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May 24, 2021

Why Has Australia’s History Been Left to Rot?

The following is an extract from an article by Elias Visontay and published in The Guardian at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/23/inconceivable-why-has-australias-history-been-left-to-rot:

Historians are aghast that the National Archives have had to resort to crowdfunding to protect irreplaceable historical records.

A damaged photograph from the collection of the National Archive of Australia

Historians are calling it an international embarrassment for Australia and saying it is “inconceivable that it has come to this”, as they preemptively mourn the loss of “irreplaceable national history”.

The National Archives of Australia doesn’t often make headlines, but when it does, it’s rarely good news.

Last year, it famously lost a years-long legal battle to keep secret the Palace letters – a trove of correspondence between Australia’s governor-general and the Queen’s private secretary in the lead up to the dismissal of Australia’s then prime minister, Gough Whitlam, in 1975.

As the institution – which is required by legislation to preserve records from Australian government agencies – was licking its financial wounds from the costly legal battle, it was dealt a further blow in this month’s federal budget, which largely ignored a “digital cliff” the archives was facing.

Last week, it was revealed the archives had resorted to launching a crowdfunding site in a last ditch attempt to raise tens of millions of dollars to digitise disintegrating historical materials.

The crowdfunding push has outraged Australia’s archivists and historians, and raised questions about the value Australia places on its national history.

There is a lot more information available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/23/inconceivable-why-has-australias-history-been-left-to-rot.