History of the Women's Museum of Australia

A unique muse­um ded­i­cat­ed to cel­e­brat­ing and shar­ing wom­en’s achieve­ments in Aus­tralia for over 25 years.


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.


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. 

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

Image cour­tesy 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. 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.

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