An assembly of archivists? A herd of historians?

Whatever their collective title might be, the Catholic Diocesan Archivists of Australia gathered at Haydon Hall in Canberra this week for their 17th annual meeting.

From Townsville to Hobart and across to Perth, 16 of the 28 Diocesan Archivists participated in this year’s meeting across Wednesday Oct 16 and Thursday Oct 17, discussing a range of topics including legal requirements, archiving software, technology and best practice tips.

Denis Connor, archivist for the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese, believes that the meetings are of enormous value to him and his colleagues.

“The reason we have this group is because just about all of us are working as a single person within our organisations, so this is our peer group spread across Australia,” Denis said.

“And because every diocese is its own entity, it’s not like we’re working for the Commonwealth government with uniform procedures and processes.

“There are a couple of high-level documents and guidelines that we all follow. There are canon law statements and there’s also a document that’s been put out by the relevant Vatican Commission which has written a statement about the care of church archives.

“That covers the way in which some information must be kept, like sacramental registers and that sort of thing. And there is a directive that every Bishop should keep a Diocesan Archive where the historical information about the running of his Diocese is kept. But as to how we do that, there’s a lot of variation.”

The group meets annually with the agreement of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Last year the event was in Townsville. Next year they will meet in Perth.

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In addition to swapping best practice tips and ideas, the meeting also included professional development sessions and a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Christopher Prowse.

“We want to work as a group, share the wisdom, share the worries, but when we meet we also try to do things that will provide ongoing professional development,” Denis said.

“So we have the talks and speeches but we also aim to have external speakers come in and give us a bit of input into areas we might value from. This year we had someone talk to us about privacy and accessing records and the legalities involved.

“A researcher studying Archbishop Eris O’Brien also gave us an update of her progress, which is of broad interest because he was a priest and bishop in several areas of Australia.”

While the training and swapping of tips is very useful, Denis believes the value of these meetings goes beyond professional development.


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