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Late funding to digitise National Archives - News Byte

by Cameron Sinclair •
Free resource

The federal government has announced a one off funding boost of $67.7 million for the Australian National Archives, almost two months after the 11 May Budget.

The money has been allocated for:

  • A four year program for digitisation and preservation of its ‘at-risk’ collection
  • Investment in cybersecurity and digital access.
  • Staff to address backlogs and improve “Digitisation on Demand” services.

On 21 March, the government released a review of the archives, conducted by former Department of Finance Secretary David Tune (the Tune Review).

It recommended $67.7 million for a 7-year program to digitise all high priority collections (see page 57 of the report); and total additional funding of $200 million.

The Tune Review was released during the routine Budget cycle, when the minister responsible for the institution was then-Attorney General Christian Porter. He was replaced as Attorney General by Senator Michaelia Cash on 30 March.

The archives have been the subject of increased public scrutiny since the release of the “Palace Letters” last July, though there have been warnings about impact of funding cuts on digitisation of the archives collection for several years, including very specific concerns raised in a 2019 ANAO report.

The head of the archives is Director-General David Fricker, who was recruited from the CIO role at ASIO in 2012.

The agency is known in parliament for an unusual quirk – appearing at senate estimates in the final evening time slot (10pm) on a Thursday.

In its most recent appearance, on 27 May, when asked about agency funding, Mr Fricker noted:

“Where we are now is $7 million per year less than was the appropriation back in 2014-15, and over that period there has been a reduction of staff from 390 average staffing level down to 345.”

Senator Rex Patrick summed up Mr Fricker’s answers: “you're the one government agency rattling a begging bowl post budget”

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