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Gandel Philanthropy partners with National Museum in multimillion dollar initiative

15 May 2018

National Defining Moments Digital Classroom and Gandel Atrium announced

Colourful moth sculpture hanging above a car and caravan
Reko Rennie's Bogong Moth in the Gandel Atrium. Acquired with the generous support of John Gandel AC and Pauline Gandel. Photo: Jason McCarthy

Prominent Australian philanthropists John Gandel AC and Pauline Gandel have donated $1.5 million in a partnership with the National Museum of Australia, Canberra to support an unprecedented $6.5 million Defining Moments Digital Classroom initiative to take Australian history into classrooms nationwide.

The National Museum’s headline Defining Moments project explores key moments which have shaped Australian culture and identity.

The revolutionary Defining Moments Digital Classroom will allow students to explore this history via interactive smart boards, iPads, videos, virtual tours, 3D scans and trivia quizzes.

Gandel Philanthropy has generously contributed $1.5 million to the initiative, in addition to the funding from the National Museum and the Federal Government. In acknowledgement of this gift the National Museum’s Main Hall is being relaunched as the Gandel Atrium.

The gift from Gandel Philanthropy has also assisted with the acquisition of a contemporary aerial sculpture Bogong Moth by acclaimed Victorian based Indigenous artist, Reko Rennie. The neon coloured artwork is suspended from the Atrium dome.

This is the largest philanthropic gift the National Museum has ever received and it is the first time the National Museum has instituted naming rights in acknowledgement of a gift.

National Museum chair David Jones thanked the Gandels for their significant gift and their passion for the Defining Moments Digital Classroom, which will provide every Australian student with the opportunity to access and explore pivotal moments and objects from Australia’s past.

'Gandel Philanthropy’s vision and far-sighted investment in the understanding of Australian history underpins the Defining Moments Digital Classroom, which will enable the National Museum to build a world class interactive educational resource for teachers and students nationally,' said Mr Jones.

National Museum director Dr Mathew Trinca said that the support of John and Pauline Gandel was critical to ensuring this project became a reality.

'The Defining Moments Digital Classroom is a classroom of the future: it will empower teachers with information at their fingertips, while at the same time inspiring young people to embrace history and engage with the nation’s story in new and innovative ways,' said Dr Trinca.

'We are proud to support the National Museum of Australia’s initiative to deliver history and culture through this transformative, national education program. The Defining Moments Digital Classroom will connect children in every corner of Australia with our shared past, inspiring their future endeavours,' said John Gandel AC and Pauline Gandel.

The Defining Moments Digital Classroom will be aligned to the national curriculum, tailored to year groups and made accessible to classrooms nationally from 2020.

The initiative is the first nationally comprehensive digital resource that provides custom-designed, versatile Australian history lesson plans to classrooms across the country.


Media contact Tracy Sutherland, 02 6208 5338 | 0438 620 710 or media@nma.gov.au


Defining Moments Digital Classroom background

  • An unprecedented $6,448,575-million Defining Moments Digital Classroom initiative taking Australian history into classrooms nationwide
  • Project underpinned by the National Museum’s headline Defining Moments project which looks at key moments which have shaped Australian identity and culture and explores them in depth – the suite of digital products created for this program will enliven and enrich this foundational content
  • Project will develop world class innovative digital classroom resources (software) allowing students to explore Defining Moments in Australian history via interactive smart boards, iPads, videos, virtual tours, 3D scans and trivia quizzes
  • Project incorporates a virtual ‘treasure hunt’ allowing remote students to explore the National Museum’s permanent galleries searching for Museum objects related to Defining Moments from the nation’s history
  • Initiative includes teacher professional development training to allow schools to take advantage of the new resources for the benefit of students nationwide
  • Initiative aligned to the national curriculum and tailored to year groups
  • Project available in classrooms nationally from January 2020 Defining Moments project – Background
  • Initiated by co-patrons the late Mr Michael Ball AO and the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, the Defining Moments project was launched in August 2014 to stimulate a public discussion about the events that have shaped Australian culture and identity
  • Launched with an initial list of 100 moments compiled by a group of eminent historians, Australians are invited to suggest their own ‘moments’ to add to the growing online list
  • The Defining Moments website explores these moments in depth through the places, events and people who shaped them
  • The Defining Moments website has approximately 660,000 page views annually, mostly during school term-time

Gandels background

  • Gandel Philanthropy is one of Australia’s largest independent family philanthropic funds
  • 2018 marks 40 years since the Gandel family established its first formal philanthropic entity, then known as the Gandel Charitable Foundation (today Gandel Philanthropy)
  • John Gandel AC is a highly successful businessman and a passionate philanthropist. He has been Chairman of Gandel Philanthropy since its inception as the Gandel Charitable Foundation in 1978
  • Over the past 40 years John Gandel AC and Pauline Gandel have jointly distributed over $100 million dollars to the community
  • While John and Pauline Gandel provide broad-ranging support in the community, arts and culture have been at the heart of their philanthropic endeavours
  • Their engagement spans a broad range of activities and initiatives, from pure arts funding and support for capital projects, to helping build capacity of arts organisations. They have supported arts programs that aim to create positive social change, promote community values or provide specific educational outcomes.
  • John and Pauline Gandel are also passionate about early childhood development
  • The Defining Moments Digital Classroom connects these passions
  • Other Gandel Philanthropy grant recipients in culture and the arts include: 
    • Museums Victoria: in 2016 Melbourne Museum opened the Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery following a donation of $1 million by Gandel Philanthropy
    • National Gallery of Australia (NGA): in 2010 John and Pauline Gandel supported the NGA with a significant gift, enabling the NGA to finalise its development program at the time. Mr and Mrs Gandel have been longstanding donors to the NGA since it opened its doors in 1982. They continue to help the organisation develop its national art collection
    • National Gallery of Victoria (NGV): John and Pauline Gandel have been long-standing supporters of the NGV, where they established the Pauline Gandel Gallery of Japanese Art in 2012. John and Pauline Gandel are NGV Patrons and continue to support acquisition activities of the NGV