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Are there gaps in the Australian Register?

The Australian Register inscriptions in this book have been grouped into themes, with the documents included under each theme contextualised by a short essay by a member of the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Committee, or an expert in the field. While the thematic areas covered range from Indigenous culture and history to digital heritage, the Australian Register does not claim to be comprehensive in its current form.

a photograph of Nat Williams, Professor The Honourable Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO, Dr Roslyn Russell, Dr Alex Byrne and Susan Coppin

Left to right: Nat Williams, National Library of Australia; Professor The Honourable Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO; Dr Roslyn Russell, Chair of the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Committee; Dr Alex Byrne, Chief Executive and State Librarian, State Library of NSW; and Susan Coppin, University of Adelaide, at the inscription ceremony on 5 March 2015 at the State Library of NSW.

Photo: Merinda Campbell, State Library of NSW

The Australian Register reflects the nominations that have been received from custodians of the nation’s documentary heritage. There are many areas of Australia’s history and memory that are either lightly represented, or not represented at all on the UNESCO Memory of the World Australian Register. There is only one example of a journey of maritime exploration – the Endeavour journal – and records of land exploration are missing entirely.

The Australian Register contains the records of only one scientific inventor – aviation pioneer Lawrence Hargrave – and still awaits the documentary heritage of pioneers in other scientific and medical disciplines. Australia’s literary culture is not represented at all, and our musical culture boasts only one inscription – the John Meredith Folklore Collection in the National Library of Australia.

While the Register does contain some records relating to post-war migration (the Displaced Persons Migrant Selection Documents 1947-1953, held in the National Archives of Australia), and other nominations are being developed, many more collections capturing these important memories are still to be inscribed. Records relating to the economic development of Australia, and the business sector, are represented by only one inscription, that of the Australian Agricultural Company. The non-Indigenous spiritual and religious life of Australia is entirely missing from the Register. There are many other areas of Australian history and memory that could be identified as under-represented or not represented in the Australian Register.