Wagga Wagga’s ICAC Scandal: The Local Fighting For Facts

Disclaimer: The author of this article has previously worked for the Riverina Conservatorium of Music in both a volunteer and paid capacity.

Secret relationships. They’re cute when you’re sixteen. Sneaking from your window at midnight to meet your girlfriend can be an intoxicating experience. These relationships can forge some memories that will last a lifetime.

However, secret relationships are less cute when you’re 52 and 64. When you’re the Premier of NSW and your lover was the Liberal member for Wagga Wagga. When your undisclosed relationship resulted in corrupt conduct. When your name’s Gladys Berejiklian and your boyfriend was Daryl Maguire.

Gladys Berejiklian
Image: Getty Images

From 2015 until August of 2020, Berejiklian and Maguire were in a relationship that was classified as “intimate.” In October of 2020, this fact was disclosed to the public. One year later, NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) began investigating this relationship. They wanted to know if Maguire had scored special treatment.

On 27 July of 2023, ICAC’s findings were released. This commission determined that Berejiklian and Maguire had engaged in “serious corrupt conduct.” They stated that Berejiklian had a conflict of interest when approving grants that aided the Riverina’s Australian Clay Target Association (ACTA) and the Riverina Conservatorium of Music (RCM). 

In a statement, ICAC said, “Mr Maguire was an enthusiastic advocate for grants of public monies for the ACTA and the RCM, two Wagga Wagga-based institutions. Ms Berejiklian had presided over and/or been a member of the Expenditure Review Committee meetings that had approved the grants, which comprised $5.5 million for ACTA and $10 million for refurbishing and repurposing a new government-owned site, to make it fit-for-purpose for the RCM.” 

“At the same time, Mr Maguire and Ms Berejiklian were in an undisclosed close personal relationship. The Commission finds that Ms Berejiklian engaged in serious corrupt conduct by breaching public trust.”

Understandably, ICAC’s conclusion has quaked both the Riverina and Wagga Wagga. One organisation that’s been particularly affected by this news is the RCM. 

In response, the RCM said they were extremely concerned about “the reputational damage and potential misinformation in the press” that might be coming their way. 

However, this statement doesn’t detail what misinformation the RCM is concerned about. What’s more, this situation seems pretty cut and dry.

So, to get some much-needed nuance, The Latch spoke with the RCM’s CEO, Hamish Tait. We asked him to set the record straight and what’s next for this organisation. Here’s what he said on these matters.

The Riverina Conservatorium of Music: Building Facts

Hamish Tait
Image: The Riverina Conservatorium of Music

During our convo with Hamish Tait, he stated that the RCM didn’t want a new space, it needed a new space. This is because the RCM’s original venue was given to them for free by Charles Sturt University, but this agreement ended in 2022. If the RCM didn’t secure a new place, then this institution would have closed.

“Charles Sturt University made the very sensible decision to dispose of that site,” said Tait. “Unfortunately, that meant that we lost our building.”

So, what did the RCM do in response to this situation? Well, they contacted their local member, Maguire.

As Tait explained, “Maguire was the elected local member for Wagga Wagga, right up until the point that he was required to leave office in 2018. When you’re in a community, and you need advocacy for your organisation, the person you go to is the local member. In 2023, we have continued to work with our new local member.”

Maguire then advocated for the RCM to score a new space. Unfortunately, some of his methods were corrupt, as he leveraged his secret relationship with the Premier to gain negotiation privileges.

Later on, the RCM received a new space. This space had the same capacity as their old one.

The Riverina Conservatorium of Music
Image: The Riverina Conservatorium of Music

“We’ve got the same number of teaching studios and the same number of rehearsal spaces,” said Tait.

“I don’t actually ever remember a point in time when Macguire even came to the original RCM.” 

What’s more, the RCM doesn’t even own this new space. They reside in it under a tenancy agreement

“The building that we now inhabit is owned by the NSW taxpayers,” explained Tait. “It’s a building operated by the NSW Government. The refurbishment of it was conducted by the NSW Gov.”

“It’s been widely reported in the media that we received a grant to have this new building. That is a myth. No grant was given to the RCM.”

The Riverina Conservatorium of Music: Reputation Time

As 2023 continues, the RCM wants to uplift its reputation. It doesn’t want to be known as a footnote in a scandal. They want to be known for their excellent educational programmes. 

A Riverina Conservatorium of Music class
Image: The Riverina Conservatorium of Music

According to Hamish Tait, “We work with over 1200 students who come from right across the Riverina. And we have to remember, the Riverina is a big chunk of Australia.”

“We provide music opportunities for students to learn music, to engage in music education, and to be able to participate in ensemble activities.”

“At the same time,” Tait continued, “we have a large number of students that come through the RCM and go on to get a tertiary education. Some of our students become professional musicians living and working in our community.”

If Tait can help secure that the RCM is known for its educational work, then he will be content. Meanwhile, he hopes that a scandal like this one never quakes Wagga again.

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