Unesco Australian Memory Of The World Committee

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13th October 2009, 04:46pm - Views: 1074

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13 October 2009



Documents relating to Indigenous languages, the voyage of the First Fleet and the

foundation of the colony of New South Wales, the convict system, and the

establishment of private legal transactions in the growing colony have been

inscribed on UNESCO’s Australian Memory of the World Register for documentary

heritage of world significance.

The latest inscriptions to the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register are the Australian

Indigenous Languages Collection (AILC) held in the Library of the Australian Institute of

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS); the First Fleet journals held in the State

Library of New South Wales; the Registers of Assignments and Other Legal Instruments 1794-

1824 (The ‘Old Registers’), held by the Land and Property Management Authority (NSW); and the

Convict Records of Queensland 1825-1842, held in Queensland State Archives and the State

Library of Queensland. Citations containing information about each of these inscriptions are

included below.

The Convict Records of Western Australia, inscribed along with the corresponding records for

New South Wales and Tasmania on the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register in

Pretoria, South Africa in 2007, have also been formally added to the Australian Register.

A ceremony will be held on 14 October 2009 at the State Library of Queensland to mark these

inscriptions on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register also celebrated the

inscription of the Manifesto of the Queensland Labour Party to the people of Queensland

(dated 9 September 1892) on the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register in

Barbados in July this year. 

The Manifesto is regarded as one of the modern Labor Party’s formative documents that led to the

first labour government in the world, the Anderson Dawson government in Queensland in December

1899. Although the government only survived for seven days, its formation influenced and

encouraged other political labour movements across the world, as it demonstrated that working

class political organisations could achieve government.  The inclusion of the Manifesto in the

UNESCO Memory of the World Register ‘reflects its exceptional value and signifies that it should be

protected for the benefit of all humanity,’ said Mr Abdul Waheed Khan, UNESCO’s Assistant

Director-General for Communication and Information. The inscription, along with others on the

UNESCO Memory of the World registers, draws attention ‘to the importance of the collective

memory and the need to safeguard it to enable as many people as possible to have access to it,’

said Mr Kahn.

Roslyn Russell, Chair, Assessment Sub-Committee, UNESCO Australian Memory of the

World Committee; and Chair, International Advisory Committee, UNESCO Memory of the

World Programme is available for interviews. Contact T: 02 6281 6805, mobile: 0421 311 369,

email: roslyn@rrms.com.au.



Australian Indigenous Languages Collection (AILC)

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) Library

The Australian Indigenous Languages Collection (AILC) was established in 1981 and is held in the Library

of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). The collection brings

together over 3700 published items written in 102 of the over 250 Australian Indigenous languages, and is

the only one of its kind housed in one location and catalogued as one collection.

Before the European colonisation of Australia there were over 250 languages and 500 dialects spoken by

Indigenous people. Of these languages, only 145 are still spoken, and over 100 will cease to be used over

the next three decades. Australian Indigenous languages are unique and spoken nowhere else in the

world, so their loss is not only a loss for Australia, but for the world. The AILC plays a vital role in

preserving these languages, and assisting Indigenous groups to revive them, and thus is of considerable

community significance for Australia’s Indigenous people.

The collection covers languages from all parts of Australia: from Tasmania to the Torres Strait and from the

Kimberley to the southern parts of Australia, and is a storehouse of cultural knowledge and tradition for

Indigenous Australians. The collection provides examples of the types of materials produced in Indigenous

languages, including early works such as children’s readers and Bible translations, dictionaries, grammars,

vocabularies and language learning kits produced by Indigenous Language Centres, and works of the

imagination. It provides an historical overview of languages that have been recorded for teaching and

learning purposes. Some of the items in the collection are of aesthetic significance, particularly children’s

readers illustrated by celebrated Indigenous artists such as Mawalun Marika, Djoki Yunupingu, both from

Arnhem Land; and Dennis Nona and Alick Tikopi from the Torres Strait.

The Registers of Assignments and Other Legal Instruments 1794–1824 (The ‘Old Registers’)

Land and Property Management Authority (NSW)

The Old Register is a nine-volume series commenced in 1802 and concluding in 1824, in which private

legal transactions and dealings between individuals and businesses in New South Wales, ranging from

marriages and separations to convict/master relationships, through to land transactions and sealing and

whaling agreements, were registered and made available on the public record. They provide a unique and

irreplaceable insight into the social record of the colony of New South Wales from January 1794 to May


The system of registering private legal transactions in books kept by the Office of the Judge Advocate was

begun in November 1800 by Governor King, however none of the books survived. Further instructions

issued by Governor King on 26 February 1802 allowed instruments dating back to 1794 to be added to the

new surviving Registers. The Supreme Court of New South Wales was established in May 1824, and the

functions of the Office of Judge Advocate were transferred to the Court, which retained the Register and

the function of land registration until 1844, when the Office of Registrar-General was established. This

function is now part of the former Department of Lands (NSW), now the Land and Property Management

Authority, which records dealings related to land transactions.

The Old Registers document the first step in this continuing system of registration. The process of

registering transactions has been fundamental to legal proceedings and daily business in Australia for over

200 years. The Old Registers represent the beginning of private business in the colony being recognised in

the courts, and reveal an important step in the development of the cultural landscape of early Australia as

they indicate the growing involvement of government in everyday life. They provide valuable information to

researchers on the nature, demographics and values of the colony, as no other comparable records exist

for this period.

First Fleet Journals

State Library of New South Wales

The Mitchell and Dixson Libraries at the State Library of New South Wales hold the most comprehensive

collection of First Fleet journals in the world. The nine journals, written at the time or as memoirs, provide

eyewitness accounts of the voyage to and the early settlement of Australia from 1787 to the 1790s. They

occupy a central place in Australian documentary history, recording the most profound social, cultural and

political revolution experienced on the Australian continent.

Written by men of different ranks, each journal offers a unique perspective, and several also record

Indigenous vocabularies. Two journals containing original drawings contribute to the significant

documentary record of European settlement, the foundation and development of Sydney, and natural

history, including species that are now extinct.

The journals provide evidence of the equipping of the First Fleet, and the British Government’s motives in

creating a penal colony in New South Wales. They deal with relations between Governor Phillip and his

officers and Marines; relationships between convicts and Marines, Royal Navy officers and free settlers;

sexual relations and tensions; and punishment, law and order.

The First Fleet journals are significant as an invaluable record of the foundations of Sydney and the

beginnings of the Australian nation; of the Indigenous lifestyle at the time of colonisation by Britain in 1788,

and the genesis and development of relations between the British and Indigenous people in the Sydney

region. They are also a significant record of the native flora and fauna; and of the European aesthetic

response to this new and alien topography and landscape.

The Convict Records of Queensland 1825-1842

Queensland State Archives and State Library of Queensland

The penal settlement at Moreton Bay was established in 1824 in response to a recommendation of the

Bigge Reports that another place of secondary punishment be provided to deal with a crime wave in

Sydney and the sentences imposed on repeat offenders. The first settlement at Redcliffe proved

unsuitable, and in 1825 a principal settlement was established on the Brisbane River. The Moreton Bay

penal settlement became self-sufficient in 1826 after the arrival of Captain Patrick Logan, a harsh

disciplinarian, and became a byword for severity, described in the old song, ‘Moreton Bay’, as a place

where ‘excessive tyranny each day prevails’. Between 1826 and 1829 the number of prisoners at Moreton

Bay rose from 200 to nearly 1000, but throughout the 1830s increasing agitation to bring about the end of

the system of convict transportation led to a decline in prisoners coming to Moreton Bay, and by 1839 only

107 prisoners remained in the settlement. It was closed in 1842, when the Moreton Bay area was opened

to free settlement, with Brisbane Town as its centre. The colony of Queensland was separated from New

South Wales in 1859.

Records held in Queensland State Archives and the State Library of Queensland document the relatively

short period of Moreton Bay’s life as a penal settlement before the modern city of Brisbane grew and all but

obliterated the physical traces of its existence, with the exception of two buildings which have survived into

the 21st century, the Commissariat Store and the Windmill. Prominent in this documentation are the

architectural plans of buildings in the penal settlement that accompanied the report compiled by Andrew

Petrie, Clerk of Government Works, in 1837 to investigate Brisbane’s potential as a future port. These

plans are held by the Queensland State Archives, as are records of trials conducted at the penal

settlement, and of public labour performed by Crown prisoners, as well as other records relating to the

penal settlement period, including a chronological register of convicts at Moreton Bay. The State Library of

Queensland also holds records relating to the Moreton Bay penal settlement, including artworks depicting

the settlement during the convict period,.

The records of the convict period in Queensland complement those already inscribed on the UNESCO

Australian Memory of the World Register from New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia, and

are significant as documentation of this key period in the history of Australia. They are also significant as

the earliest documents to describe the settlement of Brisbane, and the foundation of what became the

colony then state of Queensland. The architectural plans in the Petrie report also have aesthetic 

significance, and are significant for their capacity to illustrate the broad reach of military architecture across

the British Empire.

Roslyn Russell, Chair, Assessment Sub-Committee, UNESCO Australian Memory of the World

Committee; and Chair, International Advisory Committee, UNESCO Memory of the World

Programme is available for interviews. Contact T: 02 6281 6805, mobile: 0421 311 369, email:


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