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The Museum's performance is guided by a set of legislative, public sector and organisational requirements. The National Museum of Australia Act 1980 charges the Museum with the function of developing, preserving and exhibiting historical material of the Australian nation. It also specifies that the Museum should conduct and disseminate research and information about Australian history (see 'Functions and powers of the National Museum of Australia' in Appendix 2.)

These functions determine all aspects of the Museum's performance. The government's performance targets, specified in the annual Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS), are achieved through work defined in two output groups, which together lead to the outcome that:

Australians have access to the National Museum's collections and public programs to encourage awareness and understanding of Australia's history and culture.

For the Australian public, the Museum's vision statement captures the essence of the organisation's role:

A recognised world-class museum exploring Australia's past, illuminating the present, imagining the future.

At the operational level, the National Museum of Australia's Strategic Plan and annual business priorities outline the organisation's strategic goals and guide the activities of all Museum business units. The key priorities, outlined in the Strategic Plan for 2007–10, were to:

  • enhance exhibitions, programs and services
  • develop the National Historical Collection and improve collections storage
  • strengthen research and scholarship capability
  • enhance the Museum's national and international profile
  • develop staff, business practices and infrastructure.

The reports that follow provide quantitative measurement of the Museum's performance against the PBS, and qualitative discussion of its achievements as a cultural institution and in relation to the Strategic Plan. A synopsis of achievements against these measures is also included in the 'Executive summary' of this report in Part One.