ARC funding for fieldwork

Kazuko Obata Kazuko.Obata at
Thu Feb 23 06:12:42 UTC 2012

Here is a belated response from the AIATSIS Audio-Visual Archive:
I'm sorry for the late response from AIATSIS to this thread. I would
like to reassure RNLD members that AIATSIS is still collecting archival
audio material. We have a fairly strict acquisition policy because our
resources are tight, but it is extremely unlikely that we would reject
original language material. It would be excellent to receive the rest of
the Kofod collection :-)
Re: digitising. We are of course digitising all of our holdings, but due
to the size of the collection (approximately 40,000 hours) it is
necessary for us to prioritise material based primarily on the format
and condition of the carriers. If you are digitising material yourself
prior to deposit, it would be good to get the digi copies too but it
might be necessary for us to re-digitise if we find the transfer wasn't
as good as it could have been (e.g. if azimuth alignment was out on the
playback machine) or if the target format doesn't meet our minimum
standards. Also please be aware that every time you play an analogue
tape its quality will deteriorate slightly.
Re: AIATSIS funding situation. Unfortunately, pretty much everything
Claire Smith said was accurate. We are extremely hopeful that our
funding situation will improve and we are even pursuing dollars from
mining companies. If the worst were to happen, we would need to funnel
our limited resources into preserving the material we already have OR
the collection would need to be transferred to another collecting
institution. AIATSIS is still the best option for many researchers,
because we are able to accept unpublished audio material that is closed
for personal, gender or ceremonial reasons and we are often able to make
copies of preserved material for community members free of charge.  
Kind regards,
Marisa Harris
Manager, Audio Unit
AIATSIS Audiovisual Archive


From: r-n-l-d at [mailto:r-n-l-d at] On Behalf
Of Frances Kofod
Sent: Monday, 13 February 2012 2:07 PM
To: r-n-l-d at
Subject: [!! SPAM] Re: ARC funding for fieldwork

It is shocking to hear that AIATSIS cannot properly care for its
archival material. I have been intending to send lots of older tapes to
them - after I have digitised them for safe keeping. 
Also in regard to all the mining clearance reports done over and over
again, I have heard lots of Aboriginal people express their deep
frustration that they cannot have access to the reports that their
elders made in the past.
Frances Kofod

On 13/02/2012, at 10:37 AM, Felicity Meakins wrote:

	This may be of interest to people seeking funding for grants
involving fieldwork:
	Finding funds for outback digs <http:// <http:/>
	The cost of research for archaeology and anthropology could be
reduced by tapping money that mining companies pay for cultural heritage
compliance, writes Claire Smith.
	Recent changes to grants programs run by the Australian Research
Council (ARC) and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) have caused widespread concern within
field-based disciplines in Australia, such as archaeology, anthropology
and Aboriginal languages. The debate around these changes highlights the
high costs of conducting fieldwork in Australia, our reliance on a
limited number of funding bodies and the need to identify additional
sources of research funding.
	The recently released 2013 funding rules for Australian Research
Council Discovery Program placed a limit of $50,000 on the travel budget
over the life of the project. Such a limitation would have severely
limited field-based research projects.  Fieldwork in Australia is
expensive. Though people conducting research in remote areas may well
live in tents or caravans, the travel costs are high. This is due to the
high cost of four-wheel-drive vehicles and the length of time that is
required for many fieldwork projects, itself an artefact of the
remoteness of the location - if it takes three days to get to a
location, you need to make the stay worthwhile.
	Moreover, in disciplines such as archaeology data collection is
undertaken by a team of people, all of whom have to travel to the field
location. A maximum of $50,000 over a three-year project would have
stifled fundamental research in those disciplines that require extensive
fieldwork. Last week's clarification from the Australian Research
Council caused widespread relief. The updating of frequently asked
questions included one on field research costs in remote areas of
Australia and overseas and a response that only the flights to and from
the research site were considered to be travel.
	Fieldwork costs could be sought under a separate category. When
this clarification was announced you could almost hear the collective
sigh on the email lists of the affected disciplinary communities.
Apprehension regarding changes to ARC funding was exacerbated by
existing concerns regarding the recent suspension of the AIATSIS grants
program. This small but critical funding program has run since the
1980s. With an annual funding allocation of about $680,000, it has
supported crucial seed research in archaeology, anthropology and
Aboriginal languages - research that would not have been funded,
	It has been a critical source of funding for indigenous scholars
and for doctoral and early career researchers, and has been an important
step for many young scholars seeking to establish a track record for ARC
funding. Moreover, a condition of funding was that research materials
would be deposited with the institute, and AIATSIS now has a
world-renowned archive of about 1 million items, ranging from tape
recordings of languages that are now extinct or under threat, to films
and photographs by early ethnographic researchers.
	 AIATSIS is struggling for funding on a number of fronts. The
recent non-renewal of a Commonwealth funding program for the digital
conversion of the institute's archive left 80 per cent of the collection
unconverted. AIATSIS was forced to make use of its savings to maintain
the program this year. Much of the older material is under threat from
disintegration, including old films, magnetic tape recordings and
glass-negative photographs. These materials were collected by early
ethnographers and contain information that cannot be replicated or
	While disciplinary alarm regarding changes to ARC funding rules
has now passed, and there are hopes that provision for the AIATSIS
digitisation scheme will be reinstated in the Commonwealth's 2012-13
budget, the unease generated by these incidents prompts consideration of
untapped sources of support for field research in Australia.
	At the same time that AIATSIS is struggling to protect its
precious archives, mining companies around Australia spend hundreds of
millions of dollars each year on cultural heritage surveys for
compliance purposes. A single area may be surveyed many times, and the
data that is collected is locked up in consultants' reports, producing
little, or no, new knowledge for the nation. Millions of dollars are
spent each year, and no new histories are emerging from them.
	While representatives of Australia's leading mining companies
have expressed a desire to divert funds used for repetitive or low-level
compliance into substantive research programs, such a change would have
to be facilitated by amendments to regulatory frameworks. However, there
are strong economic and social imperatives for such change.  It would
produce substantial economic benefits for the nation by assisting in
streamlining compliance processes and bringing forward the investment
pipeline. In addition, it would provide social and cultural benefits by
producing new understandings of Australia's unique cultural heritage.
	Moreover, if some of the funds that are now wasted on repetitive
compliance could be diverted to research purposes Australia would
receive a great boon. There would be additional funds for ARC linkage
grants and new histories would emerge, with or without ARC funding. In a
perfect world, a proportion of these funds would be diverted toward
digitisation of the precious AIATSIS repository.
	Claire Smith is professor of archaeology at Flinders University.

Frances Kofod
PO Box 1918
WA 6743
08 91692 852 ~ 0438 894957

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Resource-network-linguistic-diversity mailing list