Tune Review of the National Archives of Australia
Public submissions closed on Sunday 30 June 2019. The National Archives thanks our valued stakeholders and clients for their contributions to the Tune Review, providing your thoughts about our role, functions, purposes, services and resourcing.
For some years now, the National Archives has been facing many challenges as a result of the tightening fiscal environment and growing public demand for our services. Budget and staffing reductions are affecting our capacity to perform our fundamental role of securing, preserving, maintaining and making accessible the authentic and essential records of the decisions and actions of government, while providing high standards of service delivery that all Australians should expect from their National Archives.
Among our urgent priorities are preserving the unique but at-risk collections that tell the Australian story, including tens of thousands of deteriorating audio visual items that could be lost as soon as 2025. Digitisation of records is struggling to keep pace with demand as more and more Australians look to connect with their identity and family history online. The digital records now being created across government in ever growing quantities will be vulnerable to loss through technological obsolescence if not urgently secured by the National Archives and kept for future generations. As the steward of the nation's memory, we are committed to safeguarding these records by building digital capability that balances cyber security and public access.
We recognise that backlogs in processing requests for government documents that should now be in the public domain are testing the patience of researchers. Getting access to family and military service records also can take time, while fees and charges for digitisation services can be a barrier to access. Our education program delivery is highly valued, and we would like to provide more opportunities for young Australians across the nation to engage first hand with our constitution and learn about our history and democracy. More of our invaluable collection could be made available through innovative and engaging experiences in a new, purpose built National Archives public building.
The National Archives is a respected regional and global leader among archives. It makes an important contribution to soft-power diplomacy in support of government policy objectives in our region and internationally. This is appreciated by our regional neighbours and enhances Australia's reputation.
In recognition of these significant challenges and opportunities, the Government has initiated an independent Functional and Efficiency Review of the National Archives to examine the purpose, role and functions of the institution and recommend the appropriate level of resourcing it should receive.
An independent Functional and Efficiency Review of the National Archives commenced on 2 April 2019. The National Archives and its Advisory Council has welcomed the commencement of an independent review into its role and functions.
Led by former Department of Finance Secretary Mr David Tune, the Functional and Efficiency Review is considering and will make recommendations on:
- the enduring role of the National Archives in the protection, preservation and use of Commonwealth information;
- how the National Archives might best perform this role; and
- what powers, functions, resources, and legislative and governance frameworks the National Archives needs to effectively andkbk efficiently undertake this role in the digital age.
The National Archives welcomes your input to the review. We are interested in your views on these and other issues, as well as ideas for how we can improve our services. The Tune Review is your opportunity to have a say on the future of your National Archives.
More information on the scope of the Review can be found in the Terms of Reference
The Review commenced on 2 April 2019. An interim report is scheduled to be delivered by 30 June 2019, with the review expected to be finalised in August 2019.
The National Archives of Australia is established under the Archives Act 1983 as a Commonwealth Institution. It is deemed a non-corporate entity under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.
The foundations of the Institution as legislated through Archives Act 1983, can be traced to a Report by the Senate on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on the Freedom of Information Bill 1978, and aspects of the Archives Bill 1978, entitled Freedom of Information. The purpose of the Archives Bill was to place on a statutory basis many of the current activities of the then Australian Archives, concerning such activities as promoting records management in the Commonwealth, taking custody of records, and both disposing of and preserving records. This included the establishment of the Advisory Council.
The resultant legislation established the National Archives of Australia, as part of Australia's democratic accountability framework, for the specific functions and purposes it continues to deliver for government and to the Australian public, to this day. The Australian Law Reform Commission, subsequently undertook the first extensive review of the Archives Act, releasing an issues paper in 1996, titled Review of the Archives Act 1983 (IP 19) and a final report, Australia's Federal Record: A Review of the Archives Act 1983 (ALRC Report 85), which both reinforced its function and purposes as part of rule of law principles, but went further in recommending the Institution be constituted as an independent statutory authority. Further amendments were made to Act.
The Commission's report, For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice (ALRC Report 108), gave consideration to privacy issues, resulted in further amendments to the Act in 2010, including the move to the new 20-year open period rule. The most recent changes to the Act, which come into effect in April 2019, were passed by the Parliament last year, through the Civil Justice and Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2018.
The National Archives has an Advisory Council, comprising 11 members appointed by the Minister and, a member of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Its principal functions are to provide advice to the Minister and to the Director-General on matters that relate to the functions of the National Archives. The Minister or Director-General may refer matters about the functions of the National Archives to the Advisory Council for advice or the Council may on its own initiative provide advice to the Minister or the Director-General.
The National Archives of Australia is the largest archival institution in Australia. It is the only integrity and cultural institution with a national footprint, with public access and storage facilities in every state and territory capital city. It is the memory of our nation. The records of the Commonwealth, collected since Federation, tell the story of Australia and its people. The collection is the authentic and essential evidence of Australian Government activities and decisions that shaped our nation and the lives of its citizens. The National Archives receives, secures, keeps, maintains, preserves and makes accessible priceless records for the benefit of current and future generations.
The National Archives is a recognised and respected leader in the international archival community. It works, collaborates, learns from and shares archival knowledge and experience with the national, regional and international archival community, including with Australian state and territory government archives, to evolve the role and capability of archives in the digital age. It is a member of the Council of Australasian Archives Records and Authorities (CAARA), the Pacific Regional Branch of the International Council of Archives (PARBICA) and the International Council on Archives (ICA), as the peak national, regional and international archival forums. It makes a particular contribution to the skills, capability and capacity, development and cultural collaborations, with national archives in our own region – in the Pacific and Asia.
Australia, as a member state of UNESCO, supports the implementation of the Universal Declaration on Archives, adopted in September 2010. The Declaration states:
Archives record decisions, actions and memories. Archives are a unique and irreplaceable heritage passed from one generation to another. Archives are managed from creation to preserve their value and meaning. They are authoritative sources of information underpinning accountable and transparent administrative actions. They play an essential role in the development of societies by safeguarding and contributing to individual and community memory. Open access to archives enriches our knowledge of human society, promotes democracy, protects citizens' rights and enhances the quality of life.
The National Archives is the Commonwealth Institution in Australia's representative democracy that sets the records management policy and standards that must be met by Commonwealth Government agencies in the creation, retention, maintaining, preservation and disposal of government records. This is to ensure the authentic and essential records – including data in digital form – are created, received, secured and maintained, and preserved as the authentic evidence and memory of Government activity and decisions, remaining accessible and re-usable, now and in the future.
The preservation and accessibility of authentic government records is necessary for the administrative accountability, integrity and transparency of our representative democracy. It supports better decision making, it upholds the fundamental rights and entitlements of individuals, and provides all Australians with a connection to the nation's, as well to their personal history and identity.
National Archives Vision
To be one of the world's leading archives in the digital age, democratising access to the authentic and essential evidence of the actions and decisions of the Commonwealth Government.
National Archives Mission
To connect Australians with their identity and history through our stewardship of Australian Government records.