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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 74

(Question No. 4205)


Mr Hodges asked the Minister for Arts, Heri- tage and Environment, upon notice, on 3 June 1986:

(1) What is the estimated duration, including commencement date, of the Committee of Inquiry into Folklife in Australia.

(2) How many submissions has the Committee received from (a) individuals and (b) community-based organisations up until the time this question is answered.

(3) Are the members of the Committee receiving a wage for their services; if so, what are the (a) hours of employment, (b) salary rate, and (c) other conditions and benefits of employment.

(4) What are the (a) hours of employment, (b) salary rate, and (c) other conditions and benefits of employment of the (i) secretary and (ii) other full-time or part-time employees of the Committee.

(5) What is the number of other full-time or part-time Committee employees.

(6) What evidence has he to prove (a) Australian folklife is often poorly documented and understood and (b) Australia lags far behind other countries in documentation of our heritage.

(7) What is the total estimated cost of the inquiry.


Mr Cohen —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) I announced the establishment of the Committee of Inquiry into Folklife in Australia on 26 March 1986; it is to report to me by 31 January 1987.

(2) The Committee has now received written submissions from 114 individuals and 59 community-based organisations. A further 60 written submissions have been received from persons associated with tertiary institutions, and from Federal and State Government Departments and Authorities.

(3) The Chairperson, Mr Hugh Anderson, is engaged as a consultant on a full-time basis, and is being paid a fee of $39,807. The other two Committee members, Mrs Gwenda Davey and Dr Keith McKenry, are engaged on a part-time basis, and neither is receiving any remun- eration in addition to their normal salary, although Ms Gwenda Davey's employer, the Footscray Institute of Technology, is receiving a payment of $13,302 to compensate for making her time available. Dr Keith McKenry is a Commonwealth employee and his costs are being absorbed by the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment. All three Committee members have their travel costs met from the Inquiry's budget. Mr Anderson and Dr McKenry receive the standard travel allowances for Senior Executive officers. Ms Davey receives travel allowances equivalent to those for a Third Division Officer of the Commonwealth Public Service.

(4) The Committee has no employees. Modest Secretariat support for the Committee is provided by the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment from within existing resources.

(5) Nil. See (4) above.

(6) In Australia, despite determined efforts by institutions such as the National Library of Australia, there has been no co-ordinated, nationally-based program of folklife collection and documentation. Rather, these activities have largely been left to a comparatively few self-funded private individuals with specialised interests, whose activities often have been focused in specific geographic regions. Despite their invaluable work, major aspects of Australian folklife are poorly documented and understood. For example inadequate attention has been given to the folklife of women, of factory and other urban workers, and of communities from other than English speaking backgrounds. Also, there has been very little collection generally of folklife in some major geographic regions in Australia.

Material which has been collected often remains poorly indexed and uncatalogued, and thus is not generally available. In some cases this material has also deteriorated for want of proper storage and care.

Most national governments in Europe and North America have recognised the significance of folklife to their national heritage and have supported its collection and subsequent conservation on a professional basis for generations. At least 46 member countries of UNESCO have participated in that organisation's program on the safeguarding of folklore at a national and international level. This program, which commenced in 1973, has resulted in agreement on action governments might take to safeguard their folklore. Australia participated for the first time only in 1985, and has been slow to take action.

(7) The Inquiry is co-sponsored by the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment, the Australia Council, the National Museum of Australia and the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs.

These bodies have allocated the Inquiry a total budget of $152,000, exclusive of Secretariat costs mentioned in (4) above from within existing resources of the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment.