The Centre was founded without large government or other grants, relying on the generous donation of time, materials and money from Holocaust survivors, their families and other supporters. Following a generous donation from the late Mina Fink in memory of her late husband, Leo Fink, an old double-story building (a former dance school) was purchased and subsequently turned into a space suitable for housing exhibitions and a library.
In 1990 the downstairs museum was remodelled and the upstairs Smorgon Family Auditorium was created, doubling the size of the museum area as well as providing larger facilities for hosting educational programs and seminars. A support group, Friends of the Holocaust Centre Inc, was established in 1997. Its committee members have been actively involved in promoting the Centre’s activities and raising funds. The continuing support of the community enabled further extensions to the museum in 1999 with the opening of the Hadassa and Szymon Rosenbaum Research Centre, by the then Governor-General of Australia, Sir William Deane.
The Jewish Holocaust Centre was granted incorporation in November 2000, with a new Board of Management, representing five community organisations:
- B’nai Brith Anti-Defamation League
- Descendants of the Shoah Inc
- Friends of the Holocaust Centre
- Kadimah Yiddish Cultural Centre
- Katzetlers Verband
Over the years, volunteers and the Centre itself have gained many distinguished honours, including the Westpac Museum of the Year and the Victorian State Government’s Multicultural Award. The work and achievement of individual volunteers has been recognised in Australia Day and Queen’s birthday honours as well as local government and B'nai Brith community service awards. The Museum achieved accreditation by Museums Australia in 2001.
The Jewish Holocaust Centre Foundation was established in June 2003, to ensure the continued existence of the Centre and the availability of appropriate levels of funding and resources to fulfil its important mission. Foundation patrons include the internationally acclaimed film director, Steven Spielberg, Marc Besen AO and Eva Besen, the former Governor General, Sir William Deane AC KBE, Professor Yehuda Bauer, Professor Gustav Nossal AC CBE and Diane Shteinman AM
In recent times, the Museum has been able to extend its facilities and stage temporary exhibitions with the assistance of local, state and federal grants and contributions from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany Inc.