Powerhouse Fashion Ball a fundraising fail as drunken antics take centre stage

A fundraiser pitched as Sydney’s answer to the Met Ball has been slammed for both the antics of those attending and the lack of a clear objective.

Held last year at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, the MAAS Centre for Fashion Ball cost $388,000, of which taxpayers forked out $215,000, and only raised $78,000 in seed funding for the Australian Fashion Fund.

The funding fiasco cost Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum director Dolla Merrillees her job, with the event now the subject of an Upper House inquiry with a witness describing how members of the museum’s senior management were drunk on vodka and French champagne and guests were sniffing “substances”.

The maintenance worker also provided video footage he took on the night showing staff and guests partying on the stage catwalk to the Bee Gee’s Staying Alive while staff cleared up around them.

Another witness said fundraising at the ball was a low priority for the organisers.

Former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, who was a guest at the ball, was overheard asking, “Who do you want me to talk to?”

“They shrugged and said, ‘I do not know’, ” the witness said. “They had no game plan of what she was there for.”

The claims are part of a hearing into the Powerhouse Museum’s relocation to Parramatta, which has faced a backlash since the announcement was made by government.

Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, former trustee Kylie Winkworth said it was inconceivable that the government “would give this mob a $1.5 billion museum project, let alone responsibility for moving the collection”.

“It’s just shocking to see a great public museum treated like a party place for drunken antics,” she said.