For a number of years, the History Council of Western Australia has expressed ongoing concern at the inadequate capacity of the current State Archives Repository. In spite of assurances from the Premier in 2007 regarding the State’s physical archive that there was active consideration underway through the State’s budget process to address the needs to acquire new physical storage capacity for the present and future needs of Western Australia, no action was forthcoming in either the 2007 or 2008 State Budgets. In 2011, $100,000 was provided for a site search only.
In its communications with the Premier, Ministers and Shadow Ministers, the History Council, as the peak body for the advocacy of history and heritage in the State stressed that it was making representation on behalf of many thousands of Western Australians who understand and appreciate the importance of history and in particular the key role of archives. The Council continues to point out that, in this time of rapid economic development, it is more urgent than ever to ensure that our progress is not only well documented,but also archived in a manner that is secure and accessible for future generations.
In presenting our assessment of the situation, the History Council has pointed out that:
- The State Records Commission is responsible for ensuring the continued preservation of government archives for the people of Western Australia.
- The State Records Act 2000 requires that the State Records Office accepts records from over 300 state government agencies and local governments after a period of twenty five years.
- These responsibilities are not being fulfilled because of a lack of appropriate space and there has been no transfer of records since July 2001.
- An estimated 45 shelf kilometres of records from approximately 309 agencies remain outside the State Records Office and unavailable to the community.
The concern of the History Council is that while these archives are still in agency hands, Western Australians can never be certain that they are completely secure and will not be destroyed. The lack of an archives repository with appropriate and adequate storage and capacity for growth for both hard copy and digital archives, puts Western Australia well behind all other States in Australia.
The History Council notes that the State Records Office has served the State with distinction to date. It has adapted to a changed environment, taken an active role in setting standards, implemented modern technology, publicised its collection, and attracted a broad range of users. It now holds 15 shelf kilometres of records with no room for expansion. Our history is at risk while this situation continues. Records are growing at around 10% per year and without the certainty of appropriate care, there is a risk that the Western Australian community will lose much of its history.
The Advocacy position of the History Council is the situation is urgent and that immediate steps are required to provide for an improved Archives Repository.