State Records Act tenth anniversary

Lise Summers Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 14:49  At its recent meeting, on 2 December, 2011, the State Records Commission (SRC) noted that the State Records Act 2000 came into full operation on 1 December 2001, making this the month of the Act’s tenth anniversary.  Since the proclamation of the Act the SRC has produced eight recordkeeping standards, covering both physical and electronic recordkeeping, and has introduced a comprehensive recordkeeping regime throughout State and local government, which sets an enviable precedent within Australasia. To celebrate the Act and this, its tin anniversary, we delved into the State archives collection to find something appropriate.  Within the records of the Colonial Secretary’s Office was a story of lost sailors, an albatross and a tin band (Colonial Secretary's Office file,’ Sydney - French Shipwrecked Sailors on Crozet Islands, Re.’ Item 1887/3532, cons. 527).What could be a better illustration of the value and the mystery of archives?According to the file, a group of boys discovered a recently expired albatross whilst in search of winkles on the beach near Trigg Island, to the north of Perth. Tied around the neck of the bird was a tin band inscribed with mysterious lettering. The band was removed and one of the boys took it to his employer, Mr V.E. Nesbit, who then passed it on to the Colonial Secretary. The message on the band read, "13 naufrages sont refugees sur les iles Crozet 4 Aout 1887" (13 shipwrecked sailors have taken refuge on the islands Crozet 4 August 1887). The Crozet Islands lie in the south of the Indian Ocean, some 5,600 kms from the coast of Western Australia.Although there appeared to be some doubt as to the genuineness of the message, it was reported to the Governor, Sir F. Napier Broome, and was ultimately transmitted to the Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs who, in turn, communicated it to the appropriate French authorities. A vessel was duly dispatched by the French and the following telegram message was reported in the WA Government Gazette dated 29 March 1888: "Mozambique, 11th January, 1888. The Meurthe has returned. Thirteen shipwrecked men from the Tamaris, having exhausted their provisions, left the Isle of Pigs on the 30th September to go to the Isle of Possession. No trace was found of their arrival, nor at any other island. Hope remains that fishing vessels may have picked them up".Unfortunately, no trace of the men appears to have been found, and they are presumed to have died on their trip to the Isle of Possession. *Like the men, the tin band too appears to have been lost.  Only the file remains, documenting both their stories. Ironically, had the sailors tweeted their message, they may have been found, but the story might not survive.For the past ten years the State Records Act 2000 has provided the State and community of Western Australia with a legislative imperative for the creation of records, their maintenance and their access.  What stories might we tell from those records in another ten or even 130 years?Lise Summers,Senior Archivist* Update. Researcher Robert Lehane emailed us to say that the tin band was puchased by James King, known as the 'Pearl King', with the intention of displaying it in Queensland and elsewhere. Proceeds from viewing the band were to go to charity.  No further news of the band has been located.  May be it is still in Queensland?