Key takeaways

  • Digital transformation isn’t just for corporates wanting to sharpen their competitive edge.
  • For not-for-profits that deliver immense community value, the right technology is critical to  support their long-term objectives within a competitive funding environment.
  • The Koorie Heritage Trust is digitalising its operations to work smarter, provide more value and ensure that it continues to engage and promote awareness of Koorie culture far into the future.

When it comes to cutting-edge digital, arts and cultural organisations, heritage trusts and historical societies do not immediately spring to mind as embodying ‘the future’. 

At the same time, however, such groups exist due to the importance placed on their cultural wealth today for living cultures, this is especially true and to future generations. It is precisely this criticality (combined with the passion of their staff) that makes them ideal candidates for digital transformation. 

The Koorie Heritage Trust, located centrally and symbolically at Federation Square in the heart of Melbourne, is in the middle of its own digitalisation project. It has always been a future-oriented, contemporary organisation that promotes, supports and celebrates the awareness, understanding and appreciation of a living Koorie culture rather than one solely focused on preserving the past. And with a focus on digital transformation, it aims to take a step further, ensure that its future will be built on solid foundations.

A need for the past…

In 1985 the Koorie Heritage Trust, a not-for-profit arts and cultural organisation, was established to protect, preserve and promote the living culture of the Aboriginal people of South-Eastern Australia.* It was acknowledged at the time that there was an immediate need for cultural heritage material to be controlled, managed and curated by Koorie people themselves. 

The Trust had its work cut out, but that hasn’t stopped it from expanding its goals. The organisation collects and preserves oral histories, holds exhibitions to showcase new and emerging artists and continues to grow its art and artefacts collection. It has a retail outlet, shopKOORIE, as part of its broader visitor experience offering. If that weren’t enough, the Trust also contains a reference library, gives walking tours, conducts cultural competency training, hires out venue spaces, delivers cultural education programs for schools, holds workshops, and connects members and descendants of the Stolen Generations with their family, culture and community.

In other words, it does a lot. But what other option is there given the importance of the work? “We provide opportunities for all people to learn, connect and reconnect with the cultural heritage of Aboriginal Victoria originating from a 60,000-year-old lived history,” says Tom Mosby, CEO of the Trust. “From our early days of protecting and preserving, the Koorie Heritage Trust today is very much about promoting Koorie culture for the present and future generations of Victorians.”

So if the Trust does a lot of work, it’s because there is a lot of work to be done. Mosby elaborates on why they have chosen to go digital. “To continue to deliver the work we do, we need to ensure that we are always open to exploring and embracing new technologies. As a 30-plus year old organisation, we must ensure that we are always open to review and renewal in order to remain relevant and engaged with our stakeholders.”

…and a need for the future

To be the bold, innovative organisation that it aspired to be, the Koorie Heritage Trust identified a number of challenges it needed to overcome. 

Firstly, a huge amount of its administrative and operational workload was manual, placing a heavy emphasis on staff. Booking and rostering school tours, hiring out venue spaces, hosting exhibitions and maintaining art collections involved a plethora of time-consuming emails, calendars, forms, spreadsheets and paper. 

The Trust had invested in technology over the years, but instead of making life easier, the disparate and numerous systems created further work. Without a centralised system, staff completed work in silos with little visibility over other areas of the organisation.

Finally, and unsurprising given the manual nature of work, the ability to collect and use data for a range of purposes, including funding applications and reporting to funding bodies, was ad hoc and difficult. 

“We really didn’t have the capability to capture customer and stakeholder data from events or sales and so found ourselves unable to really know our customers, target them with personalised communications or measure the effectiveness of our programs and services.” says Mosby.

Developing and implementing digital systems is critical to our operations as it enables us to remain relevant, engaged and build meaningful relationships with our stakeholders in an increasingly competitive environment.” 

Transforming expectations

While only in the middle of its longer term transformation, the Koorie Heritage Trust is already seeing the benefits of digitalisation. 

A central Salesforce Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) tailored with its Nonprofit Success Pack now affords the foundation a consolidated view of all the Trust’s contacts and the relationships. The central system is integrated with Google Suite and a campaign platform, so there is no need for staff to be fluent in, or double up work across, a number of different systems. Art shows and events are also managed via the same CRM platform. 

Mosby believes the CRM has been a key step in their transformation process. “Within any industry, relationship management is key to organisational success. A functioning client relationship management system that is easy to implement and user friendly set us up to succeed in a very competitive environment.”

Next steps were to tackle the donations, grants, invoicing and booking systems central to the foundation’s educational department. Building on the CRM, the Trust integrated requests, booking and ticketing capabilities for workshops, tours, and venue hire with their website and external third party systems. Staff no longer need to spend hours sending and replying to emails or on the phone to coordinate bookings and venue hire.

With individual donations and tours/workshop bookings now integrated into the CRM, the organisation has a much better idea of who their customers are, and, additionally, can provide better customer service to them through an integrated invoicing process, removing manual data entry across systems and ensuring invoices and receipts go out in a timely manner.

A rich past and cutting-edge future

The Koorie Heritage Trust is committed to the continuing digital journey of its operations, with further integration of processes and applications to be rolled out in coming months. Centralised systems have released staff from time-consuming and laborious tasks and the CRM implementation will allow the Trust to understand its customers and provide better visitor experiences. Such engagement is seen as necessary to ensure stakeholder commitment, supporting the organisation’s long-term aims and objectives.

And the Trust has big plans, not the least of which is to become a key pillar of the Federation Square Cultural Precinct, with a larger physical footprint and participation in the Square’s event schedule. With a dedicated push by Fed Square to open up to the Yarra River with waterfront activities, the opportunities for the Trust to be a conduit between the Square and the river through its programs provides an exciting possibility for the future. 

The Trust is also exploring broader digital strategies including an open air cultural virtual museum along the water, providing online digital tours and educational webinars as part of its digital transformation journey. With the underlying technology in place all kinds of futures are possible, but wherever the journey takes the Trust it will always be in support of its central objective: providing education, raising awareness and fostering appreciation of the cultural diversity of Koorie culture.

To similar organisations struggling under the weight of legacy systems and increasing workloads but wishing they could embrace such ambition, Mosby has some final advice to give on ‘going digital’. 

“While it is a major investment for any small to medium not-for-profit organisation, digital systems that support how an organisation operates are extremely important to remaining relevant and engaged with stakeholders and supporters, and that can only serve to provide a return on investment in the long-term”.

* Koorie (also Koori/Gurri) is an identifying term used by contemporary Aboriginal people and communities of Victoria and Southern New South Wales.

PwC’s work with the Koorie Heritage Trust grew out of work in PwC Australia’s Indigenous Consulting practice. For more information on how your business can benefit from digitalisation, visit our Digital Transformation site. 


Contributor George Stancu


George Stancu

George is the Digital Transformation Director, AI Driven Automation and Government and Public Sector Victoria Salesforce Lead at PwC Australia.
More About George Stancu


Ying Ong

Ying is a senior manager in PwC Australia’s digital transformation team.

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