The key legislative instrument defining the broad function and activities of the Museum is the National Museum of Australia Act 1980. This Act established the Museum as a Commonwealth statutory authority and, along with the National Museum of Australia Regulations 2019, defines its role, functions and powers.
The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) establishes the framework for use and management of resources by Commonwealth agencies and is supported by a suite of rules, policy and guidance. The framework covers accountable authorities and officials; planning, performance and accountability, use of management of public resources, appropriations and cooperating with other jurisdictions.
The Public Service Act 1999 covers the powers of the Director of the National Museum of Australia in relation to the management of human resources.
Functions and powers
s6, National Museum of Australia Act 1980
1. The functions of the Museum are:
(a) to develop and maintain a national collection of historical material
(b) to exhibit, or to make available for exhibition by others, historical material from the National Historical Collection or historical material that is otherwise in the possession of the Museum
(baa) to exhibit material, whether in written form or in any other form, that relates to Australia’s past, present and future
(ba) from time to time as the occasion requires, to exhibit, by itself or in collaboration with others, in Australia or elsewhere, material, whether in written form or in any other form and whether relating to Australia or to a foreign country
(c) to conduct, arrange for, or assist in research into matters pertaining to Australian history
(d) to disseminate information relating to Australian history and information relating to the Museum and its functions
(e) to develop and implement sponsorship, marketing and other commercial activities relating to the Museum’s functions.
2. The Museum shall use every endeavour to make the most advantageous use of the national collection in the national interest.
s7, National Museum of Australia Act 1980
1. Subject to this Act, the Museum has power to do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with the performance of its functions.
2. Without limiting the generality of subsection (1), the powers of the Museum referred to in that subsection include power:
(a) to purchase or take on hire, or to accept as a gift or on deposit or loan, historical material
(b) to lend or hire out or otherwise deal with (otherwise than by way of disposal) historical material
(c) to accept gifts, devises, bequests or assignments made to the Museum, whether on trust or otherwise, and whether unconditionally or subject to a condition and, if a gift, devise, bequest or assignment is accepted by the Museum on trust or subject to a condition, to act as trustee or to comply with the condition, as the case may be
(d) to collect, and make available (whether in writing or in any other form and whether by sale or otherwise), information relating to Australian history
(e) to make available (whether by sale or otherwise) reproductions, replicas or other representations (whether in writing or in any other form) of historical material
(f) to make available (whether in writing or in any other form and whether by sale or otherwise) information relating to the Museum and its functions
(g) to occupy, use and control any land or building owned or held under lease by the Commonwealth and made available to the Museum under section 8
(h) to erect buildings
(j) to purchase or take on hire, or to accept as a gift or on deposit or loan, and to dispose of or otherwise deal with, furnishings, equipment and other goods
(ja) to charge such fees and impose such charges (in addition to the charges fixed by regulations) as are reasonable in respect of services rendered by the Museum
(jb) to raise money for the purposes of the Museum by appropriate means, having regard to the proper performance of the functions of the Museum
(k) to act as trustee of moneys or other property vested in the Museum on trust
(m) to act on behalf of the Commonwealth or of an authority of the Commonwealth in the administration of a trust relating to historical material or related matters.
3. The Museum shall not dispose of historical material except in accordance with section 9 or 9A.
4. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, any money or other property held by the Museum upon trust or accepted by the Museum subject to a condition shall not be dealt with except in accordance with the obligations of the Museum as trustee of the trust or as the person who has accepted the money or other property subject to the condition, as the case may be.
5. Nothing in this Act requires the Museum to perform its functions or exercise its powers in relation to historical material that is owned or otherwise in the possession of an authority of the Commonwealth, being historical material that is used for the purposes of the authority.