AIATSIS welcomes $6.4m two-year investment for priceless collection


9 May 2012

Professor Mick Dodson AM - the Chairperson of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) - has welcomed a $6.4m two-year investment to continue the Institute’s urgent digital preservation of its priceless audio-visual archives.

The Institute’s digitisation program, which was self-funded from an operational loss of $3.2m this financial year, was due to expire on 30 June 2012. The program had been previously funded by the Federal Government as a non-ongoing program from 2005-2011.

Professor Dodson said that the $6.4m budget initiative will assist the Institute to maintain momentum in preserving its vast collections of audio, visual and print materials for future generations.

“The AIATSIS collections comprise information of unique world significance which is at threat because of progressive disintegration of analogue recording materials.”

“Maintaining this cultural resource - the Commonwealth’s largest and most valuable public collection of Indigenous heritage materials - is one of AIATSIS’ legislated functions.”

“Once considered safely preserved, many of these materials are now considered at risk of irretrievable loss because of ongoing deterioration and changes in technology.”

“Roughly only one‑third of the at-risk materials have been digitised to date.”

Professor Dodson said that importantly, the two-year budget initiative meant the ongoing employment for over 30 staff – a third of AIATSIS’ workforce - predominately from the Institute’s Audiovisual Archive.

“These are specialists in the area of digitisation of audio, visual and print materials and are integral to the processes involved in the sustainable access, maintenance and preservation of our collections.”

“Without this funding, AIATSIS could not maintain the staffing and technical capacity to continue digitising its materials at an appropriate rate.”

“Without them, there are serious impacts on access to our archives by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, organisations, schools, families, researchers, mainstream publishers and broadcasters.”

However, while welcoming the two-year funding deal, Professor Dodson highlighted that the need to address AIATSIS’ long term funding crisis - including the Institute’s preservation activities – was still its number one priority.

“AIATSIS requires an enhanced ongoing investment enabling us to maintain our capacity of being a keeping place not only of a vast record of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, but also of expertise, of ideas, of capacity, and of vision.”

Established in 1964, AIATSIS is the world’s leading research, collecting and publishing institution in the field of Australian Indigenous studies.

Its collections are particularly rich in language material. Around 95 per cent of the audiovisual collection is unique primary research material.