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Workplace and work environment

This section details our location, our people, their values and our organisational structure.


Our administrative and operational headquarters are in Canberra at 51 Lawson Crescent, Acton, ACT, 2601.


By 30 June 2021 our workforce had decreased by 0.74 per cent. We had 122 ongoing employees, of whom 38 identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people. More information can be found in MANAGING OUR PEOPLE.


The Australian Public Service Values apply to our staff. We strive to be impartial, committed to service, accountable, respectful, and ethical.

These values are central to the way we work with our Minister, colleagues and stakeholders.

As stated in our Strategic Plan 2018–2023, we also value our:

  • technical expertise and capability for national and regional impact
  • Indigenous voice in all that we do
  • Yindyamarra – a Wiradjuri word meaning respect – more broadly it implies thoughtfulness, graciousness and kindness
  • innovation and flexibility
  • proactivity and outward focus
  • financial management.

Organisational structure

We are led by the CEO, reporting to the AIATSIS Council and supported by external and internal expert committees. We operate across four groups: Strategic Operations; Research and Education; Collections Services; and Partnerships and Engagements. Business units sit within each group.

Organisational structure

This diagram illustrates the organisational structure. There are four Groups embracing business units. The research and education group has three business units; indigenous culture and policy, indigenous country and governance (native title research) and education ethics and research leadership/research exchange. The strategic operations group has four business units; people services, executive support, business services and digital services. The collections services group has two business units; preservation and digitisation, and collection development and management. The fourth group is called the partnerships and engagement group. It has four business units; business innovation and partnerships, communications marketing public programs and publishing, return of cultural heritage, and collections access and support. Each of the four groups are answerable to the chief executive officer. The diagram shows lines connecting the groups to the chief executive officer. The solid lines mean that they are accountable to the chief executive officer. Also accountable to CEO is the office of the CEO and another group is the AIATSIS members. In the diagram there is a list of entities advising the CEO. They too are directly accountable to the CEO. The entities are the senior executive board, indigenous research exchange advisory board, research advisory committee, research ethics committee, native title research advisory committee, collections advisory committee, education advisory committee and lastly the publishing advisory committee. The CEO gathers all of these groups, members, advisors and is directly accountable to the council. Similar to the CEO, the council also has advisors. They are the membership standing committee, audit and risk committee and the foundation board. The council is then directly accountable to the Minister for indigenous Australians. The diagram has another entity for which the CEO has a relationship with and that is the national indigenous Australians agency. The agency is directly accountable to the minister. The chief executive officer also has a relationship with the Minister for indigenous Australians.

Challenges and opportunities

AIATSIS operates in a changing environmental context in which the AIATSIS Council interprets the AIATSIS Act to provide strategy and priority setting. The Corporate Plan identifies the following challenges and opportunities:

  • Increased recognition, demand and expectation for AIATSIS expertise
  • Increasing knowledge and relevance of AIATSIS
  • Growing need and recognition for a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and knowledge centre
  • Ongoing risk to the AIATSIS Collection
  • Impacts of audiovisual obsolescence as detailed under the UNESCO deadline 2025 statement
  • Managing the impacts of and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • A unique cultural institution managing multiple areas of professional expertise and practice in a dynamic environment
  • A fiscally challenging environment.


Our Corporate Plan commits us to ensuring our workplace meets our needs and our work environment supports growing and caring for Australia’s collection. The Corporate Plan states that we must continue to focus on:

  • improving our relationships
  • streamlining the way we govern our business
  • strengthening the capabilities of our workforce
  • improving our ICT environment
  • improving our physical and organisational structures

Details about our performance are in Part 3, while details about further development of our capability are in Part 4.

Our reputation and standing within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is of utmost importance to us while we continue to work closely with the government of the day to support its aspirations.

Every day we strive to create productive relationships with key organisations, both domestically and internationally, including collaborating with galleries, libraries, archives and museums and the research sector. Equally we are committed to enhancing our financial performance and resource management as we meet our legislative obligations and compliance requirements.

We know that to achieve this we must strengthen our leadership cohort in a workforce that is culturally competent and increasingly indigenised, within a modern ICT environment that streamlines our day-to-day business and provides contemporary tools to access and manage the collection.

We work by organising ourselves into teams and groups that best deliver our projects and meet our responsibilities, and in accordance with our plans, inputs and performance reporting. Our place of work currently meets our operational needs, although ease of physical access could be improved and the storage of our globally unique collection is challenging our storage capacity. In addition, the location of our workplace does not address our strategic priority to extend our reach beyond Canberra.