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Senator the Hon. Rod Kemp, Minister for the Arts and Sport.
Senator the Hon. Rod Kemp, Minister for the Arts and Sport.

Senator the Hon. Rod Kemp
Minister for the Arts and Sport
Parliament House

Dear Minister

On behalf of the Council for the National Museum of Australia, I am pleased to submit our annual report for the year ended 30 June 2003. The report is presented in accordance with Section 9 and Schedule 1 of the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997, and it has been prepared in conformity with the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies (Report of Operations) Orders 2002.

In its second year of operation the Museum attracted 825,049 visitors, an impressive record in view of the downturn in visitors to Canberra following the disastrous bushfires in January 2003, a peak visitation month, and in response to world events. Importantly, more than 192,000 visitors attended the Museum's travelling exhibitions and a further one million visitors were reached through online and broadcasting programs.

In the 2001-2002 annual report I outlined a number of strengths that the Museum had achieved since its opening in March 2001. These included the strong audience focus, the staging of major temporary exhibitions illuminating aspects of Australia's history, contemporary relevance in the Museum's exhibitions and programs, and impressive public and schools programs that reach audiences across Australia. The Museum has continued to build on these strengths. Its exhibitions and programs continue to foster a greater understanding of Australia's history, and the Council has approved a new collection development policy for the National Historical Collection.

It was against this record of impressive achievements that the Museum's Council decided soon after the Museum's opening that a review would be undertaken of the aims and content of the exhibitions and public and schools programs. It was also decided the review would evaluate the Museum's progress to date and consider priorities for the future development of exhibitions and programs. The terms of reference approved by Council were to:

  • examine the aims and content of the Museum's exhibitions, both permanent and temporary, and schools and public programs. The examination will include the following:

    (i) whether the Museum has complied with its role and functions as set out in the National Museum of Australia Act 1980, its Charter and other relevant documents

    (ii) whether the Government's vision in approving funding for the development of the Museum has been realised.
  • consider and make recommendations on the future priorities to be addressed by the Museum, including the continuing relevance of its Act, in the development of permanent and temporary exhibitions and schools and public programs.

The review was undertaken by Associate Professor John Carroll, Mr Richard Longes, Dr Phillip Jones and Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich. The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts established a secretariat to assist the review panel with the conduct of the review, especially the calling for submissions and holding meetings to gauge the broad spectrum of opinion on existing exhibitions and programs and to identify the key issues that should shape the Museum's future direction. The Council met with the review panel on one occasion, and the Museum's Director and staff made a submission to the review panel, as well as meeting with the review panel and providing extensive documentation. The review panel provided its report to Council in July 2003 following which the Council and the Museum will give consideration to its findings and conclusions. The Council expresses its appreciation to both the members of the review panel for undertaking the review and to the Museum Director and staff for the considerable assistance provided to the panel.

The Council recognises that the Museum has both initiated a series of internal reviews since 2001, such as the strategic directions for the use of information and communication technologies, front-of-house services, retail activities, wayfinding and lighting, as well as participating in portfolio-related reviews such as the important funding review in 2001-2002 and the portfolio agencies shared services review in 2002-2003. The outcomes of all these reviews have and will continue to shape the future direction of the Museum, and it should be recognised that the reviews have placed demands on staff in addition to meeting normal operational requirements.

The year has also witnessed a number of highlights including:

  • staging the exhibitions Stories from Australia: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples at the Guangzhou Museum of Art, China, and Rare Trades, which opened at Scienceworks, Melbourne, before travelling to the Museum in Canberra
  • hosting an international scientific conference on the archaeology and environmental history of the deserts of the southern hemisphere
  • an active research program as demonstrated through involvement in six Australian Research Council Linkage Research Grants projects
  • publication of high quality schools resources, in particular the Our Voices series in collaboration with Rigby Educational Publishers which won a major award for educational publishing excellence
  • a turnaround in the Museum's retail trading activities and sponsorship arrangements.
 These achievements as well as many others are described in more detail in this report.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge the support of my fellow Council members in guiding the Museum towards the successes it has achieved during the year. I would also like to express the Council's appreciation to the Minister, Senator the Hon. Rod Kemp, who has taken an active interest in ensuring the Museum's success.

Finally, all members of Council join me in congratulating the Director, Dawn Casey, and her staff on the Museum's continuing outstanding success and for ensuring that the Museum is recognised nationally and internationally as a museum of excellence and innovation.

Yours sincerely

Tony Staley
Chairman of the Council
National Museum of Australia

6 August 2003

The Hon. Tony Staley, Chairman of the Council, National Museum of Australia.
The Hon. Tony Staley, Chairman of the Council, National Museum of Australia.
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