Keynote Speakers

Institutional and Collecting Archives: Perpetuating the Knowledge Structures of Colonialism


Australia has been “indelibly shaped” by colonization and its legacies, which persist into the 21stcentury, perpetuating power inequities as well as political and economic exploitation of the powerless or marginalised.  Organisation-centric recordkeeping, archival institutions and collecting archives are a legacy of colonization and the persistence of the knowledge structures of colonialism into the 21st century. My paper explores the instrumental role of recordkeeping and archiving in colonisation and the ongoing colonial project with reference to the classist, hetero-patriarchal, sexist and racist colonial constructs of child welfare, the neglected and criminal child, and Indigeneity which persist to this day. The majority of children in Care are working class, as are their foster families, and Indigenous children are overrepresented, being 11 times more likely to be in Care. Based on the findings of the Lifelong Rights in Childhood Recordkeeping in the out-of-home-Care sector project, the paper focuses on rights-based, child- and people-centred recordkeeping and archiving. It envisages the transformative part they might play in actualizing child rights and Indigenous human rights, and shifting power balances for children in Care and Care leavers. Rights-based recordkeeping repositions the subjects of records as co-creators and therefore active recordkeeping agents with ongoing rights in all aspects of their management, e.g. deciding who has access to their records, participating in decisions about what to make and keep (and destroy).  The paper canvases the possibility that people-centred, rights-based, participatory recordkeeping in the present could result in archival records for the future that are inclusive of the voices of those who have been silenced in the past by Western traditions of organizational recordkeeping, and institutional and collecting archives practice. 

Emeritus Professor Susan McKemmish, Monash University

I have been immersed in recordkeeping and archiving for almost five decades, first as an archivist working for the National Archives of Australia and the Public Record Office of Victoria, and then as an academic. Joining Monash in 1990, my research has focused on records continuum theory and modeling, and the role of recordkeeping in society. I have increasingly focused on community-centred, participatory research, rights in records, and developing inclusive, reflexive research design and practice. Current projects include Lifelong Rights in Childhood Recordkeeping in the out-of-home-Care sector, and Indigenous Data Sovereignty and Living Indigenous Archives on Country

Failing Memory: Archival Truths, Historical Reckonings and Carnivalesque Commemoration.


The Anzac mythology occupies a central place in Australia’s political and cultural landscape but its meanings are historically contingent and have been  fiercely debated since 1915.  For some, Anzac serves the purpose of a foundation narrative, ritualising remembrance and embodying consensual values.  For others, (including those of us who deplore the denial of Australia’s frontier wars) it involves a deeply flawed and highly selective memory of war. This paper will examine the vast archive generated by the Anzac Centenary as Australia embarked on the longest, most expensive, and arguably most complex Great War Centenary of any nation. Carnivalesque commemoration involved unprecedented investment from the state, but was also driven by popular initiatives and the submissions made to government – across a vast social and political spectrum- tell us much about the making of historical sensibility and the way remembrance can often involve wilful act of forgetting.  The paper will suggest there was no one single narrative that emerged from the Centenary of 1914-18 and the new digital archives it created.  Rather ‘bottom up’ remembrance also offered space for dissident voices as social agencies as diverse as feminist networks, doctors against war, and pacifist groups launched a radical critique very much in keeping with the labour movement’s internationalist and anti-war tradition.  How can labour historians recover that voice from an archive that often served to valorise and perpetuate the Anzac mythology?  And can the mass accessibility of military records open new opportunities for social historians to work disruptively with archives and reveal the ongoing cost of war? 

Professor Bruce Scates FASSA is based in the School of History at the Australian National University.  He is the author/lead author of several books on war and memory, including Return to Gallipoli; A Place to Remember; Anzac Journeys; The Last Battle and World War One: A History in 100 Stories.  All these works involve a ‘disruptive’ reading of military archives, through the lens of labour and cultural history, whilst his first book, A New Australia, returned to the Utopian visions of the early labour movement.  Bruce is the Chair of the Friends of the Noel Butlin Archives Centre and served for several years on the Advisory Council of the National Archives of Australia. He chaired the Military and Cultural History panel advising the Anzac Centenary Board.  His submissions to government led to the digitisation of WW1 repatriation records, demonstrating the enduring cost of war to families and communities.