Chapter 3—Report on performance

Increasing engagement and participation

Table 6 Summary of results against key performance indicators for Objective 3: Increase engagement and participation through onsite, online and outreach programs, 2011–12
Key performance indicators Result Description
Number of collection items on display or otherwise accessible to increase by 2 per cent. Fully achieved The number of items on display was increased by 18 per cent (to 5,943).
Implement second year of the Online Program Strategy measures. Fully achieved A range of measures were implemented.
Continued effective management of the Australian Prime Ministers Centre Fellowships and Summer Scholars program. Fully achieved Three summer scholars and six fellows were appointed, and all research projects were completed.
Enter into at least one new collaborative partnership or project. Fully achieved One new partnership was established and one partnership was extended.
Present travelling exhibitions in six locations over two states. Fully achieved Exhibitions were presented at 10 locations in three states.
Complete one new onsite interpretation. Fully achieved One new onsite interpretation was completed in the Downstairs Gallery.
Sustain satisfaction ratings of 95 per cent and above for onsite school programs and maintain schools visitation levels at 75,000. Fully achieved Overall satisfaction was reported by 97 per cent of teachers and 96 per cent of students. School visitation was 81,182.
Development of one new online program for schools. Fully achieved Online resources were developed for the Marnti warajanga—a walk together exhibition and the Democracy Download post-visit enrichment activities.
Maintain 2009–10 Front-of-House visitation levels (excluding function patrons). Not achieved The total visitation, 175,400, did not meet 2009–10 visitation levels, but achieved a 2.3 per cent increase on 2010–11 visitation levels.
Increase awareness of Museum of Australian Democracy by 2 per cent (combined) in ACT, NSW and Victoria. Fully achieved Awareness was shown to have risen to 8 per cent from 6 per cent.
Maintain oral history program in partnership with the National Library of Australia. Fully achieved The museum recorded 14 interviews, 10 of which were recorded under a memorandum of understanding with the National Library of Australia.

Exhibition activities

The museum’s exhibition activities include permanent and temporary exhibitions onsite at Old Parliament House, travelling exhibitions, and online content.

Permanent exhibitions

Many of the museum’s visitor experiences within Old Parliament House are permanent exhibitions. Their content and presentation are periodically updated and refreshed.

Substantial progress continued in increasing the number of collection items on display; 5,032 items were on display at the end of 2010–11. By the end of 2011–12, this had increased by 18 per cent to 5,943, of which 5,559 were on display within the building and 384 could be viewed online.

Planning was undertaken during 2011–12 for a refreshing of the permanent exhibition Designing Democracy. As resources permit, the exhibition will be progressively refreshed to update content and technology, replace loaned objects and increase alignment of its themes and content with visitor interests.

The regularly changing exhibition From Our Collection located in Designing Democracy featured collection items relating to the stories of women’s suffrage and the construction of the provisional Parliament House.

The Contribute display in Living Democracy was extended to feature photographic portraits of a number of Australians notable for their social activism in a range of fields. The portraits are accompanied by quotes from interviews with the subjects, which are also featured in the exhibition.

Significant additions were made to the Prime Ministers of Australia exhibition, including:

  • an interactive display which enables visitors to vote on the qualities that make a good prime minister
  • a new audiovisual component on Prime Minister the Hon Julia Gillard MP and an updated audiovisual component on former prime minister the Hon Kevin Rudd MP
  • new permanent showcases to display objects owned by former prime ministers.

The exhibition was also substantially refreshed with a number of new artworks and objects from the collection.

Work commenced on a long-term upgrade and standardisation of exhibition lighting and other technical systems to improve control, enhance reliability, and reduce running costs and environmental impact across all exhibition areas.

Temporary exhibitions

The museum presents two types of temporary exhibitions: temporary onsite exhibitions at Old Parliament House, and travelling exhibitions at venues around Australia.

As Table 7 shows, numbers of onsite visitors remained stable while offsite attendance significantly increased. The increase in offsite attendance reflects a significant expansion of the museum’s travelling exhibitions program which was achievable due to the receipt of sponsorship funds.

Table 7 Attendance at non-permanent exhibitions, by location, 2009–10 to 2011–12
Type of exhibition Number of visitors Proportion of total (%)
2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12
Temporary onsite 107,278 94,664 94,218 95.1 87.0 74.2
Travelling offsite 5,488 14,111 32,692 4.9 13.0 25.8
Total 112,766 108,775 126,910 100 100 100

Temporary onsite exhibitions

Table 8 summarises the temporary exhibitions staged onsite.

Planning commenced for a series of exhibitions and other programs, under the collective title Art of Influence, which will form a key component of the museum’s participation in the 2013 Centenary of Canberra commemorations. The Art of Influence program will feature objects and stories that explore the relationship between artists and democracy, and investigate how art has contributed to socio-political dialogue, both past and present. The program will be launched in early 2013 and supported by key exhibitions and events.

Table 8 Onsite temporary exhibitions, 2011–12
Title Description Dates
Political Porcelain In this exhibition, artist Penny Byrne utilises objects familiar from Australian mantelpieces, china cabinets and toy boxes to transform vintage porcelain into powerful works of political commentary addressing issues relevant to Australian democracy.

This formed part of the permanent exhibition Living Democracy.
28 June 2011 to 18 November 2012
Behind The Lines: The Year’s Best Cartoons 2011 The principal temporary exhibition on display at the museum in 2011–12, this exhibition brought together a curated selection of 86 political cartoons published in Australian media during 2011. It also included a small selection of reproduced historical political cartoons from the museum’s collection. 14 December 2011 to 1 April 2012
Courage to Care Created by the B’nai B’rith organisation, this exhibition aimed to inform and educate Australians of the dangers of prejudice and discrimination. 13 February to April 2012
Whispers in the Corridors This exhibition is based on an audiovisual installation and audio tour, and provides an insight into life at the Old Parliament House when it was the home of the Australian Parliament. 2 April to November 2012

Travelling exhibitions

The travelling exhibitions program is a means of both delivering outreach activities and providing cooperative programming to organisations with aims or audiences similar to those of the museum. It makes a significant contribution to establishing the museum as a pre-eminent and innovative institution.

During the year, the museum’s travelling exhibitions portfolio was reviewed and refreshed, and promoted to Australian cultural institutions. This resulted in the museum’s suite of travelling exhibitions being presented at 10 locations in three states.

As part of the exhibition program, temporary exhibitions developed for the museum are adapted for touring at the end of their onsite season. A touring version of the highly successful exhibition Marnti warajanga—a walk together, which tells the story of the journey towards democracy undertaken by several Indigenous communities in the Pilbara region of northern Western Australia, was developed.

The travelling exhibition, Marnti warajanga—a walk together, was supported by significant sponsorship from BHP Billiton and funding from the Australian Government’s National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program. The exhibition was presented in Perth from 13 to 30 April. A specially designed touring version travelled to the Pilbara communities of South Hedland, Warralong, Yandeyarra, Newman and Jigalong during May and June.

The tour included a series of community workshops related to Indigenous experiences of their journey towards democracy, and enabled significant transfer of knowledge regarding exhibition development to those communities. An online presence and a learning resource were also developed for the exhibition. A more detailed report on the exhibition is provided in a case study on pages 29–30.

The museum produced two travelling versions of Behind The Lines this year, so that the exhibition could be presented by two venues simultaneously and shown in each venue for longer periods. Behind The Lines was exhibited at two venues in New South Wales (Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, 11 April–20 June 2012; and Albury LibraryMuseum, 6 April–6 May 2012) and one venue in Queensland (Cairns Regional Art Gallery, 27 January–1 April 2012). The Mrs Prime Minister—Public Image, Private Lives travelling exhibition was also displayed in Queensland (Rockhampton Art Gallery, 7 April–20 May 2012).

Mr Bruce Thomas, Chair of the Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre, and Ms Nadine Hicks, former Wangka Maya manager, at the Perth launch of Marnti warajanga – a walk together.

Mr Bruce Thomas, Chair of the Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre, and Ms Nadine Hicks, former Wangka Maya manager, at the Perth launch of Marnti warajanga – a walk together.

Photo: Abigail Harman Photography


The museum offered six guided tours of Old Parliament House daily, led by volunteers, and up to six staff-facilitated sessions of the Cabinet-in-Confidence multimedia experience each day.

Interpretation activities

Interpretation is a tool for revealing meanings and relationships to help people understand their history and their environment. Through interpretation, the museum brings to life the heritage values embodied in the Old Parliament House site and its collections, and their roles as symbols of democracy. The interpretation of the museum and building seeks to inspire and engage Australians to celebrate, debate and experience the past, present and future of Australian’s democracy.

Interpretation projects and activities during the year included:

  • developing an interpretive panel to explain the significance of the evidence of building work in the Downstairs Gallery
  • installing a new suite of visitor furniture for King’s Hall
  • preparing an interpretation plan for King’s Hall for 2012–14
  • improving the museum’s orientation and way-finding signage and updating the visitor guide and map
  • working with exhibitions staff to dress the prime minister’s desk in the Prime Ministers of Australia exhibition
  • refreshing the Hands on Democracy: Make:Say:Do space, including providing new bookcases and cushions for the reading space
  • providing fresh costumes for the Hands on Democracy:Play:Act:Be space
  • updating the MoADventure Trail
  • coordinating community events such as the Rotary National Model United Nations Assembly (19–21 August 2011), the Australian National University Debating Society Spring Tournament Grand Final (4 September 2011) and the National Indigenous Youth Parliament
  • conducting familiarisation activities for industry colleagues in the ACT Branch of Museums Australia IMAGE network.

Online content

Implementation of the museum’s Online Program Strategy continued. Relevant measures included:

  • updating, refreshing and adding content to existing websites, such as the websites for the Mrs Prime Minister—Public Image, Private Lives and Dismissed exhibitions
  • launching new websites for particular content, such as the photographs of Canberra taken between 1926 and 1935 by William James Mildenhall
  • developing and launching online content to complement physical exhibitions such as Marnti warajanga—a walk together and Courage to Care
  • developing and implementing two new online learning resources, an extension of Marnti warajanga—a walk together for school students, and Democracy Download
  • testing the usability and accessibility of the website
  • developing and implementing
    • guidelines for drafting, approving and publishing blog posts and for online engagement
    • the Online Content Schedule
    • stylesheets for the website to enable its display on mobile devices.

Trails on the themes of ‘Parliament’ and ‘The Rule of Law’ were introduced as part of the museum’s Exploring Democracy—Australian Journeys through Time and Place website (, which provides online access to museum experiences.

Australian Prime Ministers Centre activities

The Australian Prime Ministers Centre aims to:

  • raise public awareness of Australia’s prime ministers
  • support access to prime ministerial material in archives, libraries and other collections
  • provide a national focus for prime ministerial research and scholarship.

To meet these objectives, the centre provides a public research centre and reference service, collaborates with institutions that hold prime ministerial material, and manages a relevant research program.

Research and reference services

The centre meets the research and information needs of staff, volunteers, researchers and visitors by providing access to a wide range of material on Australia’s democracy, and research assistance. It is open to the public five days a week and offers a remote inquiry service.

Table 9 shows trends in the use of the research centre over the past three reporting periods.

Table 9 Use of Australian Prime Ministers Centre research services, 2009–10 to 2011–12
  2009–10 2010–11 2011–12
Visitors 3,500 3,000 2,320
Reference desk inquiries 360 280 255
Phone/email inquiries 54 110 92

As in previous years, the target of responding to inquiries within 10 working days was achieved in all cases. The inquiries received during the year related to Australia’s democracy, general political history, the building, prime ministers, and former parliamentarians.

The Australian Prime Ministers Centre produces a series of information leaflets, Prime Facts, which are available free of charge. During the year, approximately 80,000 copies of Prime Facts were distributed to visitors; a further 72,192 copies were downloaded from the museum’s website. This indicates a shift in user preferences towards the electronic format, when compared to the 112,000 hard copies and 13,000 electronic copies accessed in 2010–11.

Collaborative activities

The centre collaborates with other research and collecting agencies that hold significant collections of source material on Australia’s prime ministers. The main activity during the year was coordinating and providing secretariat support for the annual Round Table of Prime Ministerial Research and Collecting Agencies. This group fosters cooperation and collaboration among member agencies in such areas as collection development, travelling exhibitions and public programs. The annual meeting was held in September 2011 at the Chifley Home in Bathurst; the location was chosen to raise awareness of prime ministerial homes which operate as house museums.

Research program

The centre’s research program provides a national focus for research and scholarship on the history of Australia’s democracy, with a focus on prime ministers.

The program has two categories: fellowships, which support research by established scholars and cultural practitioners; and summer scholarships, which encourage students to develop an interest in prime ministerial studies at the beginning of their careers. Applications are assessed by an independent selection panel comprising representatives from academic institutions, cultural agencies and the museum.

Recipients receive funding to undertake research, as well as access to office space, meeting rooms, research assistance and the collection. Fellows and summer scholars submit a report on their research projects for publication on the museum’s website. Fellows are also required to present seminar reports on their research and make progress towards an academic, creative or bibliographic outcome which may be completed at any time during or after the scholarship period.

Six 2011–12 fellows and three summer scholars were supported. Details of the recipients and their research are listed in Table 10.

Table 10 Australian Prime Ministers Centre fellows and summer scholars, 2011–12
Researcher Project outline
Dr Anne-Marie Boxall

Senior Researcher, Social Policy Section, Parliamentary Library
The Fraser government decision to abolish Medibank

A project using National Archives of Australia records to examine the Fraser government decision to abolish Medibank. Understanding how Fraser dealt with the challenges associated with Medibank will provide the key to why it was abolished. The outcomes will appear in a book on the history and development of Medicare (co-authored with James Gillespie), as well as an academic paper and conference presentation.
Dr Matthew Graves

Senior Lecturer, Commonwealth Studies and Political Geography, Aix-Marseille Université
Australian prime ministers and memorial diplomacy in the late twentieth century

A study of the role of Australian prime ministers in the modern resurgence and refinement of memorial diplomacy, along with its adaptation to Australian geopolitical and democratic aims. Memorial politics and diplomacy under the governments of Whitlam and Fraser and the first year of the Hawke government will be examined. The findings will be published in academic journals in France and Australia.
Dr Cameron Hazlehurst

The ascent of Robert Menzies 1934–39

An analysis of the contest for the leadership of the United Australia Party (UAP) in 1939, from which Menzies emerged narrowly victorious. The study will draw on the extensive collection of Menzies’ private papers, oral histories and a critical review of the existing literature. The project will also examine the interaction between parliamentary members of the UAP, their former Country Party coalition partners and the press. Outcomes of the research will be published in a leading academic journal and in a metropolitan newspaper or weekend magazine.
Dr Priscilla Roberts

Associate Professor of History, University of Hong Kong
Prime ministers, the Australian Institute of International Affairs and the making of twentieth century Australian foreign policy

An examination of the relationship between Australia’s foremost foreign policy think tank, the Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA), successive prime ministers, and the making of Australian policy from the 1920s to the 1970s. The research will result in at least two articles in internationally recognised scholarly journals, as well as contributing towards a future monograph.
Dr Keiko Tamura

Visiting Fellow, School of Culture, History and Language, Australian National University
Harold Holt and his engagement with Asia

A proposal to shed new light on Holt’s political legacy, focusing on his engagement with Asia. The research will cover Holt’s periods as immigration minister and prime minister. The results of the research will be presented at an Australian National University seminar, as well as being submitted to at least two academic conferences and related journals.
Dr Auriol Weigold

Visiting Research Fellow, Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra
Malcolm Fraser and the evolution of Australia’s Indian Ocean policies

Research to examine Indian Ocean power-balancing and Australia’s role in it during Fraser’s time as defence minister and prime minister. The focus will be on Fraser’s speeches and his 1976 defence white paper ‘Australia and the Indian Ocean Region’. Outcomes of the project will be published in a conference paper and a related journal article.
Summer scholars
Ms Hannah Altern

BA Honours (Modern History), Macquarie University, commenced 2010
Australian prime ministers and multiculturalism

A study of the role of individual prime ministers in facilitating multiculturalism and encouraging a culturally inclusive society. The research will focus on prime ministers Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke and Keating.
Mr Guy Betts

BA Honours (History), University of Sydney, commenced 2011
The impact of Whitlam government urban policies on the Western Sydney region

The project will examine the relationship between Whitlam and his government, and the outer suburbs of Australian cities. It will assess the effectiveness of Whitlam Government urban policies, and describe their lasting impact on the Western Sydney region today.
Ms Bethany Phillips-Peddlesden

BA Honours (History), Melbourne University, commenced 2011
Politicians as parents

What do Australian prime ministers’ dual roles as parents and leaders reveal about changing understandings of power, family and gender in Australian society? The project will have a particular focus on the intersection of the public and private lives of former prime ministers Menzies and Hawke.

2011-12 summer scholars Hannah Altern, Bethany Phillips-Peddlesden, Guy Betts.

2011-12 summer scholars Hannah Altern, Bethany Phillips-Peddlesden, Guy Betts.

Former fellow Frank Moorhouse launches his novel Cold Light at Old Parliament House.

Former fellow Frank Moorhouse launches his novel Cold Light at Old Parliament House.

Several current and former fellows published work that drew on the research they had conducted with the support of the centre, as illustrated in Table 11.

Table 11 Publications by former fellows, drawing on research supported by the Australian Prime Ministers Centre, 2011–12
Author Publication outline
Dr David Bird

(2007–08 fellow)
Nazi Dreamtime: Australian Enthusiasts for Hitler’s Germany, book published by Australian Scholarly Publishing in April 2012.
Ms Caryn Coatney

(2010–11 fellow)
‘Great war leaders’ successful media strategies for business: How Franklyn Delano Roosevelt and John Curtin won journalists’ support’, article published in the Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings, Volume 7, Number 1, January 2012.
Dr Matthew Graves

(2011–12 fellow)
‘Memorial diplomacy and the Great War’, paper presented at a symposium on ‘The politics of the past: Great War commemoration in comparative perspective’, in Canberra in April 2012.
Dr Lyndon Megarrity

(2010–11 fellow)
‘Necessary and urgent? The politics of northern Australia, 1945–75’, article published in the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society in November/December 2011.
‘Regional dreams: Local government and its relationship with the Commonwealth 1943–75’, article published in Public Policy, Volume 7, Number 1, in June 2012.
Mr Frank Moorhouse

(2007–08 fellow)
Cold Light, novel published by Knopf in November 2011.
Professor John Warhurst

(2009–10 fellow)
‘Reflections on Julia Gillard’s atheism’, article published online by Eureka Street ( in October 2011.

The 2012 summer scholars spent six weeks in residence at the centre during January and February. They presented their research outcomes at a seminar in February 2012 and submitted reports on their research for publication on the museum’s website.

The 2011–12 fellows presented reports on their research outcomes at a seminar in June 2012. Their reports will also be made available on the museum’s website.

Since the program’s inception, 34 fellows and 14 summer scholars have been supported. An alumni network was formed during the year to foster and formalise continuing relationships with the Australian Prime Ministers Centre and the museum. The first official event for the alumni, a seminar and dinner, was held in June 2012 and was attended by all 2011–12 fellows as well as representatives from most years of the programs.

Learning activities

As well as the learning opportunities offered by the exhibitions and interpretative activities in Old Parliament House, the museum provides programs and learning resources for school groups, both onsite and online.

School programs

The museum provides students and teachers from around Australia with a wide range of high-quality onsite, online and outreach programs. The museum’s onsite programs were reviewed and refreshed during 2011–12 in order to meet the requirements of the new national Australian Curriculum.

All onsite school learning programs were facilitated by staff presenters, who undertake ongoing professional development and training. A Professional Learning Program workshop was held for presenters over three days in February and March.

School program attendances accounted for 46.3 per cent of the museum’s onsite visitation (a small increase from 44.8 per cent in 2010–11). School visitation numbers increased by 5.8 per cent from 76,749 in 2010–11 to 81,182. This pleasing outcome—a new visitation record for schools—brings the museum close to capacity in its ability to deliver quality school learning experiences onsite.

Evaluation questionnaires completed by teachers and students who took part in an onsite school program reaffirmed the high level of satisfaction with onsite school programs expressed by participants in previous years. These surveys are analysed and compiled into a full-year report by an external provider. The report indicated that 97 per cent of teachers and 96 per cent of students rated the programs as good to excellent. Many teachers assessed the staff presenters as ‘very informative and enthusiastic in engaging with the students’, and most students commented that they had ‘learnt something about democracy’.

Two new online learning resources were implemented:

  • The museum’s first Indigenous-based learning resource, an online resource to support the travelling exhibition Marnti warajanga—a walk together, was successfully trialled with school communities in the Pilbara region of Western Australia in July 2011. The trial results were incorporated into the completed resource.
  • A Democracy Download was developed, trialled and implemented for use by teachers back in the classroom after visiting the museum. This resource supports learning enrichment for primary and secondary students who participated in the museum’s onsite programs that are supported by RFID. The Democracy Download recreates each student group’s responses to interactive activities specifically designed to connect them with the exhibition content.

As part of activities associated with the Courage to Care exhibition which the museum hosted in February–April 2012, facilitated workshops allowed students to explore stories of people making a difference by standing up to bullying and prejudice, with particular focus on the Jewish experience of the Holocaust.

Community learning

Community learning activities assist communities whose needs and expectations differ from those of everyday visitors. These community groups include lifelong learners, people with a disability, socially isolated groups, people with English as a second language and family groups.

Key 2011–12 activities to support the museum’s community learning function included:

  • implementing the Disability Action Plan
  • recruiting a community learning officer to assist with implementing of the Community Learning Strategy
  • refreshing furnishing and equipment in exhibition spaces
  • delivering four school holiday programs and a range of activities for children and families as part of the Enlighten: see Canberra in a whole new light festival.

Collaborative activities

To support and promote educational opportunities for school students in 2011–12, the museum:

  • participated in the Parliament and Civics Education Rebate (PACER) scheme, and worked with other cultural institutions and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations as a member of the PACER Advisory Group—PACER supports student excursions to Canberra that incorporate visits to nationally significant civics institutions, including Old Parliament House
  • was represented on the board of the National Capital Education Tourism Project, a non-profit collaboration whose primary role is to promote education tourism to the national capital
  • participated in the National Capital Civics Education Group, which seeks to advance the study of civics and citizenship through engagement with Canberra cultural institutions.

Staff members were also office bearers on the Museums Australia National Education Network and Museums Australia ACT Branch committees. The museum hosted the first Museums Australia ACT Branch professional development function for 2012, showcasing the Behind The Lines exhibition and its associated public programs.

Along with a number of other institutions, the museum took part in a collaborative research project, funded under an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, on women’s leadership within movements for social and political change in Australia. The project was led by the University of Melbourne. The museum’s activities during the year as part of this project included seeking and obtaining donations of items related to the project theme for the collection; contributing to relevant oral histories; and contributing an article to a digital encyclopaedia. In December 2011, the museum and the University of Melbourne jointly hosted the Women, Leadership and Democracy in Australia conference, which showcased the diversity of research on women’s leadership in Australian society from 1900 onwards. More details of the conference appear in the case study ‘Women, Leadership and Democracy in Australia conference’.

Outreach learning activities

Museum staff took part in a wide range of outreach activities and programs aimed at sharing knowledge and skills with teachers and other professionals in the wider museum and public service sector. These activities included:

  • presenting at the History Teachers’ Association of Victoria’s annual conference in July 2011
  • participating in the ACT Constitutional Convention (for high-school students) in September 2011
  • presenting at the 2011 History Teachers’ Association of Australia National Conference in Adelaide in October 2011
  • sponsoring and judging finalists of the National History Challenge in October 2011
  • presenting to the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia in November 2011
  • presenting at the Canberra Evaluation Forum in November 2011
  • presenting a paper at the 2011 Australasian Parliamentary Educators’ Conference in November 2011
  • presenting an exhibition for the National Visual Arts Education Conference in January 2012
  • presenting a program to University of Newcastle pre-service teachers in February 2012
  • presenting a program to Australian National University students in February 2012
  • participating in familiarisation sessions organised by the National Capital Education Tourism Project, for tour operators in February 2012; and for teachers from South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia in March 2012
  • presenting a program to museum colleagues as part of the ACT Branch of Museums Australia IMAGE network in February 2012
  • participating as a committee member in preparations for the 2013 History Teachers’ Association of Australia National Conference.

Two staff represented the museum at overseas conferences in May 2012, to:

  • present a paper on the use of RFID devices in school programs, at the MuseumNext 2012 conference in Spain
  • visit the Smithsonian and other national cultural institutions in the United States, as part of a contingent of schools learning managers from ACT cultural institutions who made the trip under the National Capital Exchange Program.

These activities are described in more detail in case studies 'National Capital Exchange Program' and 'MuseumNext 2012 Conference'.

Volunteer program

The museum continued to benefit from the support and assistance of volunteers. Seventy-four volunteers provided a range of services, including conducting tours, undertaking oral history interviews and research, and providing other assistance to staff and visitors.

During the year a reference group was established to consider the possible effects of proposed changes to the visitor experience. The group, which includes representatives of volunteers and staff, is examining the role of volunteers and the opportunities available within the museum.

Oral history program

Oral history participant John Mildren, former Member for Ballarat (1980-1990), with the King’s Hall portrait of the first Member for Ballarat, Alfred Deakin.

Oral history participant John Mildren, former Member for Ballarat (1980-1990), with the King’s Hall portrait of the first Member for Ballarat, Alfred Deakin.

Photo: OPH Collection

The program records interviews which fall into two categories:

  • interviews that relate to the building as a heritage site, including interviews with former officials and other people previously associated with Old Parliament House
  • interviews that relate to political engagement, including interviews with former members of the federal parliament, people who personally knew prime ministers, activists of political parties which have been represented in Australian parliaments, and people active in other areas of political engagement.

In 2008, the museum entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the National Library of Australia. Under this, the Old Parliament House Political and Parliamentary Oral History Project records interviews in the ‘political engagement’ category. Under the MOU, the library also agreed to preserve and provide access to unrestricted interviews through its website.

The museum recorded 14 oral histories during the year. Of these four were in the ‘heritage site’ category, and not covered by the MOU:

  • Terry Malcolm (ABC parliamentary broadcaster 1975–94)
  • Gail Tregear (daughter of the late Allan Tregear, Clerk of the House of Representatives 1955–58)
  • Lyn Barlin (former Clerk of the House of Representatives)
  • Gary Quigley (former Cabinet officer)

The remaining 10 interviews were in the ‘political engagement’ category, under the MOU, and were with:

  • Senator for New South Wales Arthur Sinodinos
  • former senator Chris Puplick
  • former members of the House of Representatives Don Cameron and John Mildren
  • former principal private secretaries Ian Grigg and Barrie Virtue
  • former adviser and senior private secretary Kate Moore
  • former staffer Greg McIntosh
  • former liaison officer to the leader of the government in the Senate, Murray Hanson
  • former private secretary to Harold Holt, during his period as treasurer (1960–61), Terry Larkin.

The library contributed 22 interviews under the MOU, with:

  • former prime minister the Hon Bob Hawke
  • former members of the House of Representatives the Hon Gordon Bilney, the Hon Wendy Fatin, the Hon David Hawker, the Hon Con Sciacca, the Hon John Sharp, the Hon John Anderson, the Hon Neil Brown, Phil Cleary, the Hon Grant Tambling, the Hon Gary Johns, Charles Blunt, the Hon Barry Jones, the Hon Jim Carlton and Stewart McArthur
  • former senators the Hon Kerry Sibraa, the Hon Amanda Vanstone, Barney Cooney, the Hon Warwick Parer, Gerry Jones and Norm Sanders
  • the wife of Stewart McArthur, Beverly McArthur.

A total of 36 interviews were therefore recorded, 32 of which were under the MOU – 10 by the museum and 22 by the library.


As shown in Table 12, total visitation was 266,497, representing a significant increase of 7.8 per cent in comparison to the total for 2010–11. The majority of the increase was attributed to travelling exhibitions and outreach programs.

Table 12 Trends in annual visitor numbers, 2009–10 to 2011–12
  2009–10 2010–11 2011–12
Onsite visitors:
• School programs 81,079 76,749 81,182
• Exhibition areas 107,278 94,664 94,218
Subtotal 188,357 171,413 175,400
Change since previous year 7.4% –9.0% 2.3%
Travelling exhibitions and outreach programs 5,488 14,111 32,692
Change since previous year –49.9% 157.1% 131.7%
Functions facilities 74,947 61,678 58,405
Total 268,792 247,202 266,497
Change since previous year 3.4% –8.0% 7.8%

Visitor profile

While most visitors came to Old Parliament House to view the onsite exhibitions, the proportion of total visitors who attended travelling exhibitions and outreach programs increased significantly, as Figure 3 shows.

Figure 3 Breakdown of total visitation, by activity, 2009–10 to 2011–12

Figure 3 (bar graph)

Figure 4 provides a breakdown of visitors by place of residence.

Figure 4 Proportion of exhibition visitors, by place of residence, 2009–10 to 2011–12

Figure 4 (bar graph)

As Figure 4 shows, the proportion of visitors from overseas declined, reflecting the experience of tourist attractions across the Australian Capital Territory during the year. The proportion of visitors from the Australian Capital Territory decreased to 2009–10 levels, while the proportion of visitors from New South Wales increased.

Exit surveys were completed by 500 onsite visitors. Of those surveyed:

  • more than 73 per cent were aged 40 years and over
  • 79 per cent were first-time visitors

Visitor satisfaction

The museum seeks comments from visitors by conducting exit surveys and invites written comments, through both comment forms and visitor books, in order to gain useful and productive feedback.

The 500 exit surveys were a significantly larger sample than the 300 conducted in 2010–11. The findings showed a small improvement across key measures. In particular:

  • 94 per cent of respondents gave a ‘very satisfied to excellent’ rating to the quality of their experience (92 per cent in 2010–11)
  • 60 per cent of respondents said that their ‘experience was better than expected’ (58 per cent in 2010–11)
  • 66 per cent of respondents indicated that ‘their knowledge of Australian democracy had increased’ due to their visit (63 per cent in 2010–11)
  • 99 per cent of respondents advised that they would recommend the museum to friends, relatives or colleagues (99 per cent in 2010–11).

Visitor Experience Plan

The museum’s first comprehensive Visitor Experience Plan was developed and its implementation commenced.

The plan aims to enable visitors to tailor their visits to meet their particular needs or interests, while delivering the museum’s key messages and themes. During the year, a working group examined the existing product mix and the range of options open to make better use of programs. The intention is to provide a greater range of activities, catering for a variety of audiences, within available resources and aligned with the museum’s interpretive themes.

A key first step in implementing the plan is improving the visitor’s initial experience of arriving and beginning a visit to the museum. As part of this process, a new dedicated visitor reception area, along with a security desk located in the lower entrance, was installed in June 2012. Implementation of the plan will continue over the next two years.

Disability Action Plan

A Disability Action Plan, setting out the museum’s commitment to improving the visitor experience for people with a disability, was finalised in 2011–12. The plan will help the museum to better meet its obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and will be implemented in a staged approach as resources permit.

A disability reference group was established, to provide guidance and advice on ideas, approaches and technologies that improve access for people with disabilities. The group includes representatives from Vision Australia, the Deafness Forum of Australia, Nican, the Mental Health Foundation ACT, National Disability Services, the National Council on Intellectual Disability and the Old Parliament House Advisory Council. It will meet twice a year to review the plan’s implementation.

Measures implemented in the year include:

  • communicating the plan to all staff and volunteers, external stakeholders and the Old Parliament House Advisory Council
  • lodging the plan with the Australian Human Rights Commission to meet our obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992
  • developing a checklist on disability access to be used when planning and developing programs, exhibitions and events
  • providing selected staff with Vision Australia training in audio description
  • progressing museum website compliance with relevant W3CA accessibility standards
  • creating a web page with detailed information on disability access to services and facilities
  • developing a policy on the use of inclusive language in our publications and other communications
  • installing a telephone with large buttons in our reception area
  • reviewing emergency plans to ensure that people with a disability can be safely evacuated in case of emergency
  • celebrating the International Day of People with a Disability on 3 December 2011 by offering free entry for people with a disability and their carers.

Client Service Charter

The Client Service Charter sets out the standards of service which visitors can expect; information about the agency’s aims, standard and code of conduct; and ways to contact the museum or provide feedback. It is reviewed annually.

The Client Service Charter commits the museum to:

  • engage with, inform, educate and entertain our visitors
  • continually strive to improve the visitor experience
  • take account of the diverse backgrounds, needs and expectations of all of our clients and stakeholders.

The charter is available from the museum’s website, along with a feedback form that can be downloaded or completed online. In 2011–12, feedback provided on respondents’ overall experience was positive. However, several comments were received on the change of location of the cafe and the consequent reduction in seating capacity and menu choices.

Table 13 describes performance against the standards set out in the charter.

Table 13 Summary of performance against the Client Service Charter, 2011–12
Standard Performance
Services offered

We provide:
  • a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions and interpretive installations
  • a variety of tours for the visiting public
  • a range of education programs, other public programs and research services
  • facilities for the disabled, including wheelchairs.
All services were provided to a high standard.
Code of Conduct

We are committed to the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct and you can expect that our staff will:
  • behave courteously and with integrity
  • act with care and diligence
  • comply with all applicable Australian laws
  • use Commonwealth resources in a proper manner
  • provide professional and consistent advice, information and standards of service.
Staff continued to meet these standards to a high degree. Feedback from managers and visitors was positive.

We welcome views and comments on such matters as:
  • how you enjoyed your visit
  • what benefit you feel you may have gained from visiting
  • what you did and didn’t like
  • where you heard about us
  • how we might improve our visitors’ experience.
Visitor surveys and feedback indicated high levels of customer satisfaction.

Awareness raising

The museum’s publicity, online and advertising activity, combined with media coverage, succeeded in raising awareness of the museum.

Online surveys indicated that general public awareness of the museum increased by 2 per cent to 8 per cent (from 6 per cent in 2010–11) within the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria combined. This result achieves the museum’s objective of increasing awareness across those key areas by 2 per cent.


First Dog on the Moon, aka Andrew Marlton, is crowned the Museum of Australian Democracy Political Cartoonist of the Year for 2011.

First Dog on the Moon, aka Andrew Marlton, is crowned the Museum of Australian Democracy Political Cartoonist of the Year for 2011.

The museum presents events to support new exhibitions and launch newly interpreted spaces, and to help build awareness of the museum both locally and nationally. Table 14 describes the events that were held during the year.

Table 14 Events, 2011–12
Event Description
Behind The Lines: The Year’s Best Cartoons 2011 The exhibition was opened on 14 December 2012 at a media event held at the museum and attended by approximately 75 invited guests and museum volunteers. This event included announcement of First Dog on the Moon, aka Andrew Marlton, as the Museum of Australian Democracy Political Cartoonist of the Year for 2011. The event generated media coverage in the Canberra region, which contributed to the potential audience base for the exhibition during its season at the museum.
Cold Light The museum hosted the Canberra launch of Cold Light by Frank Moorhouse on 26 November 2011. This novel is the third in Mr Moorhouse’s Edith Campbell Berry/League of Nations trilogy and is set in Canberra. Mr Moorhouse was one of the inaugural Australian Prime Ministers Centre fellows (2007–08) and undertook research on the prime ministers behind many of the historic events in Cold Light during his fellowship. The launch was attended by around 100 members of the public and invited guests.
Marnti warajanga—a walk together The travelling component of the Marnti warajanga—a walk together exhibition was launched in Perth on Friday 13 April. Associated activities were held in each of the communities in which the exhibition was displayed. The community events were attended by museum representatives, including the Director and the Chair of the Advisory Council, who participated in the Yandeyarra community event on 23 May 2012.
Community activities
Enlighten: see Canberra in a whole new light The museum participated in this festival event organised by Australian Capital Tourism. The museum opened for a special program of evening events on the nights of the festival (2–3 and 9–10 March 2012) and the intervening evenings (4–8 March 2012). Associated activities included the comedy revue Show Us Your Mandate; a specially commissioned theatre piece for children, Shadow Boy; and the children’s activity program Glowtime for Kids.

Promotion and media coverage

The museum’s marketing initiatives use public relations, advertising and social media activities to increase public awareness and promote onsite visitation.

The use of social media to promote events and activities and engage with audiences increased, with 100 blog posts and substantial Twitter activity including posting 115 Tweets. The museum also began using Facebook as a form of online engagement from February 2012.

Monitoring indicated that media coverage of the museum was equivalent to $3 million worth of advertising space ($5 million in 2010–11). This included 1,166 press, broadcast and internet stories (988 in 2010–11) and achieved a 99.7 per cent positive ratio of media coverage (99.8 per cent in 2010–11), with minimal negative media coverage.

Advertising undertaken during the year included television, press and print media. The advertising focused on promoting public programs, exhibitions and events. Key advertising campaigns were launched for:

  • Marnti warajanga—a walk together, Courage to Care, Political Porcelain and Behind The Lines: The Year’s Best Cartoons 2011
  • the Great Badge Swap
  • school holiday workshops
  • the celebrations of Old Parliament House’s eighty-fifth birthday
  • Enlighten: see Canberra in a whole new light
  • the new quarterly publication In House.

The advertising campaign for Enlighten: see Canberra in a whole new light helped to generate 4,960 museum visitors during the festival period. Exit surveys showed that the museum’s advertising and communication had successfully reached 41 per cent of the respondents prior to their arrival.

The agency continued to collaborate on activities within the ACT tourism sector, and was a member of various tourism bodies, including the National Capital Attractions Association, the Canberra Convention Bureau and the Tourism Industry Council (ACT and Region).

Two major partnerships that will increase exposure and advertising reach were negotiated in 2011–12:

  • A new partnership was established with Murrays Australia Pty Ltd—this partnership achieves the aim of increasing awareness in the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales via outdoor advertising during key tourism periods.
  • The museum extended its major sponsorship agreement with The History Channel—the extended agreement achieves the aim of reaching a national audience and raising awareness of the museum.

A number of short films on former Australian prime ministers were broadcast by the ABC under the second year of a deed of distribution.

Details of expenditure on advertising and market research, provided as required under s. 311A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, are in Appendix E (page 147).


The museum’s website ( received 247,778 visits, an increase of 24.2 per cent compared to the total for the previous year. The website, which the agency acquired from the National Archives of Australia in June 2011, received 142,881 visits this year. As Figure 5 shows, online visitation has steadily increased over the past three financial years.

Figure 5 Online visitation, 2009–10 to 2011–12

Figure 5 (bar graph)

Note: Totals for 2010–11 and 2011–12 include visits to the website, which the agency acquired in June 2011.

‘Visits’ represent the number of individual sessions initiated by all the visitors to a website, while a ‘page view’ is defined as a view of a single web page on the site. A visit can therefore include multiple page views. Other than the front page, the most visited parts of the museum’s website were:

  • The Petrov Affair, with 193,540 page views
  • Billy Hughes at War, with 37,260 page views
  • Marnti warajanga—a walk together, with 19,826 page views
  • Visiting, with 16,140 page views.

The pattern of use indicates that students are using the website when studying related topics on the school curriculum. There has also been an increase in visits to deep within the site, reflective of the increased reliance that users have on search engines.

Following accessibility and usability testing of the website, changes were made to its structure. The changes are aimed at ensuring that it can be accessed and used by everyone, regardless of disability or special needs, as part of progress towards meeting the agency’s obligations under version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

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