Geoffrey Bolton Lecture 2016
Commissioner Andrew Murray of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered the 2016 Geoffrey Bolton Lecture on the evening of Thursday 24 November 2016 at the Government House Ballroom in St George's Terrace, Perth. The lecture topic was Children in need: why records are central to identity and justice
Commissioner Murray began his speech by stating that "my own impression is that the importance of identity is underestimated by many in the general community, perhaps because they have never lost it or been disconnected from it". He covered the issues related to problems with historical records, such as their absence and destruction, plus the fact that those that do exist are very often inadequate, inaccurate and full of insensitive and judgemental statements. Commissioner Murray also spoke about Royal Commission findings on the current significant problems with recordkeeping practices in institutions and the non-government sector, adding that while sound recordkeeping guidelines have been created, they are not always followed. He made the point that there are worries about the security and longevity of digital records.
Turning to issues about access to records for those who experienced out-of-home care, he stated that "child abuse victims and survivors ... are still finding it very hard to access historical records about their time in care" due to procedural difficulties with FOI legislation, such as the requirement to be specific, the costs involved, redactions and third party privacy. Commissioner Murray ended his speech by outlining the Royal Commission's consultation paper on records and record keeping practices, which proposed principles for good institutional record keeping. He also spoke of the need for 'life histories' and 'life story books' so that those who are in out-of-home care, have tangible representations of their childhood - like photographs, mementos, art work, etc.
The lecture was illustrated with the stories of survivors of child abuse while they were in out-of-home care, and also included Commissioner Murray's own personal reflections as a child migrant in Fairbridge children's home in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) along with his own search for information. It was a very moving and sometimes heart-rending lecture, that attendees will long remember.
Please see the text of Commissioner Murray's speech: Children in need: why records are central to identity and justice (449KB)
The lecture was broadcast on ABC Radio National on 14 February 2017 and is available on podcast at the Big Ideas website.
Commissioner Murray is a Rhodes Scholar and former businessman who was a Senator for Western Australia from 1996 to 2008. He has also chaired and been a member of a variety of community, business and political boards, committees and associations, including Chair of the Western Australian Regional Development Trust.
Born in England in 1947 Andrew Murray was placed in a children’s home at the age of two, and at the age of four was sent to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) as a child migrant to Fairbridge. Raised and schooled in Rhodesia, he went to university in South Africa and England. He migrated to Australia in 1989 with his family, becoming an Australian citizen in 1994. Commissioner Murray has also been in the armed forces, a consultant, occasional media writer and is a published author. Prior to his appoitnment to the Royal Commission he was Patron of Care Leavers Association (CLAN) and the Alliance of Forgotten Australians.
The Geoffrey Bolton Lecture series
Each year the State Records Office hosts a lecture in honour of the distinguished Australian historian, Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Bolton AO, who passed away on 3 September 2015. The Lecture series recognises Professor Bolton’s long period of use and promotion of archives, his service on various committees of the State Archives, and his overall contribution to the promotion of Australian history and culture.
The stated aims of the Geoffrey Bolton Lecture are twofold: to encourage the expression of ideas and debate about the meaning and nature of history, culture and society, grounded in archival research; and to provide archival and historical context to national debate on contemporary issues.
Since 2004 the lecture series has lifted the profile of archives and record keeping in Australia, and promotes debate about the use and interpretation of archives, in what is now a nationally important forum.