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Stephens, David: War Memorial visitor figures not keeping pace with population increase

David Stephens*

‘War Memorial visitor figures not keeping pace with population increase’, Honest History, 10 August 2020

In 2016 and again in 2017, Honest History took a long view of Australian War Memorial visitor statistics going back to 1990-91. Here, we have updated that analysis using Memorial Annual Reports for 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The numbers show that an increase in visitor numbers at the Memorial in recent years is not keeping pace with the increase in Australia’s population. In other words, ‘visitation’ to the Memorial is falling in real terms.

A graph summarising the figures for the 29 years, 1990-91 to 2018-19 is below (Figure 1rev).

Figure 1rev

In the graph, the blue line (Series 1) is total visitors to the Memorial, ‘through the gate’ at Campbell (including students and including, in some years, a small number of visitors to the Memorial’s premises at Mitchell, but not including visitors to travelling exhibitions). The orange line (Series 2) is total visitors minus seven per cent, which is the Memorial’s 2015 estimate of the proportion of visitors who are tourists and not based in Australia.

So, the orange line is Australian-based visitors and the orange dotted line is the trendline for Australian-based visitors. The trendline is slightly upwards over the 29 years.

The accompanying Excel spreadsheet (which also includes the graphs) shows the 29-year average for annual visitors (888 691) and for annual Australian-based visitors (826 447). The respective medians are 868 600 and 807 798.

The most significant figure, however, is Australian-based visitors as a percentage of the total Australian population in a particular year. Figure 2 below shows those figures over the 29-year period.

Figure 2

The Excel spreadsheet shows that Australian-based visitors, as a percentage of the total Australian population, averages over these 29 years at 3.99 per cent. Figure 2 shows the trendline is slightly down over that period from just above four per cent to just below four per cent. Put another way, if around four per cent of Australians in any one year since 1990-91 visited the Memorial, around 96 per cent in any one year since then did not.

The Excel spreadsheet also includes statistics for the Memorial’s website and for student visitors (included in the overall visitor numbers). We have not analysed these areas this time.

* David Stephens is editor of the Honest History website.