The NAA Director-General's announcement that the three offices would be closed was seen by some as contrary to past statements by the Prime Minister when the NAA's Brisbane office was under threat. It attracted little attention, arguably attributable to unsuccessful marketing by the archival profession (never as effective as the library lobby) and by the NAA.
It does not seem to have resulted in a damning report by the NAA Advisory Council (an autonomous body that might be considered as guardians of the archival part of the national estate and that has found time to commission and launch an official history of itself).
The Director-General has now announced a sort of decaf closure, perhaps the sort of closure you have when you don't want too much embarrassment and when the stakeholders can be fobbed off with indications of benefits now, costs on the never never.
He indicated that -
Tuesday was an eventful day for the National Archives. As well as the planned Shake Your Family Tree Day in all our offices, there was welcome news from our Minister Senator Ludwig's office that the National Archives would maintain face-to-face services in Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart.Cue trumpets, dancing sheep and loud huzzahs!
In a nice example of publicservicespeak the Director-General states that -
Immediately following the announcement in early November 2009, I began meeting with our Consultative Forums and concerned local organisations to explain what was happening and to develop a collaborative approach to the ongoing delivery of the National Archives' services. I have only praise for their understanding and assistance. That assistance will be required even more now that we have the Minister's announcement about the way forward.And the way forward? The NAA will 'share' - or at least hopes that it will share - with its state/territory peers.
One of the solutions looked at was the co-location model already in place in Melbourne with Public Record Office Victoria. Senator Ludwig acknowledged the successful working of this approach in his media release on Tuesday. I am pleased that this approach is the focus of his announcement. As some of you will know I was involved in the introduction of the 'Victorian model' when I was at the Public Record Office.The implication seems to be that the NAA will save some money on leases relating to its 'own' premises in Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory (the extent of that saving is unclear, given uncertainty about whether the organisation has to remediate the vacated premises or indeed whether responsibility for those premises will be shouldered by its new partners). The cost of shipping records - remember, we are talking kilometres of paper files, film, photographs and other media - to the east coast is presumably avoided (although there may be costs if records are transferred from a former NAA facility to a state/territory facility). The NAA will presumably need to provide some funding to the state/territory archives (the SA Attorney-General, after all, needs every dollar he can get in the ongoing war against OMGs and gamers, thus being unlikely to embrace a further cost in storing Commonwealth records for free).
Over the past few months I have also received correspondence from people concerned about the closures. I would like to thank those of you who took the time to contact me and to suggest possible alternative solutions. I look forward to continue working with you as we develop a new co-location approach to providing National Archives’ services in Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart.