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Engaging the community

Create participatory programs to engage people in meaningful dialogue including:

  • Defining Moments in Australian History as a flagship Museum program
  • online curatorial content that engages with relevant external communities of interest.


  • Deliver Defining Moments in Australian History flagship ‘products’ of online content, learning resources, social media engagement and key events.


  • The Defining Moments project grew in 2015–16, with two public events, an online conversation, and further development of physical displays and virtual content.


During 2015–16 the Museum continued to expand and enhanced its Defining Moments in Australian History project, which aims to stimulate public discussion about the events that have been of profound significance to the Australian people. The project comprises live public events, an online conversation, and physical and virtual content at the Museum. A series of plaques continue to be fabricated and incorporated into the tiled floor of the Main Hall, including those in 2015–16 commemorating the 1992 High Court ‘Mabo’ native title decision and the Gallipoli landing in 1915.

Panel discussions

During 2015–16, two live public panels were held. In October 2015, a distinguished panel comprising historians Brad Manera, Dr Carolyn Holbrook and Professor Peter Stanley, and hosted by the Museum’s Director, Dr Mathew Trinca, explored questions such as ‘Are people tired of remembering events from 100 years ago?’, ‘Is Gallipoli still as symbolically potent as it was 100 years ago?’ and ‘What is the value of Australia’s largest and most public commemorations since the centenary of Federation?’ for the Gallipoli Centenary. A second event in September 2015 with leading Australian thinkers George Megalogenis, Michelle Arrow, Dr Jackie Huggins and Gideon Haigh discussed what makes a ‘defining moment’ in Australian history and how the nation has been shaped by such events. Both panels were recorded in front of live audiences and moderated by Paul Barclay, presenter of ABC Radio National’s Big Ideas program.

Defining Moments online

The extensive Defining Moments in Australian History website, which includes the initial list of 100 moments, an invitation for users to contribute their own defining moment, and 89 featured moments (intended to increase to over 100 featured moments throughout the life of the project), continues to be visited by the public, with 74 contributions to Defining Moments.

The continued development of Defining Moments content for the Museum’s website has contributed to the growth in engagement with online audiences over the course of the year. The Defining Moments site received 186,331 page views, representing a 323 per cent increase over 2014–15. The bulk of Defining Moments visitation was to the ‘featured moments’ section. The most popular moments included convict transportation, the gold rush, the end of the White Australia policy and that featuring the Aboriginal resistance leader Pemulwuy.

Two men in conversation.
Big Ideas presenter Paul Barclay discussing defining moments in Australian history with George Megalogenis, 24 September 2015

Programs for everybody

Build relationships and engage with communities of interest related to our programs:

  • delivering school programs for primary, secondary and tertiary students as part of the PACER program that meet the national curriculum and link to the National Historical Collection
  • delivering tailored public and outreach programs for adults, access, families and children.


  • Annual visitation to education and public programs over 128,000.


  • During 2015–16, participation in education and public programs was 157,943:
    • 83,591 participants in education programs (including 81,854 students who visited the Museum and 1737 who participated in the Robot program
    • 74,352 participants in public programs (including 497 non-school participants in the Robot program).


Education programs

During 2015–16, 81,854 students visited the Museum from all states and territories, with a small percentage of these visitors being international students. Many students that visited the Museum were participants in the Commonwealth’s Parliamentary and Civics Education Rebate (PACER) scheme that funds students on the basis of the distances they have travelled, to encourage civics and citizenship excursions to the national capital. However, the Museum is not a required PACER destination.

Throughout the year, the Museum continued to deliver a range of programs, including 18 facilitated programs that drew on the collections of the Museum and illuminated aspects of the Australian Curriculum, and an outreach program with a range of curriculum-relevant digital resources, videoconferencing, and the Museum Robot program, which allowed the Museum to reach students across Australia.

Furthermore, the Museum continued to deliver professional development sessions for practising and pre-service teachers, both onsite and across Australia at teaching conferences. Professional development focusing on Indigenous culture and history, pedagogy relating to history teaching, and sessions based on the Australian Curriculum were conducted for more than 747 teachers and post-secondary learners.

Participants in public programs

During 2015–16, 74,352 people attended organised programs and events at the Museum, an increase of 71 per cent over 2014–15. Overall, the programs and events developed for families and children, adults and people with disabilities, reflect the Museum’s PBS outcome of creating participatory programs to build relationships and engage with audiences.

Access programs

The Museum has a continuing commitment to providing access to its collections, exhibitions and programs for all Australians, including people with different levels of ability. During 2015–16, the Access team continued with successful programming initiatives such as music and art workshops, as well as ‘reminiscence’ workshops (both offsite and onsite) for people living with dementia, and a festival day celebrating International Day for People with Disability. During 2015–16, 8897 people participated in access programs at the Museum. In December the Museum was a winner of the ACT Chief Minister’s Inclusion Awards 2015 in the category of Excellence in Inclusion in Business or Community.

Adult learners

The Museum develops programs for adults with a wide variety of interests and backgrounds that highlight the collections, exhibitions and core business of the Museum in fresh and exciting ways. Programs include the Night at the Museum series for younger adults, seminars linked to Museum activities and research projects, concerts and a suite of programs associated with the Encounters exhibition, including the New Encounters conference held in March 2016. The focus of the adult learners program has been on catering for non-traditional audiences, which has resulted in an increased reach to a wide cross-section of the Australian community. During 2015–16, 6382 people participated in adult programs at the Museum.

Families and children

Programs and events for families and children continued to provide a range of valuable, well-attended creative and relevant activities related to temporary exhibitions and the collection.

Programs developed and delivered to families and children included school holiday Discovery Space programs, NAIDOC on the Peninsula 2015 and the Continuing Culture Australia Day festival on 26 January 2016. During 2015–16, 15,383 people participated in families’ and children’s programs at the Museum.

Online conversations

Engage with online communities of interest across a broad range of topics and social media platforms.


  • 47 per cent increase of Facebook and 22 per cent increase of Twitter (increase based on 2014–15 forward year targets).


  • There was a 63 per cent increase in Facebook followers, based on the 2014–15 actual figure.
  • There was a 20 per cent increase in Twitter followers, based on the 2014–15 actual figure.


The Museum has seen a significant increase in social media followers and engagement over 2015–16. Use of the Museum’s core social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, increased significantly during the year. The Museum now has over 40,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook, a 63 per cent increase on 2014–15. The Museum’s Twitter audience grew by more than 5400 new ‘followers’ over the course of the year, a 20 per cent increase on 2014–15. This increase was assisted by the Australia Day Your Way initiative, whereby the Museum curated and archived tweets showcasing the diversity of our national day.

It is also exploring new channels for visitor engagement, such as establishing a new Instagram account in November 2015, which attracted 1000 followers to the end of June.

The Museum’s social media accounts reached two significant milestones this year with Facebook exceeding 40,000 followers and Twitter rising to more than 30,000 followers. This was due to content relating to the Encounters exhibition (including the associated media events and programs) resonating powerfully with the Museum’s audiences on Facebook and Twitter, particularly postings from community members speaking about their objects. Defining Moments in Australian History and ‘On this day’ content performed exceptionally well across the platforms, demonstrating our audience’s interest in key moments and historical anniversaries which continue to have political and social significance. The exhibition Happy Birthday Play School has also directly contributed to growth in the Museum’s social media followers and engagement — the anniversary has been widely covered in the media, and the show generates enormous nostalgia and positivity among our audience. Our Australia Day Your Way campaign with Twitter boosted our followers, with 562 additional followers from the campaign, while the accompanying website saw a 170 per cent increase in site visits from the previous year. Much of this was due to replying directly to over 1000 tweets, which gave a deeper interaction with our audience than previous years.

Professional partnerships

Empower our staff to promote our professional expertise to external interests.


  • Each core theme is involved in partnerships with at least one external party.


  • The Museum has new and existing external partnerships in place across each of its three core research and collection themes:
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Culture
    • Australian Society and History since 1788
    • People and the Environment.


As well as maintaining and developing networks and relationships with researchers across Australia and internationally, the Museum maintains partnerships with key kindred bodies including Indigenous communities
and organisations, major collectors, corporations and the university sector. Many of these important partnerships have been reported on elsewhere in this report, including:

Ongoing relationships that were maintained during 2015–16 include joint activities with the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the Australian National University; the University of Canberra’s Centre for Creative and Cultural Research; the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies; the ACT Cultural Facilities Corporation Historic Places Advisory Committee; the Wilin Centre, Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne; the Australian Academy of Science; and the Andrew W Mellon Observatory for the Environmental Humanities, University of Sydney. At the Australian National University, strong links are maintained with the Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies, the Institute of Professional Practice in Heritage and the Arts, the Australian Centre for Indigenous History, the School of History, the School of Art and the Centre for Environmental History. Museum staff hold adjunct professorships at the Australian National University.


Reconciliation Australia

Reconciliation Australia (RA) has agreed to support the Museum in the development of a proposed banner display to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum in May 2017. The funds will support an Indigenous officer to develop the outline for this display, identify relevant images and other resources, and make suggestions regarding possible audiovisual materials to be used. Using the graphic-panel style that the Museum has developed for its international travelling graphic-panel exhibitions, the display will be made available for regional and remote venues throughout Australia and overseas venues.

Australian Council of National Trusts

A memorandum of understanding with the Australian Council of National Trusts for 2016–18 brings the organisations together to promote sharing of knowledge and experience in ways that will enrich public knowledge of Australia’s heritage. Both parties are committed to the protection and promotion of Australia’s cultural heritage and histories, in particular though demonstrating the articulation of place with portable heritage.

Monash University

In 2015–16 the Museum established a partnership with Monash University’s National Centre for Australian Studies for the production of Australia: Finding Your Way, an online video project to serve as an introduction to Australian history, politics and culture for a range of audiences including international students and other tertiary, school and general interest groups. The series will cover three main themes — land, nation and people — and consist of four episodes under each theme.

Australian Institute of Landscape Architecture (AILA)

To celebrate the 50-year history of AILA, the Museum is collaborating with the institute to produce the Parks Changing Australia exhibition. The exhibition features contemporary landscape architecture projects that are reshaping Australian cities, enriching their communities, economies and environments. The exhibition will be presented in September 2016 as part of the 2016 International Festival of Landscape Architecture, Not In My Backyard.

Making friends

Continue to expand the Museum’s membership base through Friends and donor programs.


  • 15 per cent increase in Friends membership (based on 2013–14 target).
  • 10 per cent increase in combined value in Development income (based on 2014–15 actual figure).


  • 16 per cent increase in Museum Friends membership.
  • 54 per cent increase in combined value in Development income.


Museum Friends is the membership program of the National Museum of Australia. It is a dynamic affiliate program offering active engagement with the Museum. The members of the Friends enjoy unique monthly programs and special events that provide insights into the Museum’s operations and access to Museum staff and behind-the-scenes experiences. Many are also volunteers, who make a significant contribution to the life of the Museum, most notably through their work on the historic vessel PS Enterprise. The Museum welcomed 1193 new memberships during the year.

During 2015–16 there was a 54 per cent increase in the combined value of Development income, far exceeding the expected 10 per cent increase. The Museum’s Development income includes funds received from grants, donations and object donations (see Cherish our stories: Developing the collection, Work Smarter: Increase revenue).

In February 2016 the Museum appointed an Associate Director, Visitor Services and Development, and a Head of Development to increase income through the implementation of an integrated development strategy.

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