Adelaide Festival of Ideas founder, former long-time independent bookseller, city west-end trader and senior public servant, Greg Mackie has announced his candidacy for City Councillor in the forthcoming Central Ward by-election. In what is a return move destined to breath life into an otherwise dull City of Adelaide by-election, Mackie brings a wealth of experience at driving change while valuing the past.
In his role as The History Trust of South Australia Chief Executive Officer, Mackie champions museums and the state’s proud history of innovation and reform, through places like: The Migration Museum in the city; SA Maritime Museum at Port Adelaide, the iconic National Motor Museum at Birdwood, the Centre of Democracy and South Australia’s annual History Festival – a month long celebration of the stories of South Australia.
Mackie’s energy and commitment to South Australia extends to his role as Founder and Chairman of The Adelaide Festival of Ideas and as Chairman of Adelaide’s Cabaret Fringe Inc.
“In my history day job, our motto is ‘giving the past a future – Now!’ As an aspiring Elected Member with the City of Adelaide, my campaign motto will be ‘Giving the Future a Present – Now!’ Mackie says with a glint in his eye.
“Culture and economies are not static – and nor can our Capital City afford to be. To be a more dynamic, better version of ourselves, we must value and wisely expend that most precious and scarce of assets – time” Mackie said.
“Central Ward is the engine room of city prosperity and economy – it collects the majority of the rates that helps keep the whole of the capital city and North Adelaide great places to live and work” Mackie continued.
“I want to return to a role where I can really make a positive difference for the people of Adelaide and our stakeholders – and I want to support Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor’s civic leadership and city vision.”
“Adelaide is already a great place to be – one of the world’s most ‘liveable’ cities. But we must aim for more if we are to maintain our positioning in the competitive global marketplace of cities and ideas. Complacency is our true enemy!”
“I believe in the quiet dignity of service, and my entire working and community life is testimony to this commitment to service, to good ideas – and their implementation” Mackie concluded.
From his Flinders University days in the late 1970s studying history and biology, and his years as a part-time cabaret band leader, Mackie was a natural organiser with an authentic enthusiasm and vision. A former management cadet with Myer SA Stores Ltd, Greg earned rapid promotion into an executive role in the early 1980s. He credits those years with driving a certain ‘calm but determined sense of urgency’ into his pace.
Meeting his life partner 30 years ago, Greg has been a publicly out and proud gay man for decades. During two decades as co-proprietor with his family business, the iconic Imprints Booksellers in Hindley Street, he was co-creator and is a past President of Adelaide’s West End Association Inc. He served for a decade with Adelaide Writers’ Week, and in 1994 was made Chair of its National Advisory Committee by Adelaide Festival Artistic Director, the legendary Barrie Kosky. He founded the Adelaide Festival of Ideas in 1999 during Diana Laidlaw’s successful tenure as the Brown-Olsen Liberal Government’s Minister for the Arts.
A former Trustee with The Adelaide Festival Centre Trust, and a Member of the Libraries Board of South Australia, Mackie was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to the Arts in 2002, by which time the widely respected small business operator and city living champion was a cultural leader with an already impressive record of service to the state and city community.
Elected to the Adelaide City Council in 2000, Mackie served a term as an Elected Member, and in 2003 he contested the Lord Mayoralty. In early 2004 Mackie moved on from his operating base at Imprints Booksellers to become Executive Director at Arts SA – Labor Premier and Arts Minister Mike Rann’s top arts bureaucrat (2004-08). A key shaper of the Rann cultural legacy, Mackie successfully argued the case to make annual the former biennial Adelaide Fringe from 2006 and Adelaide Festival of Arts from 2010. Invested in 2006 as a Flinders University InauguralDistinguished Alumni, in 2007 Greg was awarded the Australia Business Arts Foundation’s prestigious national Dame Elizabeth Murdoch Award for Cultural Leadership.
Mackie went on to become Deputy Chief Executive in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (2008-11), where his diverse portfolio of service included major government priorities like the Social Inclusion agenda, stewardship of the internationally renowned Adelaide Thinkers in Residence Program – and the city-state’s Capital City Committee Directorate. While there, he served two extended stints as acting Chief Executive – effectively the head of the SA Public Service. This included oversight of the State Emergency Management Committee during the heatwave emergency of 2009.
In 2011, while SA’s ‘ageing provocateur’ as Executive Director Office for Ageing with SA Health, Greg championed the value of the boomer generation living and working longer as active contributors to prosperity.
As a freelance consultant 2013-2016, Mackie undertook reviews for the SA Government of the Helpmann Academy, Feast Festival and advised on whether the Adelaide Festival Corporation and Adelaide Festival Centre Trust ought to merge.
Reflecting on Mackie’s years of distinguished service, former Premier Mike Rann AC, in a written reference in 2013 wrote “…my only regret is that I did not appoint him as Chief Executive of The Department of the Premier and Cabinet.”
Greg Mackie went on to lead Sydney-based Place Leaders Asia Pacific for a year, and was awarded the Inaugural $50,000 Bettison James Award in 2015. During a short but successful stint as Interim Director with Botanic Gardens SA, Mackie won the role of Chief Executive with History SA, changing its name back to The History Trust of South Australia. Breathing fresh life into the state’s annual History Festival, it is now the largest community history event of its kind in Australia.