The Albanese government has moved to give all nine national collecting institutions funding certainty and reverse a "shocking state of disrepair", announcing on Wednesday they will get an extra $535 million over the next four years.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will make the major pre-budget announcement for the financially struggling mainly Canberra-based institutions at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) on Wednesday, a month out from the May budget and ahead of their funding expiring on June 30.
The NGA is an internationally-regarded institution which has been deploying using towels and buckets to mitigate a "national disgrace". Staff were also facing large scale redundancies.
The $535 million over the forward estimates is for the National Gallery, Australian National Maritime Museum, Bundanon Trust, Museum of Australian Democracy (Old Parliament House), National Archives of Australia, National Film and Sound Archive, National Library of Australia, National Museum of Australia and the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.
"I want all Australians to be able to visit, appreciate and learn from these institutions for generations to come," Mr Albanese said in a statement.
"These are special places and we should be proud of them. They preserve, protect and celebrate Australia's stories and history. My government is committed to preserving, protecting and celebrating them.
"This is yet another example of my government having to clean up the mess left behind by the former Coalition government."
The federal money is for core funding to address urgent repairs, overdue capital works, staff wages, and other financial commitments. It means the institutions will not have to rely on philanthropy and there will not be any forced redundancies.
It comes days after the Labor government gave a $33 million lifeline over the next four years to the National Library of Australia's beloved free digital platform, Trove. The vital resource for researchers, historians, students and people digging into family histories was slated to close when the funding, not renewed by the previous Coalition government, ran out.
"It is a disgrace that the former Coalition government allowed these institutions to fall into such a shocking state of disrepair," Arts Minister Tony Burke said.
"This gets our institutions back to where they should be - where the government delivers strong core funding and philanthropists take them to the next level.
The Albanese government is also pledging to establish a "clear line of sight" over future capital works and improvements. It regards the funding as strengthening cultural infrastructure, a key pillar of the government's new National Cultural Policy, Revive.
Finance Minister and ACT Senator Katy Gallagher said Canberra is the proud custodian of many of the institutions and the treasures they hold.
"The institutions are often the gateway to attracting visitors to the Canberra region and are a key driver of the ACT economy, so this funding will ensure local jobs and the tourism sector are supported into the future," she said.
The nine institutions contain an estimated 54 million objects worth more than $9 billion. The historical artefacts also play an important role in truth-telling for First Nations people.
Earlier this year, the Arts Minister had held a series of pre-budget, one-on-one meetings with the leadership of most of the national collecting institutions to understand their funding situation.
Without funding certainty, the NGA had been considering closing two days a week, sacking staff and charging entrance fees. Among the ongoing concern for all the national collecting institutions, there was long term uncertainty for the operations of the National Archives.
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