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Corporate Plan 2020–21

The Finance Minister has amended the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 to allow Commonwealth entities significantly impacted by COVID-19 to defer the publication of 2020–21 corporate plans, with the mandatory publication deadline extended from 31 August 2020 to 31 January 2021.

The Museum will delay publication of its 2020–21 Corporate Plan because of the difficulties faced in developing accurate and achievable performance measures for future financial years. Deferring the 2020–21 Corporate Plan will allow the Museum to align measures for the year against priorities developed in response to COVID-19. The Museum will publish its Corporate Plan by 31 January 2021.

Corporate Plan 2019–20


We, the Council of the National Museum of Australia (the accountable authority), present the 2019–2020 Corporate Plan, which covers the reporting periods 2019–20 to 2022–23, as required under paragraph 35 (1) (b) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (Cth).

The Corporate Plan is the primary planning document for the Museum and informs the reader about the significant activities the Museum will undertake over the four-year period of the plan to achieve its purposes. This plan was developed in accordance with the enhanced Commonwealth Performance Framework, which was established by legislative requirements in the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014.

The Corporate Plan is aligned to the Portfolio Budget Statement and is informed by the Museum’s Master Plan 2017–2030 and Strategic Plan 2018–2022. The Corporate Plan also informs the Museum’s workforce strategy and financial and information technology planning cycles. Performance results for the year against the goals and measures detailed in this Corporate Plan will be reported in the annual performance statements in the Annual Report.

Our purpose

The Museum was established to develop and maintain the National Historical Collection for the benefit of the nation, and to bring to life the rich and diverse stories of Australia. Central to the Museum’s role as a national institution is its focus on meaningful engagement with all Australians in the telling of their stories, and its commitment to the history and cultures of the First Australians.

The Museum achieves this by caring for and strengthening the collection, and by sharing the stories of Australia’s people and places, and its social and natural environment, with national and international audiences. The Museum tells the comprehensive story of Australia from deep time to the present day.

The Museum’s functions are set out in its enabling legislation, the National Museum of Australia Act 1980.

Strategic Plan 2018–2022

Our vision is to be a trusted voice in the national conversation, and recognised as one of Australia’s premier cultural destinations exploring Australia’s past, illuminating the present and imagining the future.

Our mission is to bring the world’s cultures to Australia and present Australia’s history and culture to the world. In pursuit of this goal, the Museum has developed its ambitious Master Plan 2017–2030.

Our strategic commitments are to invest, challenge, explore and connect across all aspects of our business.

Our focus over the next four years will be on the following five key streams of endeavour:

Collections for the 21st century

Developing, maintaining and displaying the richness of its collections for all Australians to access, explore and treasure.

Building connections between objects, memory, imagination and lived experience — across cultures, across communities and across time.

Program directions

Putting the audience at the centre of everything we do.

Embedding a culture of discovery, delight, inquiry and authority, where contemporary Australia can be understood in relation to its past and its future.

Digital futures

Embracing technological change across all aspects of our business.

Positioning ourselves as an institution at the core of the emerging knowledge economy.

Growing our business

Strengthening our resource base and embracing opportunities for growth and diversification.

Developing resilience and flexibility in our workforce to quickly adapt and respond to changing environments and demands.

Brand recognition

Being at the forefront of cultural life in the country, where all Australians can find their stories in our place, and our place in their stories.

Becoming a recognised world-class museum, renowned for telling the remarkable story of our nation, from the ancient and enduring histories of the world’s oldest living cultures to the making of contemporary Australia.

Our operating environment

The Museum operates in an environment influenced by changing technological, social, economic and environmental contexts.

Museums are constantly being challenged to deliver programs and exhibitions in ways that embrace new technologies to meet or exceed audience expectations. Emerging technologies offer the opportunity to tell the stories of Australia in new and innovative ways, to provide immediate and interactive access to collections, exhibitions and programs.

The Museum encourages active engagement with its stories and collections through digital and social media platforms, and is keen to embrace new forms of audience participation and engagement through its gallery redevelopment program and proposed infrastructure projects under its Master Plan.

The changing patterns of audience interest and engagement with social and cultural life, combined with new modes of accessing information and experiences, will continue to influence the Museum’s understanding and responsiveness to its public. Changes in demography and the tourism market will also impact upon the Museum’s visitor base.

The Museum is focused on developing sustainable funding models, and growing and diversifying its revenue streams. Budgetary constraints emphasise the need to explore mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations with other cultural institutions, as well as private sector and philanthropic support. Through these cooperative endeavours the Museum and other national institutions will be able to share services and facilities and maximise the value of Commonwealth resources.

Audiences are central to everything the Museum does. The Museum strives to provide public access to world-class collection storage and conservation facilities, and to make its collections and programs available in multiple formats. The Museum recognises that to serve the interests of the Australian public, it must reach remote and regional audiences who may otherwise be unable to visit the nation’s capital.

One of the key challenges is to continue to provide optimal conditions for physical storage of the Museum’s collections and address risks identified in the Australian National Audit Office’s report, Safe and Accessible National Collections, 2005, notably the inadequacy of the National Museum’s storage facilities. The Museum’s Master Plan proposes solutions to this issue that will, at the same time, enrich public access to the nation’s historical collections. The Museum’s infrastructure will need to be maintained and reviewed in order to meet international best practice standards for acquiring, managing and caring for collections.


In response to this operating environment the Museum is actively pursuing new ways to fulfil its purposes sustainably into the future. The Museum’s Master Plan 2017–2030 envisages a museum that:

  • takes the Australian story into cities and regional areas across the nation through its travelling exhibitions, Defining Moments schools programs and online platforms to ensure everyone has access to our history and culture, wherever they are
  • has doubled and re-imagined its current exhibition space in Canberra to bring the National Historical Collection alive in networked, participatory public galleries that merge real and virtual worlds
  • leads innovation in new experiential technologies
  • showcases the Australian narrative through its international touring program linked to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade initiatives, with special emphasis on the Asia-Pacific
  • enhances commercial operations to raise additional own source income and develops collaborative partnerships with public and private interests to maximise resources
  • provides public access to world-class collection storage and conservation facilities that take people ‘behind the scenes’ of the Museum’s work to develop and protect the nation’s heritage
  • enables national institutions to share services and facilities, and maximise the value of Commonwealth resources, through the cooperative Cultural and Corporate Shared Services Centre (CCSSC).

Further, to meet the challenges of the Museum’s operating environment, it will need to be proactive, responsive and consider different models of program delivery. This may involve seeking opportunities to work more closely with other national institutions in co-branding and joint marketing efforts to advance the standing of these institutions as a group, both in Australia and overseas through joint programming, collaborative exhibitions, and seeking other opportunities to share resources and achieve more together.

The Museum will also develop partnerships outside Canberra, to support broader access to shared cultural and natural heritage, and to build skills and capabilities to contribute to its preservation, protection and value. By fostering social inclusion and sustainable development models for communities that it partners with on cultural and heritage projects, the aim is to deliver a social return on investment.

The enhancement of commercial operations to raise additional own-source income, and the development of collaborative partnerships with public and private interests to maximise resources, are also considered vital to allow the Museum to be sustainable and deliver the commitments reflected in the Strategic Plan.


Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Investment in ICT capability is essential for delivery of services to partner agencies via the Cultural and Corporate Shared Services Centre (CCSSC).

The Museum’s ICT Strategy Roadmap 2018–2022 outlines core ICT Principles which include:

  • acting collaboratively, being transparent and demonstrating its leadership for cultural agencies through the CCSSC
  • aligning all ICT services with industry best practice, government initiatives and the Digital Transformation Agenda
  • rationalising, consolidating and minimising duplication across ICT systems, applications and processes with the Museum
  • demonstrating progress and benefits against measureable outcomes
  • using governance arrangements that are appropriate to the risk of any project or investment.

The Roadmap describes proposed activities, outcomes and performance criteria over the four-year period, some of which are also mentioned in this Corporate Plan.

Workforce planning

Workforce planning is embedded into all aspects of business planning, enabling the Museum to develop workforce capabilities and capacity to deliver strategies, priorities and key outcomes. To this end the Museum has developed strategic workforce planning priorities for the period 2019–2024 and is preparing an audit of the Museum’s skill, including existing capabilities as well as areas for development.

The Museum’s workforce planning priorities aim to ensure that the Museum has the capabilities to deliver the objectives outlined in the Master Plan and Strategic Plan. The key capabilities that the Museum’s workforce needs include:

  • leadership — to drive a new benchmark of excellence
  • collaboration — to deliver a shared vision
  • innovation — to be bold, decisive and embrace challenges and opportunities
  • agility — to embrace the APS values of commitment, accountability, ethical behaviour and impartiality.

Risk oversight and management

In addition to the broader challenges affecting the Museum and cultural sector, the Museum identifies and manages risks at strategic and operational levels.

The Museum has an established risk management framework, comprising:

  • a risk management policy, which outlines the agency’s overall approach and direction in relation to risk management
  • a risk appetite statement, which specifies the amount of risk the Museum is willing to seek or accept in the pursuit of its purposes
  • a risk assessment methodology, which provides guidance to staff on how to conduct risk assessments
  • a risk committee drawn from key areas of the Museum to contribute to policy development
  • strategic and operational risk registers.

Risk plans are developed at business unit level, focusing on both program-wide and project-specific risks. Strategic and operational risks are reported to the Museum’s Executive as required. All strategic and major operational risks are reported to the Audit, Finance and Risk Committee and the Museum’s Council at each quarterly meeting.

The main areas of risk, and specific risks relating to the Museum’s forward program of activities that have been identified in the risk registers, include:

Financial risk: This risk relates to potential adverse impacts of financial policies and an economic downturn, as well as the ability of the Museum to perform its functions within existing financial constraints. The Museum’s program of gallery development works — in FY2019–20 involving the Discovery Centre, Life in Australia and Forecourt redevelopments — all involve large-scale construction works that have the potential to impact visitor experience and commercial activities.

While much planning and coordination work is being undertaken to minimise disruption to the public, there may be reduced visitation during this period, which would impact on Museum revenue. Museum staff are working hard to implement a communications and marketing plan, and to offer visitors a program of alternative Museum experiences.

Reputational risk: Negative association or opinion may affect the reputation of the Museum or its stakeholders. The Museum is cognisant that gallery development works could affect the Museum’s reputation amongst visitors.

Loss of, or damage to the National Historical Collection: The current sub-optimal storage facilities for those parts of the National Historical Collection not on display remains a concern, having been identified as a significant risk by the Australian National Audit Office in 2005. The Master Plan seeks to meet the Museum’s obligation to care for the collection in perpetuity by consolidating the collection into a more suitable facility that meets international museum standards and best practice.

The Museum’s recent international touring program also brings with it some risk to the collection. Objects from the Museum’s collection are travelling long distances and across different climactic conditions, with an increased risk of loss or damage.

Workforce capability and capacity risks: The Average Staffing Levels (ASL) cap imposed on Commonwealth agencies limits the Museum’s ability to deliver its vision. This leads to the Museum having to increase its expenditure on external resourcing (such as contractors or recruitment agencies) rather than building in-house capability.

Safety and security risks: Construction activities associated with the gallery development program come with work health and safety risks that need to be managed and mitigated. Appointed contractors are required to have adequate plans and systems in place to manage work health and safety. The extent to which contractors can demonstrate that they meet work health and safety obligations to a high standard is a key requirement of tender and contract documentation.

Performance overview

The Museum’s performance information sets out its response to the strategic challenges in the operating environment by outlining:

  • key areas of activity (that is, the projects and programs the Museum will implement to meet its strategic commitments)
  • how the Museum will measure its performance.

The activities will be undertaken over the next four years. They are aligned with the five key streams of endeavour as identified in the Strategic Plan 2018–22.

Our activities

Over the next four years we will:

Activities Collections for the 21st century Program directions Digital futures Growing our business Brand recognition
1. Increase visitor engagement with Museum experiences and collections
2. Deliver innovative programs and experiences
3. Build and maintain our historical collections, and make them more accessible   
4. Grow our revenue and supporter base
5. Conduct research and provide expertise related to our purpose   
6. Improve our efficiency and explore new ways of doing business    
7. Deliver components of the Master Plan

In 2019–20 we will demonstrate our performance through the following measures:

Activity Performance criteria

18/19 target
(if applicable)


1. Increase visitor engagement with Museum experiences and collections

Total visitor engagement 3,277,750
- permanent exhibitions 485,000     
- special exhibitions 191,000     
- travelling exhibitions 226,000     
- online experiences 2,100,000     
- education programs 89,000     
- public programs 150,000     
- events and functions 16,750     
Percentage of collection available online 51%
Activity Performance criteria

18/19 target
(if applicable)


2. Deliver innovative programs and experiences

Share Australia’s and the world’s stories with Australian and international audiences
Share the stories of the world and Australia’s place within it at our Acton site Minimum of 2 special exhibitions
Share Australia's stories in the Asia-Pacific region Minimum of 2 international touring exhibitions    
Share Australia's stories around Australia Minimum of 5 domestic touring exhibitions    
Cultural Connections program 
Deliver biennial Encounters Fellowship Announce up to 6 new Encounters Fellows   
Endeavour 250 (working title) project 
Invest in and collaborate with communities along the east coast of Australia Undertake engagement with key communities  
Develop exhibition for delivery in 2020 Develop exhibition content and commence design process  
Defining Moments program
Deliver Defining Moments Digital Classroom project    
Develop new moments with a focus on #OnThisDay content Release up to 30 new feature moments    
Deliver Big Ideas panels 3 panels    
Develop new Defining Moments products Release audio tour    
Activity Performance criteria

18/19 target
(if applicable)


3. Build and maintain our historical collections, and make them more accessible

Build and maintain our historical collections
Accession objects into the National Historical Collection, including reducing backlog via the Legacy Project 3,250 objects accessioned    
Make more objects available online via Collection Explorer by digitising our historical collections Increase by 12,500 objects    
Storage of our historical collections in accordance with museum standards 80%    
Activity Performance criteria

18/19 target
(if applicable)


4. Grow our revenue and supporter base

Increase support base
Grow the Friends membership program 50% increase on FY17-18    
Grow the corporate partnerships and philanthropy program 20% increase on FY17-18    
Develop the Bequest Program Launch the Bequest Program    
Increase revenue
Increase own-source revenue as a percentage of all gross operating revenue > 20%    
Activity Performance criteria

18/19 target
(if applicable)


5. Conduct research and provide expertise related to our purpose

Participate in Australian Research Council (ARC) projects 5 continuing ARC projects
Initiate new research projects, including in partnership with other institutions 6 new research projects initiated
Activity Performance criteria

18/19 target
(if applicable)


6. Improve our efficiency and explore new ways of doing business

Work collaboratively with government and other cultural bodies
Deliver new services to partner agencies via the Cultural and Corporate Shared Services Centre (CCSSC) 5 new services delivered    
Undertake collaborative projects and activities     
Invest in our technological capability
Improve business processes for managing customer relationships Implement a new customer relationship system    
Ensure safe, secure and efficient networks for the Museum and CCSSC partners Upgrade IT infrastructure    
Redevelop the Museum’s website Launch the new website    
Explore new ways of doing business
Develop a ‘Stretch’ Reconciliation Action Plan for the Museum Commence consultation    
Activity Performance criteria

18/19 target
(if applicable)


7. Deliver components of the Master Plan

Deliver the Forecourt project, an enhancement of the Museum’s outdoor entry and welcome areas Complete stage 2 works   
Discovery Centre    
Progress the Discovery Centre to create an interactive space for families Complete the design stage and commence construction   
Life in Australia    
Develop the Life in Australia gallery, representing the environmental history of Australia Complete the design stage and commence construction

Intended results

As a result of these activities the Museum will meet its strategic commitments to:

Invest, by

  • creating spaces where all communities feel welcomed, recognised and included
  • preserving Australia’s shared heritage for future generations
  • empowering our workforce to respond to a changing world by building skills, mobility, and cultural intelligence
  • embracing new ideas, technologies and opportunities.

Challenge, by

  • making the most advantageous use of our collections, in the national interest
  • having the courage to take risks, be confronted and be surprised
  • providing a platform for debate and discussion
  • finding new ways of doing business.

Explore, by

  • sharing our understanding of Australia’s past, present and future
  • supporting life-long learning with innovative and engaging experiences for all ages
  • developing and promoting our expertise, creativity and imagination
  • travelling to new places, territories and domains.

Connect, by

  • engaging in conversations, collaboration and finding common ground
  • embedding seamless business processes to respond to their needs
  • linking communities of interest through virtual, physical and social platforms
  • providing expert knowledge and interpretation.


with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014

ItemTopic Matters to be included
1. Introduction (a) a statement that the plan is prepared for section 35(1)(b) of the Act
(b) the reporting period for which the plan is prepared, and
(c) the reporting periods covered by the plan.
2. Purposes The purposes of the entity.
3. Environment The environment in which the entity will operate for each reporting period covered by the plan.
4. Performance For each reporting period covered by the plan, a summary of:

(a) how the entity will achieve the entity’s purposes
(b) how any subsidiary of the entity will contribute to achieving the entity’s purposes, and
(c) how the entity’s performance will be measured and assessed in achieving the entity’s purposes, including any measures, targets and assessments that will be used to measure and assess the entity’s performance for the purposes of preparing the entity’s annual performance statements for the reporting period.
5. Capability The key strategies and plans that the entity will implement in each reporting period covered by the plan to achieve the entity’s purposes.
6. Risk Oversight and Management A summary of the risk oversight and management systems of the entity for each reporting period covered by the plan (including any measures that will be implemented to ensure compliance with the finance law).
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