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Introduction

The Council of the National Museum of Australia (the accountable authority) is pleased to present the 2021–22 Corporate Plan. The plan covers the reporting periods 2021–22 to 2024–25, 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 outlines the activities the Museum will undertake over the course of the current financial year and forward estimates period to achieve its purposes. Over the 4-year period covered by this plan, the Museum will continue taking its stories around the nation and overseas, extending its reach through a combination of digital products, touring exhibitions, offsite activities and partnerships.

This year marks the final year of the Strategic Plan 2018–2022. A new Strategic Plan, to be finalised in mid-2022, will articulate the Museum’s vision for the following 4-year period. With 2021 marking the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Museum at Acton, it is timely to reflect on how far the Museum has come, how much it has achieved, and how this will shape its future.

We look forward to presenting performance results for the year in the annual performance statements contained in the 2021–22 Annual Report.

Mr David Jones AM
Chair of Council
August 2021

Our purpose

The National Museum of Australia develops and maintains the National Historical Collection for the benefit of the nation and brings to life the rich and diverse stories of Australia. Central to its role as a national institution is the focus on meaningful engagement with all Australians in the telling of their stories, and a particular commitment to the history and cultures of the First Australians. We achieve 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.

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

Strategic commitments

Invest

We will invest our energy, resources and experience into shaping our presence in the life of the nation.

Challenge

We will challenge ourselves and our audiences to see the world through different lenses.

Connect

We will strengthen connections with our audiences, partners and supporters.

Explore

We will explore our place in the world.

Five key streams

  • collections for the 21st century
  • program directions
  • digital futures
  • growing our business
  • brand recognition.

Our operating environment

    The National Museum of Australia continues to embrace its role of connecting Australians to their shared histories and bringing to life the rich and diverse stories of the nation through its galleries, exhibitions, programs and digital media. Looking forward, the Museum will need to be flexible and resilient to achieve its mission and deliver programs and services in a financially sustainable way.

    With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still being felt across the globe, the Museum is cognisant of the changing environment in which it operates and the need to plan for emerging risks and opportunities. While Australia has not been as seriously impacted as other countries, the economic and social effects of the pandemic continue to be of concern.

    Visitation

    COVID-19 has had a major impact on Australia’s arts and cultural sector. Like other national collecting institutions, the Museum has seen a downturn in onsite visitation, events and corporate and community functions, particularly from the interstate and international audiences that formed the majority of the Museum’s pre-COVID visitation. While this has stemmed directly from social distancing and restrictions on travel, there is also a reluctance on the part of domestic visitors to travel far from their home base due the continuing possibility of localised outbreaks and border closures.

    The Museum believes that, as restrictions ease, mandated audience capacity limits will likely increase and visitors will feel more confident to travel. As a result, general visitation is forecast to grow and return to pre-COVID levels by 2023–24. The 2021–22 federal Budget assumes that the international border will remain closed until mid-2022, with a gradual return of incoming international travellers from that time onwards, subject to health advice. While the immediate outlook for domestic visitation remains uncertain, the Museum has continued to develop its forward schedule of major exhibitions and programs to attract regional and interstate visitors and build visitation numbers in 2021–22 and beyond.

    A COVID-safe environment

    Audience research indicates that visitors are ready and willing to return to cultural venues, provided that there are no localised outbreaks of the disease and there are appropriate COVID-safety measures in place. The Museum is committed to providing a COVID-safe environment and following best practice and government advice to ensure the health and safety of visitors and staff, and to make their experience of the Museum as secure and comfortable as possible.

    Financial sustainability and revenue

    The Museum faces continuing challenges in achieving financial sustainability as a result of structural budget issues over the long-term and the more recent impacts of COVID-19. In response to these issues, over the last decade the Museum has focused on generating increased levels of own-source revenue to supplement government funding. This income reached a record level of 21.4% of the Museum’s operating budget in 2019–20. However, given that onsite visitation is a key component of the Museum’s ability to generate additional revenue, the reduction in visitor numbers due to the pandemic has resulted in the relative collapse of own-source revenue. To manage the impact of this, the Museum has cut staff and services, sought additional funding from government, and developed new opportunities to maximise revenue from other sources, such as online retail and licensing fees. It also actively seeks philanthropic contributions, sponsorships, and grants to support its work.

    Touring program

    The Museum will continue its planned international and domestic touring programs by implementing variations to work practices to accommodate border closures and travel restrictions. The Museum has created new ways of working during the pandemic, including the remote installation and deinstallation of exhibitions under the virtual supervision of Museum staff. This has involved creative thinking, flexibility, maximising the use of available technology systems and a rapid organisational shift in an industry where ‘hands-on’ work was the established norm. This adaptability has allowed us to continue our work of making important Australian stories accessible to national and international audiences.

    Digital delivery

    One of the Museum’s major achievements in the last year is increasing its audience reach through digital engagement. During the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Museum provided its content online and saw a record number of digital engagements, including for social media and digital programming. Having established strong foundations for digital delivery, the Museum will continue to invest and operate in the digital sphere, providing both online programs and onsite offerings. The intention behind this is, as always, to serve the public by enabling audiences to connect with the collections, wherever they are.

    Workforce

    As a small to medium-sized APS employer with budgetary constraints, the Museum’s ability to offer competitive remuneration to attract and retain staff is declining. This is particularly the case for skillsets that are in high demand, including those in the technology, data and cyber security spaces. The Museum attempts to position itself as an employer of choice by offering a range of non-cash benefits and opportunities to its staff, such as flexible working arrangements and creating a positive workplace culture.

Priorities and performance

The National Museum’s role in helping to connect Australians and their communities has been highlighted with the impact of natural disasters and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To continue our contribution to national recovery and to fulfil our mission, over the next 4 years the Museum will strive to:

Priority 1

Ensure Australians have a greater understanding of our shared history by collecting and sharing the unique and remarkable stories of the past and present

Priority 2

Excel at telling the Australian story through innovative digital media, dynamic storytelling and world-class exhibitions.

Priority 3

Maximise opportunities for public engagement that respond to changing audience behaviours and needs across the country and overseas.

Priority 4

Focus documentation, research, preservation and digitisation programs on key areas of the National Historical Collection.

Priority 5

Utilise available resources to operate as efficiently as possible within the context of the Museum’s legislative functions.

Where relevant, performance targets outlined in the 2020–21 Corporate Plan have been adjusted to allow for the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the Museum’s available resources and financial performance, and the Museum’s ability to recover over the next 4 years.

Ensure Australians have a greater understanding of our shared history by collecting and sharing the unique and remarkable stories of the past and present.

Outcomes:

  • Make available online key objects and collections from the National Historical Collection
  • Collect, document and share the stories of contemporary Australia.

Key performance indicators:

Performance Criteria2021–222022–232023–242024–25
Collection available online 70% of the collection available online

Launch new Collection Explorer proof of concept and commence work on customised solution
72% of the collection available online 74% of the collection available online 76% of the collection available online
Source: EMu Collections Management system; digital analytics; delivery
Methodology: NMA internal analysis.
Contemporary collections Develop contemporary collections policy Implement contemporary collections policy  
Source: Delivery of internal policy. Implementation KPIs to be developed
Methodology: NMA internal analysis.
Enable Australians to share their stories of bushfires and COVID-19 Display stories collected via the Momentous: Sharing Bushfire and Pandemic Stories website Display stories collected via the Momentous: Sharing Bushfire and Pandemic Stories website  
Source: Digital analytics
Methodology: NMA internal analysis.

Excel at telling the Australian story through innovative digital media, dynamic storytelling and world-class exhibitions.

Outcomes:

  • Share Australia’s and the world’s stories with national audiences
  • Maximise opportunities for digital engagement and embrace innovative approaches to telling the Australian story.

Key performance indicators:

Performance Criteria2021–222022–232023–242024–25
Share stories of the world and Australia’s place within it at our Acton site Minimum of 3 special exhibitions Minimum of 3 special exhibitions Minimum of 3 special exhibitions Minimum of 3 special exhibitions
Source and Methodology: Exhibition on display to the public at Museum’s Acton site
Permanent gallery representing the environmental history of Australia Open to the public  
Source and Methodology: Gallery open to public at Museum’s Acton site
Education resources and programs Expand Museum in the Classroom to regional and remote Australia

225,000 page views of Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom
Continued growth in education outreach audience

235,000 page views of Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom
Continued growth in education outreach audience

245,000 page views of Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom
Continued growth in education outreach audience

260,000 page views of Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom
Source: Delivery to regional or remote areas as defined by ABS; visitation data; digital analytics
Methodology: NMA internal analysis
Australia Speaks lecture series, supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation Host and publish 3 lectures by prominent Australians  
Source: Delivery; visitation data
Methodology: NMA internal analysis

Maximise opportunities for public engagement that respond to changing audience behaviours and needs across the country and overseas.

Outcomes:

  • Increase visitor engagements with Museum experiences and collections
  • Maximise opportunities to reach new and diverse audiences across the country and overseas.

Key performance indicators:

Performance Criteria2021–222022–232023–242024–25
Total visitor engagements 4,307,300 4,515,800 4,710,550 4,806,300
Permanent Exhibitions 400,000  
Special Exhibitions 145,000
Travelling Exhibitions 267,500
Education and Public Programs 26,800
Events and Functions 15,000
Digital Experiences and Social Media 3,453,000
Source: NMA and travelling venue visitation data; digital analytics
Methodology: NMA internal analysis
Note: These figures take into consideration expected COVID-19 impacts. Travelling exhibitions subject to availability of government grant funding.
Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters touring exhibition and Walking through a Songline experience Tour exhibition to 2 international venues

Launch tour of Walking through a Songline experience


>50,000 visits recorded across all venues

Tour exhibition to 2 international venues

>50,000 visits recorded across all venues
Tour exhibition to 2 international venues

>50,000 visits recorded across all venues
 
Source: Delivery; exhibition visits
Methodology: Visitation data provided by venues based on appropriate methodology for the venue; NMA internal analysis
Note: These figures take into consideration expected COVID-19 impacts. Travelling exhibitions subject to availability of government grant funding.
Grow the Friends membership program >4,500 members >5,000 members Continued growth in members Continued growth in members
Source: NMA membership database
Methodology: Number of members as at 30 June each year.
Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre Open to the public

40,000 visits

62,500 visits 75,000 visits 80,000 visits
Source: Gallery open to public at Museum’s Acton site; visitation data
Methodology: NMA internal analysis.

Focus documentation, research, preservation and digitisation programs on key areas of the National Historical Collection (NHC).

Outcomes:

  • Accession and digitise key objects and collections in the NHC
  • Ensure the NHC is stored in appropriate conditions and continue to implement improvements to collection storage conditions and capacity
  • Conduct research and provide expertise related to our purpose.

Key performance indicators:

Performance Criteria2021–222022–232023–242024–25
Trevor Kennedy Collection 900 objects digitised 900 objects digitised 900 objects digitised  
Source: EMu Collections Management system
Methodology: NMA internal analysis
National Historical Collection maintained in appropriate storage conditions Increase proportion of Museum’s collection that meets AICCM standards to >58% Increase proportion of Museum’s collection that meets AICCM standards Increase proportion of Museum’s collection that meets AICCM standards Increase proportion of Museum’s collection that meets AICCM standards
Source and Methodology: Australian Institute for Conservation of Cultural Material (AICCM) standards, NMA internal analysis.
Participation in Australian Research Council (ARC) projects Participate in three ongoing ARC projects Continued participation in ARC projects Continued participation in ARC projects Continued participation in ARC projects
Source and Methodology: NMA listed as organisation on ARC grant.
Repatriation Support provided for activity that contributes to the repatriation of ancestral and cultural remains

Contribution provided to the worldwide practice of repatriation
Support provided for activity that contributes to the repatriation of ancestral and cultural remains

Contribution provided to the worldwide practice of repatriation
Support provided for activity that contributes to the repatriation of ancestral and cultural remains

Contribution provided to the worldwide practice of repatriation
Support provided for activity that contributes to the repatriation of ancestral and cultural remains

Contribution provided to the worldwide practice of repatriation
Source and Methodology: Museum support provided for repatriation activity; Museum contributions to research, consultation, communication and best practice for the return of ancestral and cultural remains.

Utilise available resources to operate as efficiently as possible within the context of the Museum’s legislative functions.

Outcomes:

  • Increase operational efficiency through embracing technological change
  • Maximise opportunities for own-source revenue
  • Explore new ways of doing business.

Key performance indicators:

Performance Criteria2021–222022–232023–242024–25
Embrace technological change Optimise use of modern technological investment – improve information management and collaboration Optimise use of modern technological investment – improve internal communications Optimise use of modern technological investment – automate business processes  
Source and Methodology: NMA internal analysis.
Generate revenue through donations, philanthropy, and corporate support 5% growth on 5-year average 5% growth on 5-year average 5% growth on 5-year average 5% growth on 5-year average
Source: NMA financial statements
Methodology: All funds raised in donations, sponsorship, and in-kind support. Does not include grants or object donations.
Generate revenue through commercial activity >50% of 5-year average Equal to 5-year average Growth on 5-year average Growth on 5-year average
Source: NMA financial statements
Methodology: Sales of goods and services rendered, with the exception of sponsorships and donations. Does not include grants or object donations. Note: These figures take into consideration expected COVID-19 impacts.
Sustainability Action Plan Launch the Museum’s inaugural Sustainability Action Plan Report performance against Sustainability Action Plan Report performance against Sustainability Action Plan Report performance against Sustainability Action Plan
Source: Delivery; other KPIs to be developed as part of the Sustainability Action Plan for reporting from 2022–23.
Methodology: NMA internal analysis
‘Stretch’ Reconciliation Action Plan ‘Stretch’ RAP endorsed by Reconciliation Australia Report on measures from final ‘Stretch’ RAP Report on measures from final ‘Stretch’ RAP Report on measures from final ‘Stretch’ RAP
Source and Methodology: Reconciliation Australia endorsement; other KPIs to be developed as part of the ‘Stretch’ RAP for reporting from 2022–23

Capability

Workforce planning

As part of the Government’s Delivering for Australians reform agenda, the Australian Public Service has developed Delivering for Tomorrow: APS Workforce Strategy 2025. The strategy provides an APS-wide view on how to equip the APS workforce to tackle immediate and emerging challenges, highlighting 3 key areas of focus:

  • Attract, build and retain skills, expertise and talent
  • Embrace data, technology and flexible and responsive workforce models
  • Strengthen integrity and purposeful leadership.

The Museum is reviewing the priority capabilities required to deliver its own key outcomes within this context and with the support of broader APS tools and resources. The Museum will continue to foster an agile and flexible workforce capable of responding to challenges, both internal and sector-wide.

With a better understanding of the existing talent and capability gaps and how these relate to achieving the Museum’s future priorities within financial and environmental constraints, the Museum will be better placed to respond to the needs of its workforce. This requires consideration and understanding of the corporate culture and desired employee value proposition. It will also need a shared commitment and understanding of the Museum’s short- to longer-term business priorities and the resources and capability necessary to achieve these goals.

The Museum will continue to focus on creating a flexible and inclusive working culture while building opportunities for career development; and ensuring that the core APS capabilities of leadership, integrity, knowledge of APS craft, data literacy and analysis are maintained.

ICT capability

The Museum is continuing to implement changes to its ICT delivery model to better support hybrid working arrangements, improving security and operability within the existing infrastructure for staff working onsite and remotely.

In 2021–22, the Museum will introduce an ICT Steering Committee to shape ICT capability over the medium- to long-term and guide investment. ICT support models are being reviewed to ensure they are fit for purpose and sustainable in an increasingly complex environment.

Worldwide, the cyber security community has reported a steady increase in the number and range of cyber threats, requiring ongoing investment in resources, defence tools, and user education to mitigate risks. The Museum continues to monitor the key security controls (Essential Eight) and regularly reviews the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s Strategies to Mitigate Cyber Security Incidents to identify controls that can be implemented in the Museum environment to lift its maturity, within its resource capacity.

Risk oversight and management

In addition to the broader challenges affecting the Museum and cultural sector, the organisation 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 agency is willing to seek or accept in the pursuit of its purposes
  • a risk assessment methodology and training resources, which improves staff capacity to undertake and benefit from risk assessments
  • a risk committee drawn from key areas of the Museum that contributes to policy development
  • strategic and operational risk registers.

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

The main areas of risk and specific risks, relating to the forward program of activities identified in the risk registers, include:

Financial risk

This risk relates to adverse impacts of financial policies and the rate of economic recovery. Own-source revenue, impacted by COVID-19, is likely to continue to be below pre-COVID levels. This can have a compounding and significant downward effect on available financial resources. It also poses an increased risk to ongoing sustainability, affecting factors such as the quality of care of the National Historical Collection, resilience to cyber threats, and the ability to attract and retain skilled staff.

The Museum will continue to review the delivery of functions, activities, programs and events in line with available financial resources.

Reputational risk

A reduced program of activity in 2020–21, due to COVID-19 impacts and gallery redevelopment, has affected the Museum’s capacity to serve the Australian public. As a result, its reputation and brand awareness has been impacted. The Museum is taking steps to address this by providing more digital content and greater opportunities to interact with the Museum and its collections online. The opening of a redeveloped exhibition space in early 2021–22 and the hosting of a major temporary exhibition, Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes from the British Museum, will boost the visibility of the Museum’s major programs and exhibitions for the public.

Cyber threats

Increasing cyber security threats present risks of business disruption, privacy breaches and data compromise and loss, with compliance, financial and reputational consequences. The Museum continues to review its level of maturity against the revised, strengthened Essential Eight Maturity Model. Continued ICT investment to mitigate vulnerabilities will be required to ensure the Museum is protected from cyber threats.

Loss of or damage to the National Historical Collection

The sub-optimal storage facilities that house the National Historical Collection remain a high risk. The facilities were identified as inadequate in an Australian National Audit Office report in 2005 and the Museum has implemented a series of measures to assist in minimising the risks at its current storage facilities. Full mitigation of this risk will need to be addressed through the relocation of the Museum’s collection to improved facilities which meet international museum standards and which allow the Museum to fulfil its legislated mandate to care for the collection in perpetuity. The Museum will continue to work towards the construction or acquisition of such a facility, which may be a combined facility shared with other major national collecting institutions. In the short-term, the Museum is undertaking works to safeguard the most at-risk elements of the collection.

Health and safety

The Museum will continue to ensure compliance with COVID-19 health advice and travel restrictions. Continually changing domestic restrictions and the lifting of international travel bans will provide particular challenges and opportunities for the Museum. The focus will remain on ensuring the safety of visitors and staff with the implementation of COVID-19 operational procedures, including cleaning and hygiene, that are in line with government recommendations and best practice.

Staff capability and capacity

As a small- to medium-sized APS employer with budgetary constraints, the Museum’s ability to offer competitive remuneration in comparison to the APS average is declining. This affects the quality of potential candidates attracted to working at the Museum and remaining long-term. This is particularly the case for workers with skill sets that are in high demand, such as those in the technology, data, and cyber security spaces.

Further work will be undertaken at the strategic and operational levels to ensure gaps in current and future staff capability are managed in line with strategic priorities, budget, and government policy. The Museum continues to review its employee value proposition to attract suitable candidates and develop a range of options or pathways that support a buy or build approach to our talent pipeline. The Museum positions itself to be an employer of choice by offering flexible working arrangements and creating a positive workplace culture.

Cooperation

The Museum delivers its mission, in part, through its strong relationships and successful collaborations. By coming together for a common purpose and working actively with its partners, the Museum can maximise value and enhance benefits to the public. Cooperative ventures can also develop staff capabilities and extend institutional capacity to increase activity levels during times of resource constraint. Overall, these cooperative programs and activities serve to enhance the broader cultural life of the nation.

The next 4-year period will be underpinned by long-term relationships with organisations and people who share the Museum’s vision and purpose. These include:

Cultural organisations

The Museum has signed multi-year Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with several state-based museums and galleries, such as the Western Australian Museum and South Australian Museum, and international museums in Europe and Asia. The touring exhibition program has been devised in conjunction with Indigenous communities, arts organisations and other museums. By pooling expertise and resourcing, new exhibitions with a national and international reach have been developed that are often beyond the resourcing capacity of individual organisations.

Commonwealth-sector collaboration

The Museum collaborates with other Commonwealth government entities to assist in meeting shared objectives. Strong relationships exist among the National Collecting Institutions and vary from formal working groups and committees based on professional expertise to informal peer engagement. Outside of the Arts portfolio, the Museum has entered into partnerships with the Australian Signals Directorate for an exhibition to mark its 75th anniversary; the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for a curatorial program focusing on Australia’s diplomatic history; and the National Australia Day Council for Australia Day 2022 activities. The Museum also delivers payroll, ICT, finance and records services to small corporate and non-corporate Commonwealth agencies via its Cultural and Corporate Shared Services Centre (CCSSC).

Research collaboration

Research and scholarship are central to the Museum’s activities. Through its exhibitions, programs and publications, the Museum provides leadership and contributes to scholarship and discussion around Australia’s past, present and future. This relies on collaboration with internal and external experts, and on funding and collaboration from research bodies and academia. The Museum collaborates with key thought leaders on its publications, including the Museum magazine, exhibition catalogues and books. As part of its commitment to research historical collections relating to Australian history, the Museum has entered into collaborations with the Australian National University and the Australian Research Council (ARC). The Museum participates in several ARC projects with universities, Indigenous communities and other cultural institutions. In 2020–21, the Museum launched its Australia Speaks series, featuring lectures by prominent Australians and supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation.

Philanthropy and corporate partners

The role of philanthropy and corporate partners continues to be important in enabling the Museum to deliver major gallery developments, programs and services. In recent years, the Museum has undertaken a number of successful campaigns to raise donations, including the Encounters Fellowships, the People’s Walk and 20th Birthday campaigns, and has received significant contributions from philanthropists, including $1.5 million from Gandel Philanthropy for the Australia’s Defining Moments Digital Classroom and a major gift by Mr Tim Fairfax AC and Mrs Gina Fairfax in support of the Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre. The Museum also maintains a number of corporate partnerships and sponsorship with media and commercial partners. Contributions from the Museum’s sponsors, donors and members have enabled the organisation to continue its work at a time of fiscal constraint, and the Museum will continue to seek additional funding from its supporters and partners in coming years.

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