Noel Butlin Archives Centre

Australian National University cuts funding

Friends of the Noel Butlin Archives Centre
Media Release
21 November 2000

ANU Thumbs Its Nose at Senate and Australian People As It Proceeds with Destruction of Archives

Staff of the Noel Butlin Archives Centre were yesterday informed that the ANU Executive had approved the cuts to the Archives proposed by University Librarian Colin Steele. Two of the four permanent staff will lose their jobs.

The proposal being implemented is only marginally different from one rejected recently as unprofessional, unworkable and destructive by the staff of the Archives. The Staff have been supported in their rejection of the cuts by:

  • the Senate
  • the Australian Society of Archivists
  • the National Archives
  • the National Library of Australia
  • the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia
  • the Australia Historical Association
  • the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History
  • the Australian Labor Party
  • the Australian Council of Trade Unions

As President of the Friends, Rosemary Webb, commented, "The representatives of the Australian people in the Senate questioned ANU's plan for the Archives, the staff, with the endorsement of the archives profession. told ANU it was unworkable and unprofessional and would lead to the destruction of the Archives, the national representative bodies of academic users of the Archives protested against the cuts, as did other bodies. The opposition was unanimous and was ignored. A critical part of Australia's heritage is being sacrificed for ... for what? A 'saving' of about a hundred thousand dollars a year and a car park! It's a disgraceful act by the ANU."

"The objectives set out in the document are just for show", Ms Webb said. "The principal objective-preserving and continuing to develop the Archives as a repository of part of Australia's historical heritage for future generations is not even mentioned. But for fear of law suits the ANU would have closed the Archives. As it is, the proposal will not meet the ANU's legal and moral obligations to depositors, researchers and those who had already made donations of funds over the past two years. And the physical security of these unique records will be seriously imperilled by the ANU's actions."

"The plan seems to be," Ms Webb went on, "for the Archives to provide such poor service to researchers and depositors-with only 2 staff where once there were 8 and with minimal physical security for the records this is inevitable-that depositors withdraw their records and the Archives will unravel and be destroyed. The ANU has shown itself unfit to be the custodian of this unique and invaluable repository of Australia's heritage. If we can find a more responsible institution to take the Archives we will."

Barry Howarth, ACT Secretary of the National Tertiary Education Industry Union, said, "What is happening with the Archives has made a mockery of the Enterprise Agreement's provisions for managing change. The proposal was drawn up by the Librarian, Colin Steele without seeking input from the staff or the University Archivist and has remained substantially unaltered subsequently, with the views of the staff, the Union, the Senate and just about everybody else with a stake in the Archives being disregarded. The staff have been treated with contempt by Library and ANU Management. And there are millions being poured into the black hole of Anutech-just read yesterday's Canberra Times- and an $80 million operating surplus last year. So there's no shortage of money. What has Terrell got against the memory of Noel Butlin?"

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Posted: 22 November 2000