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Priority: Support and promote Indigenous maritime heritage

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are central to Australian history. As the custodian of a significant collection of Indigenous objects and artefacts, we play a pivotal role in ensuring greater national and international understanding of and respect for our unique Indigenous cultures. We recognise that continued protection and promotion of traditional and contemporary Indigenous cultural expressions are crucial for the wellbeing of Indigenous peoples, as well as for achieving reconciliation. Through our programs, exhibitions and employment opportunities we will continue to engage with and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to practise their culture and share their knowledge within and outside their communities.


The key performance measures are:

  • the number of Indigenous programs supported by the museum
  • expenditure on Indigenous arts and culture
  • percentage of staff and volunteers who have completed cultural awareness training.

Criterion source

2018–22 Corporate Plan, p 22

Results against performance criterion

2018–19 target

2018–19 actual

2017–18 actual

2016–17 actual

2015–16 actual

Number of Indigenous programs supported by the museum






Expenditure on major Indigenous acquisitions






% staff and volunteers who have completed cultural awareness training







The museum has established five programs for Indigenous maritime heritage:

  • Indigenous exhibitions
  • Indigenous onsite programs and collection
  • Indigenous community engagement and community development
  • Indigenous-themed education
  • Indigenous employment and workplace program and Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) initiatives.

Expenditure on Indigenous arts and culture is compiled by the Finance department from the finance system records.

The Learning Management System is used to generate reports of staff usage and course completion.


In 2015, the museum decided to make supporting and promoting Indigenous maritime heritage a strategic priority. An Indigenous Programs Unit of two staff was established to drive activity to reflect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage in museum exhibitions, programs and activities and support educational, training and cultural initiatives for Indigenous people. As reported last year, the museum’s achievements in supporting and promoting Indigenous maritime heritage, across the five program areas, have been remarkable, especially given the small size of the Indigenous Programs Unit.

Some of the highlights of 2018–19 include:

  • finalisation and launch of the museum’s first Reconciliation Action Plan
  • establishment of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee of Council
  • recruitment of additional Indigenous staff, bringing the total to four employees as at 30 June, as well as working towards Indigenous internships or traineeships
  • participation of all staff and active volunteers of the museum in cultural awareness training
  • delivery of several major Indigenous-themed exhibitions and programs at the museum and touring, including Gapu Monuk Saltwater – Journey to Sea Country, Undiscovered – Photographic Works by Michael Cook, Unbroken lines of resilience: feather, fibre, shells, the NAIDOC Week theme exhibition ‘Because of her we can!’, Au Karem ira Lamar Lu – Ghost nets of the Ocean, an Indigenous watercraft flatpack and a rooftop projection titled Remembering Eddie Mabo
  • a strategic program of 20 acquisitions directed at gaps in the National Maritime Collection or to address future exhibition plans. Expenditure this year is significantly less than budget; however, the average spend over the last four years is more than double the target.
  • strong engagement with Indigenous communities or organisations, including in respect of acquisitions, exhibitions, museum programs, NAIDOC Week, and attendance at Indigenous art fairs
  • development of two new curriculum-aligned Indigenous-themed education initiatives, bringing the total to nine
  • participation in various international engagements to highlight Indigenous maritime heritage

​This year the museum has further broadened the range of Indigenous merchandise in the store. This has benefited our visitors as well as the Indigenous artists and organisations who are suppliers.

The museum has continued to use Supply Nation as part of its overall procurement practice.

Most significantly, this year the museum’s exhibition Gapu Monuk Saltwater won two major international awards: International Project of the Year (less than £1M) at the 2019 Museums + Heritage Awards in London and the 2018 International Design and Communications Awards for Best Scenography.