a site of scientific and cultural significance, Perth Observatory holds a place on the state’s Heritage registry, though it has faced closure  before.

School tours, education outreach programs and night-time sky viewing events have been the primary method of financing operational costs, with much of the work done by volunteers.

“As great as this funding is for the public who visit, it also feels like a thank you to the volunteers who put in huge hours here to make this place feel special,” Mr Woods said.

“We are going to use this money to the best of its ability and try and make the experience of coming to the observatory even better.”

Many retired scientists work at the observatory as volunteers.

Both Mr Staltari and Mr Hughes said funding would help the observatory grow to its full potential while supporting the volunteers.

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Echo News gives readers an alternative to other media outlets in WA and enjoys a very high rate of readership in its distribution area. Our Echo News team are a small group of devoted individuals who work hard to give the local community an easy to read, yet intelligent mix of local community stories.

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