Maintenance and growth of MAMA's permanent collection is significantly enhanced by the generous support of donors and artists. Some of our greatest treasures have been donated from private collections or purchased with donated funds.

Some of the donations which have lead the way in collection development include: the 1981 acquisitions of works by Sir Russell Drysdale; the 1991 Daniel Gift which introduced a collection area of sculptural Asian and pacific art and the 2013 and 2015 Robert Michael Moon Gifts that closed identified gaps in the Aboriginal art collection.

Established as a centre for excellence and innovation in photography since 1982, MAMA's contemporary photographic collection has developed primarily through the MAMA Art Foundation National Photography Prize, which is supported by the MAMA Art Foundation. Dating from the 1960s to now, the collection represents one of the most important of its kind. In 2015 it was further expanded through a significant gift from The Russell Mills Foundation.

The Gift of The Russell Mills Foundation of 50 works has enabled the MAMA collection to speak to Australia in the 20th century. The photographs reflect the developments of Australian photography and photographers as they explored and pushed the boundaries to gain acceptance of their work as a pure art form.