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Chair and Chief Executive Officer's Report

Discover the Shrine's transformative year of restoration, engagement, and inclusive commemoration in this report by Captain Stephen Bowater OAM RAN, Chair of the Shrine of Remembrance Trustees, and Dean M Lee, the Shrine's Chief Executive Officer.

On behalf of the Shrine of Remembrance Trustees we are pleased to present the 2022–2023 Annual Report. 

The year saw a welcome return to uninterrupted operations. Visitation commenced recovery with more than 500,000 people entering the Shrine monument, including 52,000 students; 75,000 pilgrims participated in remembrance services; and a further 620,000 engagements occurred online. The increasing return of discretionary domestic and, especially, international travellers, support an optimistic outlook for audience engagement and growth in participation in commemoration. 

A return to normalised operations also allowed us to grow self-funding. On-site donations, retail, venue hire and tour sales all achieved positive—and in some cases, record—results. These efforts underpinned by financial discipline and ameliorating funding support from the Victorian Government allowed us to achieve an operating surplus before depreciation and amortisation. 

We were also able to conduct our delayed visitor intercept and non-visitor market surveys. These confirmed growing levels of understanding, knowledge and engagement with the Shrine and its role as Victoria’s principal place of commemoration. Pleasingly, results also indicated growth in brand equity and awareness with Victorians placing us among the top five cultural attractions in Melbourne. The Shrine continues to play an important role in supporting community recovery, drawing returning visitors to Melbourne.

There was also a strong response to our promotional and advertising campaigns to engage Victorians in commemoration. Melburnians and Victorians comprised a higher percentage of visitation since surveys began in 2016, and 76 per cent of all visitors were making first-time visits. We plan to build on these campaigns in the coming year to continue to reinforce our relevance and grow our reach.

We exceeded visitors’ expectations. While 85 per cent of all visitors expected their experience to be ‘absolutely excellent’ or ‘good’, 8 in 10 considered their visit ‘better than expected’. There was also positive awareness and support for programming initiatives under our five-year public engagement Program Strategy. Fifteen per cent of visitors came specifically to see one of our special exhibitions: Lust Love Loss, For Kin and Country and Defending with Pride.

By embracing and transcending the past we will continue our work to secure and advance the Shrine’s standing and relevance in the context of an evolving and increasingly diverse community. Empowered by the Board of Trustees to extend perceptions of who and what a veteran is, the Shrine executive and staff have pursued an inclusive approach in honouring service and sacrifice. This approach is aligned with the values of the Australian Defence Force and enables the Shrine to better reflect and address the needs and interests of present-day veterans. 

Recognising the enduring place of the Shrine within the fabric of Melbourne, the Board gave auspice to the development of a 20-year master plan for the period 2025–45: encompassing both the centenary of the Shrine’s dedication in 1934 and the Second World War (1939–1945). The initial stage of this work is complete and will serve to engage stakeholders in the coming year before implementation commencing in FY2025.

Capital renovation and improvement projects continued throughout the year with restoration of the southern and western monument steps completed; the southern light towers rebuilt; and completion of design for accessibility, ramps between the upper and lower forecourts, with the contract tendered and awarded. Restoration of the northern light towers also commenced, to be completed early in the new year. Design of a hostile vehicle attack mitigation project progressed, with works to begin following Remembrance Day 2023.

The full program of more than 192 remembrance services was conducted across the year with community and veteran participation exceeding targets. More than 50,000 people attended the Shrine on Anzac Day and a cumulative audience approaching 10,000 attended the weekly Last Post Services.

We could not deliver our comprehensive range of programming without our supporters.

We wish to recognise the direct financial and in-kind support of the Victorian Government, and the City of Melbourne whose efforts support our operations and ensure the Shrine Reserve presents as a high quality and valued place for peaceful community reflection: this effort approaches $500,000 in value.

We also gratefully acknowledge and thank our many donors for their generous support.

Sincerely,

Captain Stephen Bowater OAM RAN
CHAIR OF THE SHRINE OF REMEMBRANCE TRUSTEES

and 

Dean M Lee 
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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