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Strategic priorities

The National Museum of Australia’s strategic priorities demonstrate our ambition to bring to life the rich and diverse stories of Australia. They ensure the Museum is focused on achieving strong engagement with the nation’s diverse communities and traditions. The strategic priorities seek to bring the Museum to the forefront of cultural life in the country, where contemporary Australia is understood in relation to its past and its future promise. The Museum’s work is underpinned by the pursuit of excellence in every area of its activity and deploys all the internal resources available to maximum effect. We also seek to establish fruitful partnerships to help the Museum grow its resources and reach wider audiences in Australia and globally.

The strategic priorities for 2016–17 are:

Take the lead in researching, documenting and expressing the nation’s history through innovative and contemporary approaches that draw public attention to the Museum’s work.

Cherish our stories as storytellers and custodians by developing, managing and preserving the National Historical Collection to affirm the value and diversity of the nation’s history.

Listen and act in ways that put audiences at the centre of our work and create ‘two-way’ engagement with communities of interest, creating opportunities for meaningful dialogue and participatory programs.

See us first by striving to be a ‘must-see’ destination by investing in the Museum’s contemporary architecture and creative exhibitions and programs to deliver unique, distinctive visitor experiences.

Work smarter by fostering a creative culture that seeks to maximise the potential of the Museum’s people, assets and financial resources to deliver the best possible outcomes for visitors.


Although it is one of Australia’s youngest cultural institutions, the National Museum of Australia was almost 100 years in the making. Over the course of the 20th century, proposals for a national museum were intermittent and interrupted by wars, financial crises and changing government priorities.

A national inquiry in 1975 (the ‘Pigott Report’) resulted in the creation of the Museum with the passing of the National Museum of Australia Act 1980 (the Museum Act). Collecting officially began with the inheritance of significant collections from Australian Government agencies, including the Australian Institute of Anatomy. A location for the Museum was identified at Yarramundi Reach, Canberra.

In December 1996, the building of the Museum was announced as the key Centenary of Federation project, and Acton Peninsula was chosen as the site, with funding confirmed in 1997. The Museum opened on 11 March 2001. It is home to the National Historical Collection and is one of the nation’s major cultural institutions.

The Museum’s exhibitions, collections, programs and research focus on three interrelated subject areas, which are specified in the Museum Act:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures
  • Australian history and society since 1788
  • the interaction of people with the environment.

These define the Museum’s intellectual and conceptual framework, which is articulated to the public through the themes of land, nation and people.

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