The Women's Museum

The National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame is one of two women’s museums in Australia, and was founded as a public museum for the purpose of recognising and honouring pioneering women who contributed to the development of Australia. Our collection contains women’s objects donated from across the country, and through our exhibitions we commemorate the achievements of women from across the nation who have been first in their field.

The museum defines a pioneer woman as any woman who is a pioneer in her chosen field from settlement to present day and commemorates the achievements of all Australian women.

Incorporated as a non-profit organisation, the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame acknowledges the considerable and ongoing support received from the Northern Territory Government, the Federal Government, Tourism NT and many thousands of hours of work by dedicated volunteers.

Molly Clark, founder of the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame.

Image courtesy of Barry Skipsey.

The National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame was founded by Molly Clark of Old Andado Station, which lies approximately 330 kilometres south-east of Alice Springs. On 2 February 1993, a public meeting was called by Molly Clark and supporters in Alice Springs, at which Molly outlined the aims and objectives of the proposed women’s museum:

“That a future Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame be located in Alice Springs to commemorate and acknowledge the contribution made by women in outback Australia…

The need for such a facility in Alice Springs to satisfy the interests of tourists to Central Australia who wish to learn more about pioneer life in outback regions.

These objectives were further articulated in the first meeting under the newly established committee, held in Alice Springs on 17 February 1993:

“In the first instance, my whole object was to establish a venture to commemorate and preserve the stories, history, of the women who pioneered paths with or without men. Therefore a “Hall” was envisaged so that this memorabilia could be housed and displayed, that later generations may know and understand some of the “blood, sweat and tears” that went into putting down the paths they now tread…”

The National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame became an incorporated association in April 1993, and in March 1994 the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory leased the Old Courthouse to the organisation for five years. The National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame first opened permanently to the public in September 1994.

Advertisement in the local newspaper, the Centralian Advocate, for a public meeting to discuss the founding of a national women’s museum in Alice Springs, January 1993

By 2001, the Old Courthouse had become too small for the museum and, not being purpose built, posed both exhibition and storage problems. The former HM Gaol and Labour Prison Alice Springs, which had been decommissioned in 1996 and saved from demolition by the local community, was offered as a lease to the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame, an offer which was accepted in 2004. Clare Martin, the first woman Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, announced the handover of the Gaol for use by the Hall of Fame. On 8 March 2007, Minister for Women’s Policy Marion Scrymgour, herself the first Indigenous woman to be elected to the Northern Territory Parliament, officially opened the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame in its new location.