The federal government has released its response to a major efficiency review of the National Archives of Australia 18 months after receiving the urgent recommendations.
The review, conducted by former Department of Finance secretary David Tune, was commissioned in 2019 to ensure the agency can continue to perform its role — including preserving and providing access to government records — in the digital age.
It found that the National Archives had ‘struggled to fulfil its mandate’, and was also struggling to invest in the systems it needed to meet this mandate in the digital age.
The Tune Review made 20 recommendations to the government. In its response, released on Thursday, the government has fully agreed to 14 of them. This includes recommendations allowing for the National Archives to be involved in decision-making for information management policy and standards, and for investments in training on information management policy for agencies.
The government has agreed to the remaining six recommendations in principle. One such recommendation had called for the National Archives to assume authority and responsibility for information management, recordkeeping and archiving across the government. In response to this, the government said it would work with the agency to ‘achieve efficiencies and improved outcomes for information management, recordkeeping and archiving through better collaboration and training across government’.
The government said protecting and preserving the National Archives’ role and collections would be a ‘significant task’, and has outlined a reform package.
“Mr Tune has big ambitions for what is currently a small agency. There will need to be a period of capability building before some of his recommendations can be implemented,” it said.
In July the government announced $67.7m in funding for the National Archives to address urgent matters, including digitising at-risk records, sorting through backlogs, and bolstering cyber security.
Attorney-general Michaelia Cash said the response to the Tune Review was the next step in securing the future of the National Archives, and ensuring vital records are preserved and made more readily available.
“It will allow future generations to learn from our history, so their contributions to our nation’s story are informed by the challenges and triumphs of the past,” Cash said.
National Archives director-general David Fricker said the agency wouldn’t waste any time implementing the Tune Review recommendations.
“This will further strengthen our capacity to preserve the integrity of the government record, particularly as we move further into the digital age,” he said.
“By agreeing to all recommendations, the Australian government has made very clear its commitment to securing the nation’s cultural identity and memory, and the democratic process through preserving and making accessible the official record of the commonwealth.”
The government publicly released the Tune Review in March, more than one year after it received the report.