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About the National Gallery of Australia

About the National Gallery of Australia

The National Gallery of Australia opened to the public in October 1982 and is the Commonwealth of Australia’s national cultural institution for the visual arts. Since it was established in 1967, it has played a leadership role in shaping visual arts culture in Australia and the region and continues to develop exciting and innovative ways to engage people with the national art collection, on display, travelling, on loan and online.

As Australia’s pre-eminent visual arts institution, the National Gallery provides social benefits for the Australian community and enhances Australia’s international reputation. The Australian Government’s investment in the Gallery, and the visual arts more broadly, reflects its commitment to supporting a strong creative economy.


To inspire creativity, inclusivity, engagement and learning through artists and art.


To lead a progressive national cultural agenda by championing art and its value in our lives.


The Gallery builds organisational capability to extend the impact of our work on the community and on individuals’ lives. Our staff, resources, assets, technology and corporate systems drive the work of the Gallery and deliver substantial benefits to the people of Australia.

We actively seek to grow our organisational capability to maximise the return we deliver on the investments made in the Gallery, both by government and the private sector.


Our workforce is highly skilled and trained, with many areas of specialisation. Full-time equivalent staff numbers fluctuate with seasonal visitation peaks, which are supported by casual staffing. The Gallery also has an important base of 180 voluntary guides, who are well trained and generous with their time. Further information about the Gallery’s strategies for its workforce management and support is given on pages 72–7, including statistical information for the 2018–19 year, as required by paragraph 17BE(ka) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 (PGPA Rule).

See Figure 2 for the Gallery’s organisational structure as at 30 June 2019, as required by paragraph 17BE(k) of the PGPA Rule.

Legislation and functions

The National Gallery of Australia is a Commonwealth authority established by the National Gallery Act 1975.

The Gallery’s functions under section 6(1) of the Act are to:

  • develop and maintain a national collection of works of art
  • exhibit, or make available for exhibition by others, works of art from the national collection, or works of art that are otherwise in the possession of the Gallery.

In performing these functions, the Act states the ‘Gallery shall use every endeavour to make the most advantageous use of the national collection in the national interest’ (section 6(1)) and ‘has power to do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connexion with the performance of its functions’ (section 7(1)).

As a Commonwealth statutory authority, the Gallery is also subject to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, which establishes a coherent system of governance and accountability across Commonwealth entities.

Outcome and program

The Gallery delivers one outcome achieved by delivering one program as outlined in its Portfolio Budget Statements 2018–19 (PBS).


  • Increased understanding, knowledge and enjoyment of the visual arts by providing access to, and information about, works of art locally, nationally and internationally.


  • Collection development, management, access and promotion
    The National Gallery aims to build and maintain an outstanding national collection of works of art, providing access locally, nationally and internationally. It achieves this through the ongoing development of the national collection and delivery of inspirational exhibitions, supported by research, scholarship, education and public programs.

Strategies for meeting the outcome and priorities for the coming years are detailed in the 2018–2019 National Gallery of Australia Corporate Plan and reported against in the annual performance statements.

Ministerial responsibility, instruments and directions

During the year, two ministers were responsible for the Arts portfolio. Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications and the Arts, was the responsible Minister from 1 July 2018 to 29 May 2019 and the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, was the responsible Minister from 29 May 2019.

During the year the Minister approved one contract over $2 million for the engagement of Manteena Commercial to assist in building rectification works. The only ministerial directions received by the Gallery were Council appointment notifications.

In accordance with the National Gallery Act 1975, the disposal of works of art from the national collection must be approved by the National Gallery of Australia Council and the Minister for the Arts. In 2018–19, 225 objects from the Pacific arts collecting area were presented for deaccessioning and formally approved by the Minister. All were packed during the year in readiness for future disposal.

Service Charter

The Gallery’s Service Charter, published on its website, outlines its services and the level of service visitors can expect as well as visitors’ basic rights and responsibilities and how to provide feedback or make a complaint. The Gallery aims to meet public expectations by providing services in a courteous, responsive and friendly manner, by ensuring staff addressing the public are well-informed and by providing and maintaining accessible public facilities.

In 2018–19, the Gallery received 30 formal complaints (14 related to visitor experience and 16 to support services). These were, however, outweighed by the 88 formal compliments (32 related to visitor experience and 56 to staffing satisfaction). All complaints were acknowledged and addressed within timeframes specified in the formal complaint process outlined on the Gallery’s website.