ABC Canberra Breakfast with Lish Fejer
Subjects: National Archives funding
LISH FEJER: There's been a lot of discussion, hasn't there, around the National Archives in Canberra needing a little bit more funding. After pleading for public donations, the National Archives in Canberra has been granted $67 million in urgent federal funding. Australia was at risk of losing priceless historical records as the Archives struggled with budget cuts. Joining me this morning is Senator Amanda stoker. Good morning to you, Senator.
Amanda Stoker: Good morning, Lish. How are you?
Lish Fejer: Very well, thanks. So, $67 million; this is urgent funding and in response to the plea. What'll it be used for?
Amanda Stoker: The $67.7 million that's been committed to the Archives in the announcement today, is to ensure that we can swiftly digitise at-risk records, to make sure that we are preserving for the long-term, Australia's national story. It's also dealing with some of the, I guess, surrounding factors that impact upon the service people are able to get from the National Archives. So that they can speed up the times that people have to wait in between making an application to access records and actually getting them in their hot little hands. And also to improve their cyber resilience capability. Because when you think about the Archives as an agency that traditionally dealt with paper, they are transitioning to a very digital world. And so they need some help to make sure that as they transfer from a paper world into a [indistinct] one, they've got the skills they need to be able to do it well and do it securely.
Lish Fejer: And it'll be more than just photocopying, I imagine, Senator? Photocopying and scanning; it's- a lot of technology involved – and throughout the day, we'll probably hear from the Archives for their response. And time is of the essence as well, isn't it, in this?
Amanda Stoker: There's an important moment that will come at the end of 2025 for the archives, and that's the moment they've assessed they really need to be able to have got through the bulk of the digitisation of at-risk records. And when we say at-risk, we're talking about things like magnetic tapes and microfiche that have a shorter shelf life. And so getting those down by 2025 is important. But what's good about this funding, is that it make sure that the archives will have the resources they need to do this within the forward estimates – over the next four years. That's a lot faster than was originally contemplated by the Tune review, which put this issue on the agenda. That report suggested seven years. Of course, some time has passed since then and so we're committed to making sure that that important milestone for the Archive is met.
Lish Fejer: Well, all the best with that. And no doubt, lots of- a few jobs as well for digital archivists, will be added as part of that 67 million.
Amanda Stoker: Yes. I know that's- I know that's something that's always of interest in Canberra. And it's something that, in particular, Zed Seselja and Josh Frydenberg had in mind in; the importance of making sure those jobs were acknowledged for their importance, and so funded.
Lish Fejer: Yeah, why wasn't it- why wasn't it done in the first place?
Amanda Stoker: Well, I think that it's possibly an over simplification to say this should have been done straight off the bat. The Archives is an agency that is at a bit of a crossroads. They have a changing responsibility in circumstances where, as I mentioned before, they have been paper agency, but now they are increasingly needing to be a digital one. They face a number of matters which they need to build capability, with our support, of course. And so the task of making sure we get this right, wasn't as simple is I'll throw in some money. It means that we needed to really understand what was necessary at a granular level to make sure this Agency wasn't- didn't just have the money to solve this short-term problem, but in fact, had the plan and the capability it needs to be able to be relevant for decades and decades to come.
Lish Fejer: Okay. Thanks so much, Senator.
Amanda Stoker: So a much bigger job.
Lish Fejer: Yep. And money's certainly going to help. That $67 million. It all starts with cash. Thank you so much for joining me.
Amanda Stoker: Thanks, Lish. Bye-bye.
Lish Fejer: Senator Amanda Stoker there, funding for the National Archives, $67 million going to them to digitise, digitise, digitise, so that all those incredible resources and material of our history stays in place.