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Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories
Canberra's national institutions

BENNIE, Ms Anne, Assistant Director, Branch Head Public Programs, Australian War Memorial

DAWSON, Major General (Retired) Brian, Assistant Director, Branch Head National Collection, Australian War Memorial

NELSON, Dr Brendan, Director, Australian War Memorial

PATTERSON, Ms Leanne, Assistant Director, Branch Head Corporate Services, Australian War Memorial

CHAIR: Welcome. Although the committee doesn't require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and, therefore, has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. The giving a false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege. I invite you to make a brief opening statement before we proceed to discussion.

Dr Nelson : Thank you. We, as custodians of the Australian War Memorial, are immensely proud of the institution, our staff, our volunteers and what we are able to do on behalf of the nation. Over the last five years we have approached visitation at onsite and offsite facilities approaching 1.1 million. In 2016 the institution was ranked No. 1 of 252 cultural institutions and facilities in Canberra. It was No. 1 on TripAdvisor in Australia and is currently No. 2 in Australia on TripAdvisor. Our VIP visitor visitation has increased by 87 per cent, and in that period of time we've also had a five per cent increase in student visitation and a 50 per cent increase in participation in Anzac Day ceremonies, so we're very proud of what we've been able to achieve.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Dr Nelson. I'm want to start by asking what might seem a naive question. I want you to think about the issues, not in relation to your institution alone but in relation to all of the institutions here in Canberra, why are they important? What are they seeking to do from a strategic perspective? Why is it important that Australians experience the Australian story through the different institutions and if they don't what are the risks?

Dr Nelson : These institutions are who we are—to understand what it means to be in Australia and to have a greater belief in ourselves. We are Australians defined less by our Constitution, and the machinery of a democracy given us by the British, than we are by our values and our beliefs, and the way relate to one another and see our place in the world. We are shaped most by our triumphs and our failures, our heroes and villains, the way as a people we face diversity and how we will face the inevitable adversities that are coming.

The cultural institutions, particularly, but not only of course, the Australian War Memorial, are where we reveal who we are. Just one simple but very powerful illustration is about 15 months ago, and this is not unusual to see, there were two ladies wearing full burkas with young children around them in the First World War galleries in the reflection area. I approached them and introduced myself. I asked them where they were from. They said they were from Auburn in Sydney. One of the ladies said, 'We came from Pakistan eight years ago. We are now Australians'. I said, 'Thank you for coming here'. She said, 'No, we love it here. It's our third visit. This is where we learned to be Aussie' and that encapsulates precisely what this is about.

CHAIR: Thank you, Dr Nelson. For an individual who has visited the War Memorial and other cultural and democratic institutions here in Canberra as opposed to somebody who doesn't have that opportunity, who doesn't come and visit either in person or through your online presence, what difference does it make to them as an active and engaged citizen of this country?

Dr Nelson : I can only speak with any degree of authority about the Australian War Memorial. It is not until you come to the Australian War Memorial that you really understand who we are, what makes us tick as Australians. It is a journey of discovery for visitors. It is in a context of war but it is not actually about war. The paradox is that it is about love and friendship—love for friends and between friends, love of family, love of our country. It is honouring men and women whose lives are devoted not to themselves but to us and their last moments to one another. Such is the emotion revealed at the War Memorial—I am patron of Lifeline, by the way—that within months of being in the job I realised that we needed to put our staff through the accidental counselling program. Whether it is up in the Roll of Honour or in the gallery themselves, it is a very common experience for people to reveal quite immense and often uncontrollable motion. That is at the more significant end of that experience. But without doubt, in my opinion, people leave the Australian War Memorial having learned much more about themselves than they have perhaps learned about the stories that are being told of the men and women—particularly in the case of young people, a life of value, whatever you do with, is one spent in the service of others, whatever the cost to yourself. As I say, you don't realise what you're learning when you are learning it, but you learn an immense amount in a cultural institution—particularly here in Canberra and especially at the Australian War Memorial.

You asked me about people who don't have that experience. You may have seen in our submission that our branding exercise—I don't like that expression, by the way—is 'for we are young and free', which is the first line of our national anthem. We sing it often. When we say 'young', we mean our nationhood. Obviously, Aboriginal people have 60,000 years of history and custodianship here. But the paradox is that, too often, we take for granted these things that are most important to us. It is not really until you come to, in our case, the Australian War Memorial that you get a sense of why we are free—particularly, but not only, those one million Australian men and women who mobilised in the Second World War. Today, as we meet here, we have young Australians deployed throughout the world in our name against a resurgent totalitarianism. So I think people who aren't able to experience the War Memorial, whether it is a physical visit or a virtual or online experience, are being deprived of the opportunity to be reminded of what is arguably the most important thing that we take for granted, and that is our freedoms.

CHAIR: Let's look at physical visitors to the memorial. Do you track age, gender, ethnicity, postcodes—a whole range of information about your visitors? Is there anything particularly telling about who visits the War Memorial? In the context of what we have spoken about—the importance of coming to learn about Australia's story here in Canberra—is there a segment of the community who are not visiting who we need to encourage to visit by certain means?

Dr Nelson : We have done a bit of work on this. Some of the things you have mentioned we cannot be too specific in asking people about. Anne Bennie is the assistant director who oversees this. I will ask her to respond to that.

Ms Bennie : We do measure a range of information from visitors to the War Memorial. We conduct a general visitor survey. We do have a challenge when trying to interview those of a non-English speaking background, and we are taking measures to roll out a non-English audio guide later this year for some of the major languages. We do know that our visitation from international visitors is only about 12 per cent, so we are talking predominantly about Australia visitors. We are mainly looking for what they understood about what they visited and also their satisfaction as part of their visit. We do conduct some other individual surveys. Ultimately, we get a satisfaction rating and a lot of that survey is reflected in our annual report.

Is there a segment that is not visiting? That is not evident to us. Of course, the nature of travel means it is somewhat limiting apart from larger family groups. Indeed, when you are outside the things that tie you down—family, work and that sort of thing—there is some mobility in those upper age groups. Certainly, we see families. We see people from 25 or 30 right through to 65. There is a large demographic there and there are accompanying children within some of those groups. It is not so much just immediate family groups; they are often large family groups given that visiting friends and family is a big reason why people come to Canberra.

Dr Nelson : We did some work in relation to the branding exercise. As I said, I don't like that expression but people know what I am talking about. We learned from that that about 30 per cent of our visitors are people like us—relatively well educated and relatively high income—about 30 per cent are what I would describe as quintessential battlers and then there is a mix among the other 40 per cent.

If you look at our school visitation breakdown—and we have a really good grip on where they are coming from—52 per cent are coming from New South Wales, 17 per cent are coming from Victoria and six per cent are coming from Queensland. In other words, in terms of the 140,000 kids who are coming on school visits, only a tiny number are coming from Tasmania, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia.

The group I would particularly like to see more of at the memorial is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from remoter parts of the country. That is one of the reasons why we are currently touring 'For country, for Nation', an exhibition we built specifically to tell the story of Indigenous service over 120 years. We had a visit late last year of kids from Tennant Creek—not just Aboriginal kids but non-Aboriginal kids as well. When they came into the memorial and saw the APY Lands painting greet them opposite the Gallipoli landing boat, their eyes were like saucers. I wish we could see a lot more of that. I suspect that the adult visitors that we do see from those parts of the country are more of the grey nomad variety. Yet as anyone knows, when you go through the Roll of Honour, Aboriginal people are more than well represented among the Western Australians and the South Australians.

CHAIR: How does the PACER program interact with the War Memorial?

Dr Nelson : As you well know, the Department of Education and Training overseas the PACER program. It provides, on a scaled basis, a subsidy of up to $150 per student depending on where they come from. From my perspective, if you look at the outcome in terms of where the kids are actually coming from, it is failing. Ms Bennie told me only yesterday that a lot of the relatively high-fee independent schools don't even bother to apply for it because the amount of money involved is not worth the effort. I'm sure that is a generalisation that doesn't apply to all of them. In an ideal world, there would obviously be me more money committed to the PACER program, but I would like to see it disproportionately and unashamedly focused on kids from remote parts of the country that are far distant from Canberra and particularly those from lower SES groups. If we can have a school funding model that is able to fund schools based on SES scores then it should be possible to link PACER subsidies for schools according to that and then add to that their geographic distance from Canberra.

CHAIR: Absolutely. Is visitation to the War Memorial required under the PACER program?

Dr Nelson : It is.

CHAIR: And you still have low visitation from places like Queensland?

Ms Bennie : That's right.

CHAIR: Then that is a very good indication of failure.

Dr Nelson : It is.

Ms Bennie : Something we are most proud of is what we call our facilitation rate. Under the PACER program, you have to come to the Australian Memorial but that doesn't mean you have to undertake a program at the Australian Memorial like you do at Parliament House with the Parliamentary Education Office. We are up at around 92 per cent where we have facilitated. That means people with schoolchildren coming to the War Memorial are actually undertaking a curriculum link program. That is really important to us because it means they are getting a program of learning that is consistent with other schools and it is directly linked back into programs. I am talking about year 5 and 6 students.

CHAIR: What is the difference between a year 6 student visiting the War Memorial to satisfy the PACER program in the most shallow way and conducting a program? What does that look and feel like? What are the two different—

Ms Bennie : If you come as 'self-guided', you are coming beneath your teacher and just looking through our galleries—and the teacher, with whatever knowledge they have, is able to take that through.

CHAIR: That is more than likely just running around and walking out?

Ms Bennie : Essentially—not knowing exactly what to see and not necessarily knowing that the amount of time they are allocating is appropriate. In a lot of ways, it is running a supervision job for the children—which is certainly something we encourage so that we can balance the high visitation within the galleries—as well as trying to undertake whatever sort of learning that may be. That might be bringing their own worksheets or what have you. But such is the strength of the program that the educator to student ratio is quite strong. We have small concentrated groups that are able to easily move around our galleries despite our high visitation and conduct in-depth analysis of talking about the objects, which is why object based museum teaching is so important.

CHAIR: Do those additional programs come at additional cost?

Ms Bennie : There is a small cost attached to them.

Ms BRODTMANN: How much is it?

Ms Bennie : I think it is around $5 a student.

Ms BRODTMANN: I ask because everyone thinks you get the baseline version but if you want something a bit more interesting then you have to pay a bit extra. At Questacon you have to pay extra. At the War Memorial Discovery Centre you have to pay extra. For families who are doing it tough, sending their child up to Canberra for a whole week is an expensive exercise. With that subsidy and all the add-ons, it gets expensive. It is possibly a disincentive, particularly for low-socioeconomic households.

Ms Bennie : That's right. From a teacher perspective, they are going to want to have an additional program because it benefits the education experience.

Ms BRODTMANN: It links into the curriculum so, yes, it gets a tick.

Dr Nelson : The maximum subsidy on PACER is $150, which is a lot of money to any of us. These young kids come from Far North Queensland—not often enough—remote parts of Western Australia and the northern part of South Australia. You can tell by the way they addressed and so on that they come from a modest background. The parents are truck drivers and shop assistants and that kind of thing. A subsidy of $150 to get them to Canberra is greatly appreciated but seriously inadequate. You can only imagine the sacrifices these parents have made to get those kids to Canberra. As you would know, I am on the record as being a very strong defender of Catholic and independent school education. But when you see a disproportionate number of kids coming from those parts of the country in nice school uniforms and not so many coming from not so affluent school environments, you realise that the system is not working the way it should. In particular, when you go down the Roll of Honour and look at all the names, you realise that a lot of the men and women who are on that Roll of Honour came from those parts of the country and also from low-income backgrounds.

Ms BRODTMANN: Absolutely. You have a breakdown of the states and territories, but do you have a breakdown of the schools?

Dr Nelson : Yes, we do. We of course know exactly which school is booking in. We would have to compile that information for the committee.

Ms BRODTMANN: Would that be too resource intensive?

Ms Bennie : No. Each month we tell our minister which schools are visiting, so it is no problem to pull that information together.

Ms BRODTMANN: Okay, for the last 12 months would be good.

CHAIR: Do you want the actual schools or do you want the categories?

Ms Bennie : It will have the school name.

Ms BRODTMANN: Whatever is easier for you.

Ms Bennie : Yes. You will be able to do some searching and filtering.

Ms BRODTMANN: It's just the independent, Catholic and public.

CHAIR: Before we get into government funding and private funding opportunities, what objectives are not being currently met by the War Memorial that you think are hampering your telling of the story you seek to tell?

Dr Nelson : Our most significant challenge is lack of space. The government, with the support of the opposition, has provided us now in total $17.4 million, in two tranches, to produce and complete a detailed business case for an expansion to the Australian War Memorial. We will complete that process for about $10 million, and we will be ready for second pass by early December this year. That process is well advanced. We don't know what the outcome will be, of course; it will be a matter for the government as to whether it will be supported or not. That's our No. 1 priority.

Our No. 2 priority, which has been addressed—for which we're very grateful—albeit in a bit of a piecemeal way in the last few years, is the impact of the efficiency dividend. The ASL cap has had quite a significant and not positive impact on the memorial and on operations. We've responded to that in part by becoming much more efficient—our productivity has increased substantially in the last few years—and also moving to contracted staff in part as well as doing a lot more fundraising in the nongovernment sector, which I confess I would be doing anyway no matter what the level of government appropriation.

CHAIR: Dr Nelson, just on that point: we learnt from another institution that when you fundraise from the nongovernment sector and you receive a grant of some sort, you are still having to deal with the ASL cap, which then puts a restriction on your ability to then utilise or spend those funds. I can understand why the ASL cap is there, but if the government is also encouraging institutions to identify private sources of income then shouldn't there be some encouragement to do so by adjusting the ASL cap to facilitate that and to encourage those organisations to do that further?

Dr Nelson : Yes. Definitely.

CHAIR: Have you experienced that issue yourself?

Dr Nelson : Ms Bennie can tell you one example from amongst many.

Ms Bennie : We've got a current proposal to look at a veterans' engagement program. We mentioned to the committee that we're looking at out-of-hours, lower audio level type programs for veterans. We have a particular external company that is willing to consider the funding of a multiyear program, but we would have to bring those staff on to run that multiyear program. With all of that corporate memory and the investment that we make and then staffing it, via an agency, so in fact paying a premium, it means there's more money coming out of the overall budget for such a program. Similarly, using IT contractors around 360-degree virtual experience means you are paying a quite expensive labour hire rate to attract the right individuals with the right skills to support us on those sorts of projects, as opposed to the War Memorial being able to offer even a 12-month or an 18-month contract for those individuals. They're some examples.

CHAIR: You are holding a collection, and that's an important part and that's a percentage of the work that you do, but what's the distinction between your role in holding the collection and displaying the exhibitions? How do you balance those two objectives? Are they there, or are they separate? Is your job just to display everything that you've got, or is your job to also keep the collection?

Dr Nelson : The Australian War Memorial is a unique institution. We are a shrine, so we are a memorial, a place of national commemoration, a sacred place. We're also a museum. And then we are an archive. In relation to the archive, and certainly for the museum, we have a collection. Everything that we do, in terms of exhibitions, is based on our collection. Nothing that is presented by us is a replica; it's based on an original object or artefact.

We have about four million objects in our collection. Like most institutions, at any one time we're probably exhibiting about four or five per cent of it. Now that collection needs to be conserved, it needs to be maintained, but we also need to be acquiring new things. Our basic government appropriation, which has basically been static in my five-year tenure—in fact, it's probably dropped a bit because of the efficiency dividend—is about $38 million. We have about $7.3 million that is for the collection, development and acquisition budget. Now as I say that to you, you're thinking, 'That must mean for buying stuff and kind of polishing it and looking after it.' And, yes, that's basically what it's for. We have a huge collection and it's depreciating, so the stuff is wearing out; no matter how much conservation is put into, it's deteriorating, particularly textiles and artworks and things like that. In 2011 the government decided that no longer would we be supplemented for depreciation, so no longer can we receive any money for our depreciation to offset that. Our collection, development and acquisition budget has been maintained at $7.3 million and it has been subject to the efficiency dividend.

At the same time we've negotiated an enterprise agreement with our staff, which is six per cent over the three years—we structured it slightly differently. We have 60 staff whose job it is to look after the collection. So what's happening is the amount of money that we actually have to buy things is shrinking, because within that fixed collection, development and acquisition budget—subject to the efficiency dividend and with a not excessive salary increase for staff—the amount of money left to actually buy stuff is shrinking. Now it's down to $400,000. So what will happen is members of parliament, apart from anything else, will say: 'Dr Nelson, you've got to go and buy that Victoria Cross. You've got to go and acquire this, whatever it is.' Well that'd be terrific if the budget that we're actually given to do it at least maintains some semblance of capacity to allow us to do it. And then I say to others, 'But don't turn around and criticise me if I then go and find a private person or a corporation or somewhere else to get the money to go and buy the artwork or whatever object or artefact that it is.' Do you get my point?

CHAIR: So your ability to collect and build the collection is at risk?

Dr Nelson : It is. If it continues the way it is then it is at risk. We rely very heavily on the generosity of individuals, a whole range of people, of bequests, of donations, of corporate partners. But the nation, through the government of the day, needs to ask whether this is a sustainable basis upon which to continue to proceed.

CHAIR: You mentioned members of parliament. I'm not familiar with the board of the memorial. The Library has a member and a senator on its board. Do you have members of parliament on your board at all?

Dr Nelson : No. We have an ex-member of parliament as the director. We're governed by our own act, the Australian War Memorial Act 1980. We're also subject to the PGPA Act and we also, clearly, work under the guidance of the NCA. We have up to 13 members on our council. The chiefs respectively of Navy, Army and Air Force are ex-officio on the council, and the government has worked assiduously to ensure that there is an appropriate number of people appointed to council who have accounting, business and financial skills and expertise. But there aren't currently any serving members of parliament on it.

CHAIR: Dr Nelson, reflecting on your role now, but also on your previous life when you were a member of parliament and not a member of the executive, would you see an advantage to having, like some of the other institutions, two members of parliament on the council of the War Memorial, from the perspective of both the memorial and those members of parliament that may serve?

Dr Nelson : I can only offer a personal opinion. I can see advantages and disadvantages. I would have to ask, 'What's the problem we're trying to fix?' The War Memorial is a place that is free of party politics; it's free of race; it's free of religion. In death everyone is equal; there is no rank, no military honours. In the 5½ years that I've been the director I've had the privilege to serve and report to council members, including ex-members of parliament, from both sides. I think it works very well. Some of the deliberations of the council are particularly sensitive, and I personally wouldn't be recommending that the benefits of appointing serving MPs or senators to it would outweigh the downside.

Ms BRODTMANN: Thanks very much for your paper and your submission and also appearing today. Going back to that budget issue, I think it was the library and the archives who mentioned the fact that the ASL is causing problems, particularly when they get funding from the private sector—it's difficult to spend—as is the efficiency dividend. One of the other issues that was raised was this notion of the lumpiness of funding coming in. With the archives and the National Film and Sound Archive, one year it was at a particular level, then there was a decrease, then it went back up again, and then there was a decrease over time. Do you get that lumpiness of government funding? Is it having an impact? You're talking about the need for funding at a sustainable pace. Is that because of lumpiness or just to meet capacity?

Dr Nelson : There are two things. We have been subject to the efficiency dividend. In 2011, following a review of the War Memorial by the Department of Finance, of all people, the War Memorial's budget was increased $8.3 million. In the last five years we have lost $7.9 million from the efficiency dividend and to the end of the estimates period it will amount to $10.2 million. That has obviously had an impact. However, the government has been very responsive to us. In the 2016-17 MYEFO we were given $4 million to essentially allow us to cope with significantly increasing demand for services, which offset the impact of efficiency dividend. That of course is $4 million over four years, so in the 2020-21 budget year we fall off a cliff. We're very appreciative this year to have received $8.2 million over the estimates to support digitisation, and we've also received $4.9 million over this and the next financial year to stabilise our operations as a part of the impact of the efficiency dividend and also, seriously, the unprecedented demand that we've got at the moment.

So lumpiness to us has generally been of a beneficial nature, because the government has actually responded. Also, we've just been advised that we are to receive another eight ASL for this year and we'll go to 12 ASL additional next year, which will take us back to where we were a decade ago, by the way. So from our point of view the blindsiding of the efficiency dividend has had a quite a significant and unexpected impact on us. Early in my tenure we coped. I didn't mind it too much, because any organisation can always be more efficient, but we've now reached a point where we are struggling to meet demand.

Ms BRODTMANN: So what is your advice to this committee? Abolish the efficiency dividend on national institutions?

Dr Nelson : Realistic advice? I think it's unlikely that any government, whether it be a coalition or Labor government, is going to resist temptation on the efficiency dividend. But what is absolutely critically important, and in this case I know I can speak for all of the culture institutions, is that if you are a small institution where you have to provide public events and ceremonies, where you have to have people that are experts in knowing how to polish a helmet or who have three degrees in how to hang up picture, you cannot cope with efficiency dividends being applied to those relatively small institutions that have 150 to 300 employees and expect not to have a general detrimental impact on where we started, that is, national identity.

Ms BRODTMANN: Very quickly on the ANAO report that came out last week: you agreed with all the recommendations. There was just one that I must admit I was a bit surprised about. From memory it was about KPIs. This is an issue I discussed with the gallery as well—that there wasn't any reporting or clarity around your KPIs. I'm going to the recommendations now. I'll just go through the ones that relate to you, then we'll come to that KPI issue. You've got the collection management frameworks, and the recommendation about identifying policies and plans, because that wasn't clear; assessing and filling the gaps; establishing a structured and regular system of review; and developing arrangements to provide ongoing and consistent storage. You've agreed with that.

Dr Nelson : Yes.

Ms BRODTMANN: Can you give us an update in terms of a time line and, very briefly, what you're doing to address that?

Dr Nelson : It's in our business plan for this year. I'll let General Dawson explain.

Major Gen. Dawson : The core of that recommendation around documentation was what we call the collection development plan. The current version is 2012. It needs to be reviewed.

Ms BRODTMANN: They made that point.

Major Gen. Dawson : That's something that we will be embarking on very shortly. That's really the document which gives us the guidelines for what we are collecting and what we aren't going to be collecting. We will need to update that and incorporate the potential major redevelopment of the memorial. If we get more exhibition space we will need to be focusing on what collection areas we need to be looking at, and also more recent conflicts. The collection is very strong on the First World War and Second World War, light on Korea, and there are other gaps, particularly more recently. As we've seen with the more recent special exhibitions such as the For Country, for Nation on Indigenous service, and the ones that are there at the moment on Special Forces, that's opened up a whole new area which we need to be to be looking at.

Ms BRODTMANN: Do you have a time line?

Major Gen. Dawson : We'll be starting that very shortly

Ms BRODTMANN: Is there a deadline?

Major Gen. Dawson : It will take about 12 months to go through. It's quite a significant piece of work.

Ms BRODTMANN: So mid next year.

Major Gen. Dawson : Yes.

Ms BRODTMANN: The other recommendation was about reviewing and updating—the collection development plan, that's the same sort of thing.

Major Gen. Dawson : Yes, documentation arrangements.

Ms BRODTMANN: A structured process for collection development and the acquisition statement. That's all been captured in that. That's all good. The whole of life costs of acquisitions—is that going to be incorporated into that plan?

Major Gen. Dawson : Over the last four years or so we've centralised our acquisitions processes. We get around 40,000 or 50,000 items per year offered for donation. We take around 20,000 against the guidelines that are set. We also purchase at auction or in other ways. The other way we acquire material is through commissions, typically in the artistic area and sometimes in the photo, film and sound area. We've centralised all those processes into one small team, which is around five people. That's enabled us to deal with what was quite a significant backlog which had built up over the years in an area that had been under-resourced. It also put in place some really solid processes. We used to bring and have dropped off donations and we wound up with storerooms full of stuff that we were still processing years afterward. We've now basically got a process where we're able to turn around a donation for the offer. Most of them come in through a web portal, so people write out what they've got, send us photographs and we do most of the initial assessments off site, without the item actually coming in.

When we say we're really interested in something, it comes to the site and has that final assessment. We'll be looking at things like whether it has potential hazards—asbestos, radiation, those sorts of things. That has enabled us to squeeze the process, which in some stages took several years, down to three months, which is our benchmark. Not surprisingly, if you maintain contact with donors, when you send them the final form, the deed of gift when they transfer ownership, they're excellent at turning it round in a couple of days and sending it back. So that's been a really good example of improving processes, using technology and using the available staff—you can imagine there's a lot of expertise involved in this—in what is now a very efficient process.

Ms BRODTMANN: In that process do you also incorporate the maintenance and sustainment? I'm talking defence procurement speak here. As you know, that's where the money usually is. Is that incorporated into that? That is truly whole of life.

Major Gen. Dawson : We need to do some more in that area. What is the whole of life? When we think about our whole life, it's forever. Typically with large items like aircraft it's the cost of getting it there and delivery. Then there is the ongoing maintenance. With vehicles, for example, you need to drain their oil and have a cyclical maintenance program. Textiles, in particular, are very fragile and need to be kept in a highly controlled environment, and they need a regular regime of inspection. So we'll be looking to incorporate those in the acquisition decisions.

Ms BRODTMANN: Would that be part of this collection process?

Major Gen. Dawson : The collection development plan is more about the decision to acquire, but we need to incorporate that management aspect and also the whole-of-life cost. If we've got something that is going to require a special controlled environment that we don't have and that we would have to build, there's obviously a substantial cost involved. We are dealing with legacy issues, particularly around hazards such as asbestos. Forty years ago no one worried about asbestos at all. We've been collecting for over 100 years. So there are some legacy issues we still need to deal with.

CHAIR: Do you have anything you would like to add, Dr Nelson?

Dr Nelson : I would offer two suggestions. One of the major challenges for this nation is digitisation of collections, not just in our national cultural institutions but throughout the country. I think there would be immense benefit in having a competitive funding pool for digitisation, which would be in addition to the base-load funding into institutions, something a bit like the Australian Research Council or NHMRC, for example, to give us an opportunity to prioritise and fund high-quality digitisation projects wherever they're occurring.

The second point is that I think as a nation we're failing ourselves in not telling the story of what we do to actually prevent conflict; what we do as a nation in diplomacy to create peace, to maintain peace and to prevent conflict. I would welcome the day that any Australian government, for example, was to provide a mission to the Museum of Australian Democracy and the funding in support of it for it to be the museum for Australian democracy and Australian diplomacy. The only people that are aware of what actually is done in the diplomatic corps to prevent conflict and create peace are those who have the privilege to go through the RG Casey Building and see the snapshots of history by prime ministers, foreign ministers, diplomats and a whole range of people in this country who are preventing conflict. To that end we will have a temporary exhibition open late next year along this line, but I think I think we need to be telling our story.

CHAIR: Why do you suggest MOAD as opposed to the War Memorial?

Dr Nelson : Because if you think about the fundamental values that underpin who we are—we've just seen this big debate about Western civilisation, for example, which is ongoing—it is the belief that we're all created equal, that we all have an equal voice, that we live by truths that are worth fighting to defend, which include the very principles of democracy. If you think about the symmetry of this parliament to Anzac Parade, the Australian War Memorial and then the Museum of Australian Democracy—which is an outstanding facility and museum, by the way—I can certainly imagine that complementing these democratic principles by which we live, which we seek to uphold in our region and further afield, to tell the stories of what Australian governments and our diplomats have done for decades, which is stunning. One of the reasons why Australians find it very easy for governments to cut DFAT budgets is because they don't really understand what it does and what it achieves for our nation. I'll leave it at that.

CHAIR: Thank you very much for your attendance here today. If you've been asked to provide any additional information please do so to the secretary by Friday 6 July 2018. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence and you'll have an opportunity to request corrections to transcription errors.