The Hon Paul Fletcher MP
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts
Canberra ACT 2600
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 2019. The Council is responsible for preparing an annual report on the Museum’s activities for you, the responsible minister, in accordance with section 46 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.
The Council acknowledges the Museum’s achievements over 2018–19 and progress against its Strategic Plan 2018–2022. Council believes the Museum has performed extremely well this past year. The exhibition highlight this year was the blockbuster Rome: City and Empire, which resulted in over 150,000 visits to the Museum’s Acton site, to become its second most-visited show ever. In fact, visitation across all channels exceeded targets by 36 per cent (or 4,426,896 total visitor engagements compared with the target of 3,257,750) — a very pleasing result.
A major highlight of the international touring program was the success of Old Masters: Australia’s Great Bark Artists, which was displayed in four venues in China. The work and logistics involved in delivering this major exhibition should not be underestimated, and I commend the Museum team for their efforts, along with the invaluable assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The exhibition received over 355,000 visits in 2018–19, with other venues to come.
The domestic touring program remains strong, with the highest recorded visitation (689,547) in five years. Shows have crisscrossed the country, drawing audiences from Geelong to Townsville, Darwin to Gladstone, and Mildura to Bundaberg.
The Council’s focus on sustainability has seen own-source revenue reach approximately 20 per cent of total gross operating revenues, with catering, events and venue hire achieving their highest revenue on record. This admirable result was partly attributable to The Antarctica Experience, a virtual reality film that enabled visitors to experience life and work at Davis Station in Antarctica. Council was particularly pleased that the Museum’s revenue from other sources ($10.8 million) exceeded budget by over 40 per cent.
Delivery against the Museum’s bold Master Plan 2017–2030 continues, with three major projects underway. A large portion of the Forecourt redevelopment was completed, and work has also been undertaken on the design, planning and procurement for two significant gallery development projects: the Life in Australia environmental history gallery and a new children’s space. Construction work on both of these projects will start in late 2019.
In the year ahead, the DreamWorks Animation and Endeavour 250 exhibitions will be on show in Canberra. Although contrasting in style and content, they demonstrate the breadth of the Museum’s ambitions and audience reach.
The Museum is also committed to meaningful social endeavours that have real, long-lasting impacts on Australian communities. Additional funding in the 2018 Federal Budget for the Cultural Connections Initiative has been used to provide support and mentoring for Indigenous cultural workers and organisations. In 2018–19, the initiative has resulted in partnerships with four Indigenous organisations (with more to follow) and the appointment of six Encounters Fellows who will commence their program in August 2019. The schedule for the program is intense and challenging, comprising both onsite programs at the Museum in Canberra and visits to other Australian and international cultural institutions in 2019 and 2020 to further hone their skills.
Council has seen some changes this year, with Michael Traill AM and Professor Catharine Lumby reaching the end of their terms, and Stephen Byron commencing his appointment. We thank Michael and Catharine for their valuable contributions and insights over the years and wish them well in the future.
On behalf of all members of Council I would like to thank the management and staff of the Museum for another remarkable and record-setting year. In Council’s view the Museum’s team continues to strengthen and reach ever-higher levels of achievement.
I would also like to express the Council’s appreciation of your support for the Museum this year, as well as that of your predecessor, Senator Mitch Fifield, and the Department of Communications and the Arts.
I confirm that this annual report has been prepared in conformity with the requirements for annual reports for corporate Commonwealth entities. Council resolved on 15 August 2019 to accept this report as being a fair and accurate representation of the Museum’s performance during the 2018–19 financial year.
Mr David Jones
Chair of Council