The National Archives of Australia is an important asset for the collection, preservation and dissemination of our national stories. The state of the Archives is therefore a concern to many individuals and groups in Australia. Foremost among these are historians.
In this submission to the Tune Review of the National Archives of Australia, the Academy supports five recommendations:
- Amendments to the Archives Act (1983) which took effect 25 April 2019—imposing a 25-item cap on applications before the period that the Archives has to respond to the applications can be extended unilaterally by the Archives—should be reversed.
- Increase the human resources budget of the Archives to address current infeasible wait times for clearance of open period files.
- Implement a ‘time limit’ for departmental responses, whereby requests are taken as approved in cases where the Archives do not hear from the government agency to which the response was put within three months.
- Seek broad policy guidance from government agencies on what can be released to researchers without the need for consideration of each individual request. Only complex or very sensitive records, rather than all records as such, should be considered on a case by case basis.
- In line with recommendations made by the Australian Historical Association, use of an independent public body charged with assessing which records should be made publicly available—like that used in the UK (the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives)—should be seriously considered. This body would represent the public interest and would follow the UK example in ‘regularly challenging government departments to provide evidence to justify requests for permission to retain documents or for them to remain closed’.
Read the full submission: ASSA National Archives review submission 28-06-19