Before 1945, a Committee of Management, chaired by the Curator (Director) was responsible for the Museum’s development. For much of its history, the Museum reported to the Minister for Public Instruction, later the Minister for Technical Education and most recently the Department of Justice. Today it is a statutory body in the Department of Planning and Environment, responsible to the Deputy Premier and Minister for the Arts.
Since 1945 the Museum has operated under the authority of its own Act of Parliament, The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Act, 1945. It provides for the appointment of nine Trustees who, subject to the direction and control of the Minister, exercise the powers conferred by the Act.
The Act describes in very broad terms the role and functions of the Trust. Unlike more contemporary legislation it does not comprehensively outline the relationships between Trustees, the Minister, the Department of Planning and Environment, and Museum management and staff. Effectively the governance of the Museum is shared among the Minister for the Arts, the Trust and the Director, the Act providing a framework for carrying out their respective roles.
In 1961 The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Regulation was introduced to deal with aspects of meeting procedures and management of the Museum. There is a statutory requirement to review the Regulation every five years. The most recent regulation came into force on 1 September 2017.
The Minister for the Arts is responsible to Parliament for operations of the Museum. The Hon. Don Harwin MP is Minister for the Arts.
MAAS is a statutory body in the Department of Planning and Environment.
The Minister nominates the Trustees for appointment by the Governor of NSW, for a term of up to three years, for a maximum of three terms. The Government has a commitment to ensuring representation across a range of representative categories on public sector Boards and Trusts. The MAAS Act specifies that there will be ‘at least one person knowledgeable and/or experienced in education’ and ‘at least one person knowledgeable and/or experienced in the arts or sciences’. The Governor may, on the Minister’s recommendation, remove any Trustee from office, make regulations and appoint staff.
The Act gives the Trust the power to control and manage property; accept gifts and bequests; establish and manage branches; generally exercise control, management, maintenance and administration of the Museum to meet the needs and demands of the community in any or all branches of applied science and art and the development of industry; and recommend regulations. It is required to submit an annual report to Parliament. It has a broad mandate to display objects, promote craftsmanship and artistic taste, foster understanding and education by a wide variety of means and encourage scientific research.
The Trust regularly reviews the activities and finances of the Museum, approves budgets and expenditure over certain amounts, approves major policies, advises on directions of and plans for the Museum and advocates within the public and private sectors on its behalf. The Trustees represent the public in the management and policy formulation of the Museum.
Trustees are required to register their relevant private interests, e.g. directorships of companies, boards and trusts, and any significant political affiliations. Trustees are expected to declare any conflict of interest with items on the Trust agenda, such as commercial engagements, and to implement the policies and priorities of the Government of the day in a bipartisan fashion.
The Act provides for the Minister to nominate the President from among the Trustees, and that person presides at meetings of the Trustees, is consulted on the agenda, and approves the minutes. The Regulation provides that the President is ex officio a member of any committee appointed by the Trustees. The Act also provides for the Trustees to nominate one of their number as Deputy President who may preside in the absence of the President.
The President’s working relationships with the Trustees, Director, and the Minister, are critical to ensuring the effective management, development and standing of the Museum. The President is also an important link between the Museum and the public, Government, Minister, corporate sector, and media.
The Director is appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment and employed under the terms of the Government Sector Employment (GSE) Act 2014. The Director is given responsibility, under the MAAS Regulation, for the administration and management of the Museum and for any services provided, for reporting to the Trustees and approving and accepting loans of objects to and from other bodies or persons. The Director has a performance agreement with the Secretary.
The Director is supported in the role of chief executive by: Director Corporate Resources; Director Curatorial, Collections and Exhibitions; Director Public Engagement; and Director Development, Government Relations and External Affairs.
Governance and Reporting
The Board of Trustees is given logistical support by the Governance, Planning and Reporting department. The department manages the preparation of the papers for the Trust meetings and provides support services as required. All Trustee liaison with the public or Museum staff other than the Executive is handled through the Head of Governance, Planning and Reporting, Larissa Kotlaroff.
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The Museum engages in several levels of performance review practices including a performance agreement between the Director and the Secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment and subsequently between the Director and Director Corporate Services, Director Curatorial, Collections and Exhibitions, Director Public Engagement and Director Development and External Affairs.
Internal review mechanisms include meetings of the Museum Executive and the senior management team, meetings of the Audit and Risk Management Committee and Executive reports to the Board of Trustees. Departmental activities are summarised in monthly reports to the Board of Trustees. Daily reports are generated on visitation and revenue for each site.
In practice the roles of the President, Trustees and Director involve complex interactions, and, as with most institutions, are governed by convention, precedent and consensus. Responsibilities are exercised on the basis of consultation within a broadly accepted framework of values and ethics, while acknowledging, in our system of government, the final authority of the Minister, who, in turn, is answerable to the Parliament.
Codes of ethics have been developed within the national and international museum communities that represent a broad consensus on accepted values and best practice for the management of museums. These values and practices are codified in all areas of museum management, including basic principles of governance, acquisition and disposal, and professional conduct.
As a member of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the Museum affirms its adherence to best international practice expressed within the ICOM Code of Professional Ethics. The Museum effectively operates within the framework of the Code of Ethics for Art, History and Science Museums adopted in 1999 by Museums Australia, the peak national association representing the museum and gallery sector.
MAAS is a statutory body in the Department of Planning and Environment.
The Museum ‘holds in Trust’ for the people of New South Wales an invaluable collection, representing over a century of industry, innovation and social progress. As a public institution, the responsibilities to Government include reporting and accountability provisions that do not normally apply in the private sector.
The Museum is bound to implement and report against the relevant policies and identified priorities of the Government of the day in a bipartisan fashion.
The Museum is also expected to collaborate with the other State cultural institutions and to liaise and cooperate with various Government departments. Increasingly the Museum is encouraged to identify additional sources of funds, and develop a more commercial and entrepreneurial approach. The balance between public sector and entrepreneurial values is an important aspect of the Trust’s responsibilities.
The Museum must also maintain effective relationships with a range of key interest groups. These include professional bodies, affiliated societies and interest groups, corporate partners and like institutions.