September 3, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

We’ve heard from some in the business events industry that mandating vaccinations for staff is not on the cards, but iconic cultural institution Mona – the Museum of Old and New Art – in Hobart yesterday became the first major venue to buck the trend and put a vaccine mandate in place.

In a meandering memo to staff that his PR person suggested would also be a good idea to release to the public, Mona’s owner David Walsh likened – in a roundabout way – COVID-19 vaccinations to stopping at traffic lights.

“Today, while taking the kids to school, I had to wait for a total of six minutes while cars went somewhere else, he wrote.

“Of course I could have ignored those dastardly traffic lights, but ignoring them, potentially, has consequences.

“But I stopped at the red lights. So did everybody else. If traffic lights are a part of a global conspiracy to turn us all into pawns of the government, or Bill Gates, or 5G, then I’m a government tool. Or just a tool. And so is everybody else.

“I’m going to make vaccination mandatory for staff at Mona. If that makes you see red (lights) despite the previous three paragraphs let me, briefly, talk about the nature of risk. Some types of risk are additive (every time you take a bath, there’s a small chance it’ll kill you: but there is no chance it’ll kill anyone else). 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 (it’s multiplicative). That’s not okay.

“Most of Mona’s staff are exposed to the public (although, at the moment, we don’t really have a public). Most people who visit Mona are nice, friendly, and respectful. But there’s a small chance that each of them is a reservoir for that beastly COVID virus. I’d like to mandate vaccines for the public, too, but that’d be unfair to, for example, kids. We like kids at Mona. And we like risk at Mona. But we like our staff more.

“A few staff might think we are trampling on their rights, but the one right they think we are restricting doesn’t exist. Our staff don’t have the right to trample on the rights of their colleagues. Yes, it’s harsh to deprive someone of their livelihood for the good of others. And it’s harsh to deprive someone of their licence for running red lights. Harsh, but necessary.”

Mona has several events spaces catering to larger and smaller groups, including The Nolan Gallery, where groups of 450 can gather surrounded by Sidney Nolan’s epic artwork Snake, The Void, around 13m underground which can host long table dinners for 160, and Mona’s own floating venue, MR-1 a “super-speedy” catamaran, for up to 250 people.

FYI – this is isn’t a full transcript of Walsh’s explanation – you can read that here.