Honouring stories of struggle

Friday, October 21, 2022

Honouring stories of struggle: reassessing Australian records of disadvantage
A Documenting Australian Society Symposium

Four years ago, the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Program ran a national summit which addressed the issue of improving the planning, prioritisation and coordination of distributed national efforts to preserve documentation of important aspects of Australian society for the benefit of future generations.

The summit agreed to the Canberra Declaration, as an action agenda for those with an interest in preserving documentary heritage in ways that are as inclusive and representative of the diversity if Australian Society as possible. 

Two years ago, the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Program, in cooperation with the National Archives of Australia ran its first Documenting Australian Society event: a successful one-day virtual symposium on Documenting COVID-19 in Australia.

Our 2022 Documenting Australian Society Symposium staged in collaboration with the Australia Society of Archivists and the National Archives of Australia, formed part of the worldwide activities that celebrated the 30th anniversary of the UNESCO Memory of the World Program.

The Symposium asked: Is the lived experience of Australians who experience disadvantage adequately recorded in our national, state and community collections? What evidence and memories of these Australians should be recorded? When it is preserved for the benefit of future and current generations, how should access to these resources be managed? What say should Australians who experience disadvantage have over the information that is created and preserved about them and how it is accessed?

Leading experts and representatives from government, collecting institutions and academia discussed the following topics and more.

  • What kinds of documentation do we need to target for preservation?
  • Who is taking responsibility for what kinds of documentation?
  • How do we know if we are capturing a representative body of documentation in our national documentary heritage estate?
  • How can we ensure that we are not devoting scarce resources to duplicating effort, whilst neglecting other important sources of documentation?

You can watch the presentations here:

Session One What evidence should be preserved?

Dr Roslyn Russell, UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Committee

Dr Frank Golding OAM, author and historian
Robyn Sutherland, Uniting Communities, Adelaide
Eva Cox AO, University of Technology Sydney
Prof Nareen Young, University of Technology Sydney
Danielle Lautrec, genealogist

Session Two What evidence is being preserved?

Shane Breynard, UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Committee

Jessica Moran, National Library of New Zealand
Gina Grey and Phyllis Williams, National Archives of Australia
Jennifer Jerome, Libraries Tasmania
Cassie Findlay, archivist and privacy professional