National Archives of Australia

Issue 3 July 2011

Archives takes training to Indonesia

Managing archives is an issue for all countries, regardless of size, location or socio-economic status. In a first for the Archives, two training experts recently visited Indonesia to conduct a three-day comprehensive information-management program. Sydney writers Amanda Sheppeard and Mike Holland provide an overview of the ‘Managing government records’ training program in Indonesia.

Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia

The Archives was invited to present the training program by the National Archives of the Republic of Indonesia (known in Indonesia as Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia, or ANRI), as part of a memorandum of understanding signed between the two agencies in 2007. This agreement aims to facilitate professional cooperation and capacity-building programs between the two archival institutions.

Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia reports directly to the President of Indonesia and is responsible for managing documents and records from the national, provincial and municipal governments, and some commercial sectors.

A bond issued by the Dutch East India Company for the amount of 2400 florins, 7 November 1623. Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia holds a large archival collection related to the famed Dutch East India Company.

‘Managing government records’

The training program was held in Bogor, about 60 kilometres from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, and was delivered by Kerry Moir and Mark Semmler of the Archives’ Government Information Management branch.

Titled ‘Managing government records: the National Archives of Australia’s approach’, the program covered a range of topics including:

  • the role of the National Archives of Australia
  • records management models
  • the strategic approach to records management
  • creating authentic, reliable and usable records
  • capturing and describing records
  • providing access to, and securing, records
  • storing and preserving records
  • keeping, destroying and transferring records
  • responsibilities, skills and training.

Delegates at the ‘Managing government records’ training program, Centre for Archives Training, Bogor, May 2011. A total of 30 people attended the training, mostly from Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia with some representatives from government departments and universities. Courtesy Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia

Ms Moir said the program had been designed to demonstrate the Australian approach to records management, and the response to the training was very positive, despite some initial language hurdles.

‘Their agency is a similar size to ours and they are very committed to what they do,’ she said.

‘They deal with a much broader base, with many levels of government and commercial sectors, so that presents a number of different challenges. They were very interested in learning about how we manage our records.

‘This was also a great opportunity for the Archives to promote its international leadership in archives and records management, and I think it went very well.’

Mr Semmler echoed this sentiment, and said that even though they embarked on the project ‘expecting the unexpected’, he was particularly struck by the level of commitment to records management.

‘I think one of the Indonesian Government’s main agendas is to push accountability across all levels of government, and that really impressed me,’ he said.

Common ground

A key message from the training was discussion about records management models. Ms Moir said it was vital to take a risk-based approach when developing standards, to ensure that records were given appropriate levels of priority and attention.

‘Not all records are equal and it is important to make the right decisions about which are more important than others,’ she said.

There was plenty of discussion about the challenges faced by both countries, and it quickly became apparent that they shared some common issues. Ms Moir said the difficulty in accessing sufficient resources to maximise the effectiveness of programs was the major challenge.

‘When changes are required and new systems are put in place to improve records management, it is very difficult when there is resistance from those people who use the systems, even if the new system results in better outcomes,’ she said.

Ms Moir and Mr Semmler were particularly interested to hear about some of the Indonesian experiences, particularly in Aceh, which was devastated by a deadly earthquake and tsunami in 2004. It is estimated that some 230,000 people were killed and about 500,000 left homeless in the Aceh region. Rebuilding is taking years, and there is now a focus on restoring records in the region. ‘It was impressive to see how committed they are,’ said Mr Semmler.

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