National Museum of Australia applauds major budget funding boost

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The National Museum of Australia in Canberra has applauded a federal government announcement of a major $78.3 million funding boost over the next four years, in the upcoming federal budget.

In the most significant budget uplift since the Museum was established in 2001, the new funding comprises an additional $55.5 million over four years in additional general appropriation to support the Museum’s day-to-day operations.

This will be enhanced by a further $9.7 million over two years for high-priority capital works and a payment of $13.1 million to lease an urgently needed new storage facility and to exit a current unit whose conditions no longer support the safe storage of the National Historical Collection or staff access.

National Museum Council Chair, Ben Maguire, said he was delighted by the announcement and thanked the Hon Tony Burke MP for his support.

“We are delighted by the announcement of major budget funding for the National Museum of Australia and applaud the federal government for heeding our urgent request for additional funding and for supporting the National Museum’s mission and purpose,” Mr Maguire said.

“We are incredibly grateful to the government for addressing the looming funding cliff next financial year, which threatened the Museum’s ability to deliver on its legislative requirements for the Australian people – Arts Minister, the Hon Tony Burke MP is to be commended for his vision which includes both the extra funding for the Museum and the recently released National Cultural Policy.”

National Museum director, Dr Mathew Trinca, also applauded the government funding.

“We are incredibly grateful to the government and Arts Minister, the Hon Tony Burke MP, for the commitment to the National Museum’s ongoing role as the key institution for the holding and telling of the unique and complex Australian story, for the benefit of all Australians,” Dr Trinca said.

“This is exciting news which is so encouraging for our staff. In making this significant financial contribution to the Museum, the government has addressed longstanding funding issues and allowed the institution to plan for the future… We are delighted.”

The new operational funds over four years will sustain and grow the Museum’s operations including the launch of a new redevelopment and major display on Australian Wars examining frontier conflict between First Australians and European colonisers; enhanced adult and children’s programming; the next iteration of the landmark History Makers competition for schools Australia-wide centred around the award-winning Australian Defining Moments Digital Classroom; the extension of international and domestic exhibition tours, including the European tour of Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters; and digital transformation across the organisation.

A 2004–05 ANAO report found the National Museum’s storage – all leased – was in the worst condition of any of the national cultural institutions.

While the federal government undertakes a review of collection storage needs of the nation’s national cultural institutions, the newly announced interim capital funding will be used to urgently vacate one of the existing storage facilities and transport and rehouse parts of the National Historical Collection, to a new temporarily leased premises.

The budget shortfalls are a result of recurrent underfunding over two decades which meant that without intervention this year the National Museum was on track to receive $4.3 million less next financial year than the Department of Finance recommended it receive even back in 2002. Costs have increased significantly in the subsequent 20 years.

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