national campaign to save archive offices is needed
Since the last newsletter a couple of family history societies have
responded and it is appropriate that others know about their thinking.
Firstly one society in supporting my thinking that we need an organizing
committee to develop a focused campaign suggested that I would make
a good chairperson for such a group. Flattering indeed but something
I cannot support. My profile is not well known across Australia and
a lobby group would be better headed up by someone much better known
and preferably someone with appropriate connections. Someone like
former Premier of South Australia, the Hon. John Bannon for example.
Not only is he a former Labor premier, he is also the current President
of the History Council of SA [HCSA].
I think it requires action from an organisation with a national focus
like the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations [AFFHO].
The very disappointing petition results demonstrate that either family
historians do not know about the closures or think it does not affect
them. We have to get the other states in on the act. Unfortunately
its not their records under threat. However, this may be the thin
end of the wedge and the next cuts by the NAA cannot hurt SA, TAS
or NT and perhaps it will then be QLD and/or WA's turn!
With this in mind I suggested to AFFHO that they consider ramping
up a campaign amongst their member societies. A count of the membership
of societies associated with AFFHO suggests approximately 50 000.
However, the focus should be towards the wider public as for every
member of a family history society, I suggest there are probably at
least two other people in the community interested in the subject
not to mention local historians and the like. The response from the
President of AFFHO was less than enthusiastic. In fact I would go
as far as to suggest that AFFHO sees no greater role than what they
have done for the campaign over the past three months which was little
more than make people aware of the petition sponsored by Anne Picot.
Their future plans revolve around my earlier suggestions in my newsletters
and I quote:
However, AFFHO will now need to respond at a local level through
their local Federal member of parliament. This includes:
As a realist, I know that in the scheme of things, the issue at hand
is very low on the current list of political priorities both at state
and national level. Both SA and TAS are in election mode until late
March. The Federal Government has too much on its plate and is not
coping too well at the moment and in any case the leadership favours
the talk rather than the walk. Where in the scheme of things does
our issue fall within such issues as the River Murray, boat people,
roof insulation and the like. The Prime Minister even managed to give
Free-to-Air Television $250M and so you can see archive collections
must not even see the light of day in the myriad of issues and this
is strengthened by a national petition result of a mere 7000 or so!
• Write a personal letter outlining your concerns.
• Organise a deputation to air your concerns.
• Prepare your own petition at the local level.
Taking the above into consideration it is no wonder we get no response.
As John Bannon reported from his meeting with the Minister, Joe Ludwig:
I began my interview with the Minister advising of
the many groups and individuals who were hoping for a positive outcome
from the discussion, but it was most disappointing – he asserted
very strongly that the offices targeted for closure were too costly
to a maintain for the amount of business they do and that any resources
that might be available after taking the required budgetary cut
would be better spent on accelerating digitisation. He sees digitisation
as the answer to all issues of access. He took up the majority of
the short time allowed for interview reiterating the points in the
NAA Fact Sheet (with Mr Ellis taking copious notes) and not really
engaging with the points I was trying to make.
Minister Ludwig is of course a Queensland senator assured of being
re-elected as long as he has the party ticket and from a state that
is not concerned about this issue.
However, before the interview terminated I was able to draw his
attention to the proposal I put to him in my letter last month (which
was not addressed in his form letter of reply). This is for the
decision to be put on hold pending an independent comprehensive
enquiry into the needs of the Archives including an assessment of
where other economies and efficiencies might be made, which would
include examination of the co-location of federal and State records
while preserving the identity and upgrading the facilities and services
I intend to put this again formally to Minister Ludwig, advise the
Prime Minister of the situation, raise the matter again with the
responsible State Minister and the SA Public Records Office (in
SA’s case), and further consult with the Chairman of the Advisory
Board which I believe still has a major role to play in the matter.
We applaud the efforts by John Bannon, but we should not just sit
back and rely on his efforts alone. Moreover, he is currently coming
at the matter as an issue for South Australia alone. We need to include
TAS and NT and every other state and territory in the campaign.
The AFFHO President also wrote to Minister Joe Ludwig, with copies
to the Director General of National Archives and the Prime Minister.
To date he has not had a reply, but if one does eventuate the expectation
is that it is likely to be in similar terms to the response received
by others who have written to the Minister— dismissive!
The AFFHO President also personally wrote to his own Federal Member
for Adelaide, Kate Ellis, who simply forwarded the letter on to Minister
What does all this mean? Well we could just give up or we could continue
the good fight. To win a such a fight, one needs a commander and a
committed committee to plan the strategies. The current situation
with individuals coming up with schemes is doomed to fail. Such campaigns
have to be noisy things and to date, the current campaign
has been far too quiet!
Update - Adelaide office closure