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Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield
Minister for Communications and the Arts
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Minister

On behalf of the Council of the National Museum of Australia, I am pleased to submit our annual report for the financial year ending 30 June 2018.

The Council acknowledges the National Museum’s achievements over 2017–18 and its continued progress against the Strategic Plan 2014–18. Council believes the National Museum has had an exceptional year.

This year the Museum received its largest single donation, of $1.5 million, from Gandel Philanthropy, the charitable fund established by prominent philanthropists John Gandel AC and Pauline Gandel. The funding will be used to support the delivery of the Defining Moments Digital Classroom, an innovative digital history program to be made available in schools across Australia. The Gandels’ support has been recognised in the renaming of the Museum’s Main Hall to the Gandel Atrium. The significant donation from Gandel Philanthropy is in addition to the generous support received from other donors and corporate partners. Council is delighted that our overall donor and sponsorship program is continuing to grow each year.

The Museum’s diverse program of special exhibitions at its public site at Acton featured Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories in Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, Evolution: Torres Strait Masks, A Change Is Gonna Come and Midawarr/Harvest: The Art of Mulkun Wirrpanda and John Wolseley. There were two exhibitions this year developed in collaboration with Australian and overseas institutions: The Art of Science: Baudin’s Voyagers 1800–1804 and ‘So That You Might Know Each Other’: Faith and Culture in Islam. These exhibitions were complemented by a strong domestic touring program and a substantial international program. The Museum also continued to deliver high-quality educational public programming designed to reflect the various exhibitions’ themes, audience interests and the needs of school groups.

The highlight of this year’s exhibition program was, without doubt, Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters. Songlines was a truly groundbreaking exhibition, bringing foundational Indigenous narratives to a wider audience in an accessible and dynamic way. The exhibition’s tremendous reception and impact culminated in its receiving the award for most outstanding exhibition at the Museums and Galleries National Awards in June 2018. The National Museum’s executive team and Indigenous Reference Group both deserve credit for this remarkable exhibition.

The Museum’s delivery of the Cultural and Corporate Shared Services Centre (CCSSC), for which funding was received in the 2017 Budget, has gone from strength to strength. Through the CCSSC, the Museum is now providing shared corporate and business services functions to other collecting and similar-sized institutions such as the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Portrait Gallery and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

The 2018 Budget saw the announcement of additional funding for the Museum, to the value of $6.6 million, from 2017–18 to 2019–20. This Cultural Connections funding will support the Encounters Fellowships program for Indigenous cultural workers. It will allow the Museum to undertake important work, including assisting cultural workers — especially those from remote areas — to build their professional capacity. The funding will also deliver an exhibition to mark the 250th anniversary of HMB Endeavour’s voyage along the east coast of Australia that will represent the perspectives of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The Council is responsible for preparing and giving an annual report on the Museum’s activities to you, as the minister responsible for the Museum, in accordance with section 46 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The annual report has been prepared in conformity with the requirements for annual reports for corporate Commonwealth entities. Council resolved on 11 September 2018 to accept this report as being a fair and accurate representation of the Museum’s performance during the 2017–18 financial year.

I would like to express the Council’s appreciation of your continued support for the Museum this year, and that of the Department of Communications and the Arts. On behalf of all members of Council, I commend the Director, Dr Mathew Trinca, and all staff on the Museum’s outstanding performance in 2017–18.

Mr David Jones
Chair of Council
September 2018

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