“It is our hope…that improvements to records and recordkeeping governance will strengthen child safe practices and better protect children from future harm, and, importantly, to help those searching for identity and those seeking justice for harm done.” – Commissioner Andrew Murray
On Monday 4 September 2017, Tuart Place hosted a WA Workshop as part of the Setting the Record Straight for the Rights of the Child Initiative. 85 participants gathered for the event – including care leavers, WA government and non-government record holders, archivists, service providers and academics – to discuss the challenges of current recordkeeping and archiving systems, and how they could be improved to better support the lifelong identity, memory and accountability needs of care leavers.
Speakers representing the Stolen Generations, Former Child Migrants, Forgotten Australians and Young Care Leavers shared their stories, giving insight into the harm caused by the failings of recordkeeping and archiving systems. Issues raised included the unsuitability of the Freedom of Information legislation to guide the release of records, the inconsistent practices across organisations, a lack of emotional support provided to those accessing their records, and the rights of organisations being put ahead of children in care and care leavers. To address these challenges, speakers suggested providing counselling services for care leavers, co-created records that are child-centred, consistency and coordination in recordkeeping practices across organisations, and to elevate rights of the child over organisations.
Following these insights, participants discussed what a coordinated transformation agenda would look like. At the centre of this discussion was how to progress the adoption and implementation of Department of Social Services access principles and guidelines within WA. Service providers found the principles – including providing as much access as possible with no financial cost and saying yes before no – important in guiding their record-release practices and making redactions on files.
The strength behind this community was once again demonstrated as workshop participants resolved to maintain the momentum created by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and work together in their diversity to address recordkeeping and archiving challenges.