President’s Report


My last report in the Autumn Quarterly Newsletter detailed various advocacy issues that the History Council has been pursuing.  It has been an extremely busy year!

Are there any other pressing issues that you think the History Council should be following (eg built heritage, tertiary landscape, jobs for historians, museums)?  And what do you think the State should be doing to commemorate the bicentenary of Western Australia in 2029? 

Your suggestions will feed into the next Ideas Forum, which we plan to hold in early 2019. Please reply to

New Website: We were fortunate to receive a grant from the WA History Foundation to update the format of our quarterly newsletter and our website.  The new format has been in use for the last two newsletters and has received some nice compliments.  I am now delighted to advise that our new website has just gone live.  See

Membership Subscriptions: Subscriptions have been slow to come in this year.  Our Membership Secretary, Jan McCahan Marshall, has sent out a reminder email, so please pay your subs asap!  The History Council is a not-for-profit organization and does not receive any external funding, except for special projects.

In the meantime, the advocacy work of the History Council on behalf of our corporate members and all those who care about history, continues unabated, as the summary below indicates.

Redaction of Birth, Deaths and Marriage Certificates: We are pleased to note that, in response to many representations spearheaded by the History Council as well as coverage by ABC News and the BBC World Service, the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages has amended its form ‘Uncertified copy of births/deaths/married record’ (Form F2) so that an applicant can elect to have an unredacted scanned copy of the original register entry.  We are making further recommendations for changes to the wording of the form for clarification.

Review of Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972: Our submission to Phase 1 of the review of the act is now available on line.  See Submissions No 077.  The next step in the process, following consideration of all 139 submissions, is for the government to release a Discussion Paper for public consultation.

Wintawari Guruma: Our submission in support of the Wintawari Guruma people in their efforts to stop the building of a railway by FMG through a valley with over fifty archaeological sites adjacent to the heritage listed Spear Hill is still with the Federal Minister for the Environment

Landgate: Neil Foley and I met with the Treasurer’s Principal Policy Office for a briefing on the reported sale of a section of Landgate.  He advised us that the automated section of Land Titles is to be commercialized.  Tender documents are presently being drawn up for a forty-year commercial lease.  As all land titles are state archives, we have suggested that there be consultation with the State Archivist.  We have also made this suggestion in a letter to the Minister for Lands.

City of Perth History Centre:  Following a review of the structure of the City of Perth last year, the History Centre has been subsumed into the Arts, Culture and Heritage unit.  Bobbie Oliver and Helen Munt recently met with the manager, Tabitha McMullan, and members of the unit.  They have embarked on a four-year project to digitize their history collection, which is expected to be available on the City of Perth website. They are also developing a Cultural Development Policy and a Bicentennial Action Plan which we look forward to viewing.

State Library: Bobbie Oliver and I recently met with the State Librarian, Margaret Allen. We were very pleased to hear that, thanks to acceptance of a recommendation in the Writing Sector Review, the government will be reinstating the Premier’s book awards. The scope of the History Award will be broadened to include other non-fiction.  More details will be announced by the State Library of WA later this year.  Margaret will be giving a presentation to our Committee on the State Library’s Strategic Plan in the near future. 

State Records: We continue to be concerned at the diminishing funding allocated by government to cultural activities, such as libraries and archives.  Members of the Australian Society of Archivists (WA), who are advocating against changes in the reporting structure of the State Records Office within the Department of Culture and the Arts, recently gave the History Council Committee a briefing.  We noted that the State Records Office has a budget allocation of only $2m in the 2018/19 year and as has been the case for a number of years, it has been unable to accept deposits from government departments.  These are stored either within their respective government department or in private repositories.  We were also concerned to hear that a policy for storage of the government’s digital records had not yet been established. 

National Archives (WA): With the cessation of the lease on its premises in Berwick St, East Victoria Park, the National Archives will be closing in December.  Its archives are in the process of being moved to a commercial repository in Belmont. At the time of writing the location of the front-of-house has not been announced.

2019 State Heritage and History Conference: Following the success of the 2017 conference, which attracted over 300 delegates, planning for the 2019 conference is well underway.  Please mark your diaries for 28-30 April 2019.  The venue will be the sparkling new Westin hotel in Hay Street and the theme is ‘Dark Heritage: Hidden Histories’.  Keep an eye out for the email requesting expressions of interest, which will soon be forwarded from the State Heritage Office.

Bicentenary: We are aware that planning for the Sesquicentenary in 1979 began nearly ten years before that date and that a Bicentenary is likely to generate major commemorative activities, with potential tourist and other commercial advantages for the state. I have written to the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition requesting information about planning for State’s Bicentenary in 2029.  I look forward to presenting them with lots of ideas from our History Council members.

Jenny Gregory