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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14656


Mr MORTON (Tangney) (16:20): On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, I present the committee's report on the inquiry into Canberra's national institutions entitled Telling Australia's story—and why it's important.

Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).

Mr MORTON: by leave—This report is tabled without dissent or additional comment and in doing so demonstrates the support across the political spectrum for its conclusions and recommendations.

Canberra is the heart of our nation, and home to many of our national institutions.

They tell a unique and compelling story—a story about our history, our culture, our arts, our science and, importantly, our democracy.

The committee believes, however, that institutions should do more to recognise and articulate their combined value.

The committee has made 20 recommendations. A number focus on strengthening how national institutions engage with the public.

Many call for greater collaboration between those institutions.

Importantly, we believe that Canberra's national institutions must develop and articulate a shared narrative about their purpose and value that directly connects them with Australia's national story and underpins everything they do. Their failure to do so hampers their ability to make their case for further resources.

Consistent with this, we have made other recommendations for better collaboration, including:

stronger collective branding and marketing;

better alignment of the purposes and work of the civics and democracy institutions;

enhancing initiatives to promote and support school students' engagement with Canberra's national institutions; and

a formal consultative structure for national institutions to work on joint planning, policy and sharing of resources.

The committee heard that Australians are genuinely interested in being informed about their democracy.

The National Electoral Educational Centre, run by the Australian Electoral Commission for school students, is one great example of success in educating, inspiring and empowering our next generation of voters. It may come as no surprise to you that I still retain my workbook from when I visited that centre as a student.

Likewise the Parliamentary Education Office provides successful programs for students to learn about the operation of our parliament.

The committee would like to see these programs made more accessible to the general public.

However, the committee is concerned that relevant institutions may not be presenting a shared and consistent vision about Australian democracy.

Some roles and functions are duplicated and some important aspects of the story of Australian democracy are missed.

This report recommends a review of the objectives, roles and functions of those institutions that facilitate engagement with civics and democracy.

This may also provide an opportunity to return parts of Old Parliament House to being a working extension of Parliament House.

2019 marks 10 years since the Museum of Australian Democracy was established.

It is timely to assess its focus and effectiveness.

The committee has concerns about the disconnect between MoAD's fundamental strategic role and the direction of some of its engagement with the public.

Its current and emerging focus on critical debates about democracy is best left to academic, think tank or media analysis.

Sadly, the present representation of Indigenous Australia within the precinct of the Parliamentary Zone is chiefly one of protest and does not provide for a broader acknowledgement and demonstration of Australia's rich Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, language, heritage and culture.

The committee has recommended better recognition of Australia's rich Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture within the Parliamentary Zone through the relocation and expansion of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

This would include public exhibition facilities to tell this important Australian story in a bigger way, to more people.

It would also be home to a new national resting place for repatriated ancestral remains that cannot immediately return to country.

This was a large inquiry and time does not permit me mentioning all of its recommendations. They include several relating to strengthening national institutions' governance, and addressing pressures on their budgets and resources.

I would like to sincerely thank the many contributors to the committee's inquiry. I'd like to thank the staff of the secretariat as we finalise this report in this parliament—the present staff and the staff that have informed the committee so well through this entire parliament. I'd also like to thank the deputy chair. As chair of this committee, it has been a pleasure to work with the deputy chair on many of the issues contained within this report and the reports prior to this one.

We've carefully considered all of the evidence we received, and we are convinced that Canberra's national institutions are excellent, invaluable and worthy of additional support and patronage.

I hope this report will contribute to making them even more effective, vibrant and cohesive as the keepers and champions of Australia's national story.

I commend this report to the House.