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 Statements (PBS), are achieved through work defined in one program, which leads to the outcome:
Increased awareness and understanding of Australia's history and culture by managing the National Museum's collections and providing access through public programs and exhibitions.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 strategic and annual business priorities outline the organisation's strategic goals and guide the activities of all business units to achieve the results specified in the Museum's outcome. The strategic priorities for 2010–11, approved by Council in May 2010 and described in the Museum's PBS and Charter of Operations, were to:
- enhance exhibitions, programs and services by ensuring access to its collections and programs, and encouraging an awareness and understanding of Australian history and culture, by developing and delivering exhibitions and activities that are audience-focused, object-centred and rich in content
- develop the National Historical Collection, enhance collections management and improve collections storage by continuing, in keeping with the Museum's mandate, to develop its acquisitions program, maintain its collections to the highest possible standards and improve its collections storage
- strengthen research and scholarship capability by significantly developing the Museum's research and scholarship activity over the coming years, in keeping with its aim to be a centre of excellence for research and scholarship and contribute to the body of knowledge about Australian history and culture
- enhance its national and international profile by continuing to develop, in keeping with the Museum's vision to be a recognised world-class museum, as a national institution of international standing through leadership in museum practice, fostering partnerships and delivering effective, engaging outreach programs
- develop staff, business practices and infrastructure by continuing to review the way business is conducted, operating in a way that utilises better practices and providing an environment to assist staff to undertake their work.