Friday, 29 March 2019

6PR Afternoons with Simon Beaumont



Subjects: National Archives Australia Perth facility

SIMON BEAUMONT: As you just heard John say, there is a new National Archives office opening in Northbridge. Let's talk to Christian Porter, the Attorney-General. He is announcing the opening today. Christian, hi, nice to talk to you.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: You too, Simon. Yeah, so Archives is one of the boutique parts of the Attorney-General's portfolio; don't get to talk about it often enough, but it's completely fascinating.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Yeah, it is, isn't it? We ran a little talkback segment, Christian, on this probably a couple of months ago. It used to be located out in Vic Park on Berwick Street, I think, and we had a lot of people call in. They go there for genealogical research and look at old records. It's a really popular thing, as you say. Tell us where in the cultural precinct the new place will be?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: So it's in Northbridge, not far away from the new museum and the library; so, you know, central to the cultural precinct. And as you say, people are becoming more and more interested in finding about genealogy and their family and the history of WA. So what had happened in the past is that, for 40 years, all of the storage for WA's part of the Australian Archives was out in Vic Park. The storage has been moved to Belmont, but what we are doing is spending over a million dollars to set up a really nice, calm, sort of library-style place where you can go and search the archives for whatever it is that you want. And of course, the storage is out in Belmont. But it's pretty remarkable, like the storage has got 14 kilometres of shelving; 72,000 boxes of records; and mate, there's everything you can conceivably imagine. Like the earliest records that they've got there are from the first year of the Swan River colony, like weather reports and conditions, things like whales' teeth, WA fish and bird species reports, there's files for - repatriation files from World War I, all sorts of things. So people are particularly interested in a lot of military records for their families, and immigration cards - so you can go and work out when your relatives first came to Australia and have a look at their immigration cards. But a great new facility where you can have all of the comfort of a search facility and you can get access to the stored material.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Sure. You use the word calm there, Christian, and I - was the old place a bit noisy and rowdy, was it?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I think, I mean it's the sort of difference between…you remember where they stored the Ark of the Covenant in the Indiana Jones film? I think it was sort of a bit like that, mate. It was an eclectic, large collection in east Vic Park. And of course, the Belmont storage facility still all got that stuff. But in 2019, you kind of expect that when you're looking for a record about your family or your past or you're researching the state's history, you can do it in, let's say, air-conditioned comfort with all of the electronic search facilities that you need. And then we can make sure that you get the record that you're after. So it's all a little bit more up to date and modern now.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Yep. You don't have to worry about a boulder rolling through with Indiana Jones in hot pursuit.

Christian, you're an academic fellow, you're well credentialed, academically. I can imagine you in a dark room pouring over books while you were studying or searching the archives.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Oh look, I love a library, mate. In fact, I still remember studying for my TEE in those days going into what's now the Cultural Precinct and studying at the State Library, like it's a really great part of WA. And I'd have a good tour around the National Archives in Canberra, which I'd recommend to anyone. And the fascinating things that you find about your own family - so my father was a high jumper and they had all these photos that had obviously been taken of him back in the 1950s when he was in peak condition by local newspapers and things, and photos that we never even knew existed. And so it really is fascinating. And as you say, particularly when people are becoming more and more interested in where they came from and how their families came to be in Perth or Australia for that matter, it's an amazing resource. And just about every conceivable thing you might want to know is in there somewhere.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Yeah, sure, the great Chilla Porter, you are always an Olympian, aren't you? Christian, nice to talk to you today.

On a side issue, where down here at the Kalgoorlie jobs expo. When was the last time you were in Kalgoorlie or in the Goldfields?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Maybe a couple of years ago. I mean we went there and did some preliminary work because we've extended the cashless welfare card out into Kalgoorlie. So did some work there as Social Services Minister. I understand it's actually going really well. In fact, I had a few dealings with John Bowler out there who was the head of the Shire, I think, at the time we were looking to get the cashless welfare card out there; ex-Labor state minister and a great bloke. And he was a huge ally in having the rollout of the cashless welfare card there, and it's going really, really well, apparently.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Good place, good town, isn't it?


SIMON BEAUMONT: Christian, thank you for talking to us today. When is the new office open for business?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: As of today, I understand. So I'm going out to do a formal opening tonight. But I'd say to everyone out there with a scholarly interest in whales' teeth or their family history, get down on Saturday.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Or Chilla Porter?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Oh yeah, there's always a few photos of him. I'm sure dad would love it if anyone actually looked him up.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Christian, we really appreciate it. Thank you, Minister. Thank you for your time today, all the best.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Tooroo, Simon. Cheers, mate.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Christian Porter, the Attorney-General.