History of the Women's Museum of Australia
WHO WE ARE
The Women’s Museum of Australia was founded in 1993 as a public museum which recognises and honours pioneering women who have contributed to the development of Australia.
Incorporated as a non-Government not for profit organisation, the Women’s Museum of Australia acknowledges the considerable and ongoing support received from the Northern Territory Government, Federal Government, Tourism NT, local and national sponsors and many thousands of hours of work by dedicated volunteers.
WHAT WE DO
Our collection contains over 2500 objects relating to women’s history in Australia and our HerStory Archive contains files on over 1500 influential women first in their field. We commemorate the achievements of women from across the nation in our exhibitions, archives, library, education programs, events and online.
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. After visiting the Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach, Queensland, Molly felt there ought to be an equivalent establishment celebrating women of the outback, and sought support to create one.
On 2 February 1993, Molly and her supporters called a public meeting in Alice Springs, where 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 was 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 (NPWHF) first opened permanently to the public in September 1994.
By 2001, the Old Courthouse had become too small for the museum and 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 which was accepted in 2004.
Clare Martin, the first woman Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, then 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.
Here two exhibition halls comprise the Women’s Museum while former men’s and women’s cell blocks have been preserved for visitors to explore.
In 2019 the name was changed to Women’s Museum of Australia.