Museum of Australian Policing

Educating the Community

Jason Byrnes
A new museum honouring Australian police is to be opened in Canberra.

Proceeds of crime are being used as a unique way to fund the establishment of the Museum of Australian Policing, which is expected to be fully functioning in 2024.

On 25 March 2022 Australia’s then Minister for Home Affairs, The Hon. Karen Andrews MP, announced $4.4 million from the Confiscated Assets Account has been set aside to fund the museum. The funds in the account have been seized by federal authorities.

‘It’s the first museum of Australian policing in the country and will showcase the history of State and Territory law enforcement, plus the AFP.’ said the Minister, ‘The general public and tourists will be able to see exhibits from some of the most significant police operations in our nation’s history.’

While the idea for a national policing museum has been around for a while, detailed planning and discussions commenced in late 2020 when AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw APM obtained in-principle support for the idea from his State and Territory counterparts. In 2021 a submission was put to government, highlighting the potential for a museum to broaden the public’s understanding and appreciation of the role of policing and law enforcement in tackling crime and protecting the community. A museum will also enable research and education for visitors, especially school children, about policing and the stories of countless police officers.

'... see exhibits from some of the most significant police operations in our nation's history.'

The Hon. Karen Andrews MP

Historically significant location

The museum will occupy an existing building complex on the shores of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin, immediately adjacent to the National Museum of Australia (NMA). The NMA is one of Canberra’s main tourist attractions – there were about 600,000 visitors in the year leading up the COVID-19 pandemic.

The site of the new museum has significance for police in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) as it was where Canberra’s first Court House and an early Police Station stood. The building, Canberra first homestead, was occupied by Canberra police from 1930 until 1940. It was then demolished as part of construction work for a major hospital. The hospital later closed in 1991 with the main building demolished in 1997. The land was then transferred to the Commonwealth to enable the construction of the NMA. 

The buildings to be occupied by the Museum of Australian Policing are referred to as ‘H Block’ and were used by the hospital as the isolation and tuberculosis wards.

An aerial view of the location of where the Museum of Australian Policing will be located: (1) ‘H Block’ which will be the museum; (2) The National Museum of Australia; (3) The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies; (4) Lake Burley Griffin; (5) The National Police Memorial is just outside the picture, to the left of the number; (6) The National Library of Australia, with Questacon behind it; (7) the High Court of Australia; (8) Old Parliament House; and (9) Parliament House

Exhibits and content

Interagency discussions are now underway to plan the building’s fit-out and the types of exhibits to display. A Board of Management consisting of Commissioners and the President of the Police Federation of Australia will oversee the museum’s development.

AFP Superintendent Dean Elliott, Superintendent Recognition, Ceremonial and AFP Reserves, is excited by the potential of the venue, “We are planning for a mix of static and rotating exhibits from all Australian police agencies, along with digital displays and interactive portals. It will tell the story of policing as a vocation and, through various means, will showcase the great work police do from Albany in Western Australia to Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, from Dover in Tasmania to Maningrida in the Northern Territory. It will also feature some of the amazing work Australian police have performed across the globe.”

Some of the items the AFP will loan the museum include forensic evidence retrieved from the site of the 2002 Bali bombing; a fibreglass boat used by criminals to smuggle 225kgs of cocaine into Australia in 1998; equipment used by AFP divers in 2018 in an international rescue operation in Thailand; and the INTERPOL ‘Red Notice’ issued for notorious fugitive Australian businessman, Christopher Skase

An image of some of the equipment used by AFP divers in 2018 when they assisted in the rescue of children trapped underground in a flooded cave system. This was on a display recently in Canberra, and will be loaned to the Museum of Australian Policing

The APJ supports this initiative and will provide updates as the museum progresses.

Historic ACT Police and AFP vehicles outside of what will become the Museum of Australian Policing.

Confiscated Assets Account

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been seized by federal law enforcement since the passing of the Proceeds of Crimes Act 2002. Under the Act, seized funds can be given back to the community for initiatives to prevent and reduce the harmful effects of crime. Government agencies and non-government groups can submit bids for crime prevention, law enforcement programs and initiatives, with funding allocated on a one-off basis. The $4.4 million allocated by Government to the Museum of Australian Policing will cover the ‘base build’ which will include refurbishment and restructuring of the buildings which will house the museum.

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