Aunty retreats to Bunker Ultimo with closure of headquarters to the public

The public can no longer take a selfie with the Tardis at the ABC Ultimo headquarters in Sydney.

The once bustling lobby – which also provided a shortcut for UTS students – has now been locked off to the public and the Bananas in Pyjamas murals on the windows of the old ABC Store have been replaced with a security office.

The closure also means that ABC fans can no longer access the exhibition spaces that have been a feature of the lobby since it first opened and in recent times have hosted exhibits such as the 30th anniversary of Rage and the history of ABC foreign news coverage.

Bananas be gone – the new ABC security office

The decision to increase security measures was taken prior to a controversial digital article in Quadrant in which online editor Roger Franklin called for the ABC to be bombed.

The ABC has also installed hardened glass around its  reception booth after a disturbance in the building earlier this year.

Visitors to the complex now have to report to a security guard at the front door, before making the way to the fortified security desk where they have to wait for an escort to take them into the secured lifts and through the locked doors that restrict access to each department.

Mumbrella asked a series of questions to ABC Corporate affairs about when the decision was made, what these measures are costing and whether the exhibitions will be made available. An ABC Spokesperson declined to answer these questions and instead provided the following statement.

“The decision to restrict public access to the Ultimo foyer was made based on recommendations developed by a private security consulting firm, Askew, following a risk assessment prepared by the Australian Federal Police.”

“Much of the traffic in the Ultimo foyer involved people who simply use it as a shortcut between the Goods Line corridor and Harris St. ”

“The upgrade means that from 7pm on Friday 30 June 2017, access into the foyer was restricted to employees and visitors to the ABC.”

“The ABC has commenced an upgrade of the Ultimo foyer. This has been prompted by a review of security arrangements at Ultimo and the resultant need to restrict public traffic through the building.

“The redevelopment, to be completed by the end of this year, is also designed to improve amenities and employee engagement in the 28-year-old building. This aim is to bring the Sydney office into line with centres like Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne.

“Parallel to this work, the ABC is redeveloping its Adelaide site and reviewing other locations.”

One ABC broadcaster wrote on a Facebook post: “The ABC has long been on the list of terror targets and disturbed people are drawn to broadcasting sites. A future Monis could have easily made it into 24 or 702 and onto the live mics. The public can be in studio audiences or join a tour… I know it sounds harsh but it’s remarkable that nothing has happened so far.”

The general air of relief is shared by the union with CPSU Deputy Secretary Melissa Donnelly telling Mumbrella: “All ABC staff at Ultimo were advised of the security changes several weeks before they came into effect. If we had any concerns then there was an opportunity for the CPSU to raise them.”

“With rising anti-ABC rhetoric, there were a number of minor incidents at Ultimo such as abusive phone calls in the lead up to these changes, culminating in the horrible Quadrant commentary.”

“CPSU and ABC staff are broadly supportive of management taking additional necessary security precautions, and many were expecting such a step in the wake of the Quadrant controversy.”

“The vast majority of people recognise and support the ABC’s important role in Australian society. It’s terrible that the extreme views of such a small number of people has resulted in this outcome.”

For some of Aunty’s fans, the closing of ABC Ultimo has been a sad event with journalist and UTS lecturer Jenna Price writing in the Sydney Morning Herald about the closure: “Yes, it was a shortcut for some, but for many, it was a destination to stare at ABC personalities including Jeremy Fernandez and Kumi Taguchi as they sat in the fishbowl studio at one end of the huge building.

ABC Security guard holding the fort

“If you were waiting to go on to a program (which I’ve had the pleasure of doing on the odd occasion), you could sit on the comfy chairs and watch people of all ages absorb the culture and flavour of the ABC.”



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