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Chief Executive Officer's report

Dean M Lee is the Chief Executive Officer of the Shrine of Remembrance.

The unique challenges emerging in the final quarter of the prior year dominated in 2020–21. The Shrine and its peer civic institutions closed repeatedly, sustaining less than four months continuous trading in the year. Public caution, international border closures and the threat of domestic lockdowns obliterated patronage in the intervening opening periods and uncertainty overlaid all planning.

The world changed, and we were caused to change with it. Laudable in this context was the sustained resilience, flexibility, commitment and creativity of the Shrine team. Their collective performance was remarkable and – despite the challenges – enabled strong performance in pursuit of the Shrine’s purpose and strategic objectives.

Our nascent digital production efforts developed rapidly, becoming the primary engagement channel for all ceremonial, education and public programming. Collectively, these digital initiatives reached a state, national and global audience of almost 650,000 people: underpinning total engagement at 97 per cent of our annual target of 750,000. This would not have been achieved without direct financial support from the Victorian Government that allowed us to install production facilities and live streaming infrastructure in the Sanctuary of the monument and on the Second World War Memorial Forecourt.

This success aside, reduced on-site visitation severely impacted all self-funding activities. With no financial relief available to offset these shortfalls we faced significant challenges in maintaining programming and retaining staff. Pleasingly we were successful in these efforts. The Shrine reports a small surplus for the year before depreciation and amortisation, the result of prudent management and strong performance of our investments.

In the absence of on-site staff for much of the year, I must record our great appreciation for the support provided by Victoria Police and members of the Protective Services Unit and Shrine Guard. Their sustained efforts in supporting our commemorative services, maintaining the security of the Shrine and ensuring its protection in the face of multiple anti lockdown protest groups were exemplary. We are extremely grateful for their support.

I also wish to acknowledge with thanks the nearly $500,000 of financial and in-kind support provided by the City of Melbourne. This helped sustain the Shrine’s financial, administrative and human resource functions throughout the year and ensured the Shrine Reserve was maintained to the highest standard: offering a place of quiet reflection and respite to our community.

The Shrine Trustees extended significant faith and goodwill to the executive team throughout the year as we responded to the dynamic operating environment. I thank them for their support and especially wish to recognise the active and sage guidance provided to me by Shrine Chairman, Air ViceMarshal Chris Spence AO (Retd). Chris retired in February 2021 following nine-years’ commendable service to the Shrine, including realisation of the Centenary of ANZAC, Galleries of Remembrance project.

As we enter the new year, we accept a new normal in which the market and operating environment will remain dynamic. While continuing to face financial hurdles arising from increasing costs and repressed trading conditions, we are well prepared to perform in this environment and look forward to applying the learnings of the past year – building upon successes and opening our minds to new opportunities under the leadership of recently appointed Shrine Chair, Captain Stephen Bowater OAM RAN.

Dean M Lee
Chief Executive Officer