AMaGA's response to the bushfire crisis
AMaGA is greatly saddened by the loss of human life and property and the impact on peoples’ livelihoods. We feel the impact of the incalculable loss of wildlife and ecosystems, and cultural and natural heritage during this devastating fire season. (See our original response to the ongoing bushfire crisis 3/1/20)
AMaGA acknowledges our First Peoples communities, who have been caring for this Country for so many thousands of years, and we extend our respect to Ancestors and Elders past, present and emerging during this challenging time. Every inch of this land has meaning and connection for our First Peoples and we mourn the losses with you.
AMaGA offers heartfelt support to all of our cultural custodians at this time. So far we know of the destruction of some historic streetscapes, buildings and collections including Mallacoota & District Historical Society’s Genoa School Museum in Victoria, the Gold Rush Colony in Mogo, NSW, the gold rush township of Kiandra, NSW and 11 historic huts in the Kosciuszko National Park also in NSW.
We acknowledge that it is only the beginning of the fire season and pay tribute to the professionals and volunteers who are attempting to keep us safe. We want to assure our members that we as a national association will be doing everything we can with the resources available, to help with recovery, prevention and advocacy for the duration of this crisis, and into the future. AMaGA recognises the importance of an immediate, coordinated climate response and we hope that through the ongoing devastation currently being experienced there will be collective, bipartisan climate action across all levels of government.
In the coming weeks we will be working with our key partners as well as our State/Territory Branches to offer advice and support to our affected members. We also hope to negotiate with our larger institutions ways in which they can offer practical support to smaller organisations.
AMaGA thanks you all for your custodianship of our national cultural heritage, especially in this time of great loss and uncertainty. However, we impress upon you that the safety of yourself, your family and co-workers is the highest priority in any emergency. Please ensure your own safety, before that of your collection.
Check out some of the resources below to make sure your collection is as safe as it can be.
What is AMaGA doing right now in response to the bushfire crisis?
- National Office in Canberra is coordinating with our State/Territory Branches, who have better on-the-ground knowledge of the impact of the fires in their regions, on practical needs and actions required by our members.
- AMaGA is calling a meeting with key national partners next week to discuss what they are doing, and how we can coordinate any response to the most affected organisations. We will keep you updated on these talks. Our partners include:
Blue Shield Australia (BSA)
Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM)
Council of Australasian Museum Directors (CAMD)
Council of Australia Art Museum Directors (CAAMD)
- We will also be in touch with state service providers.
Have you been affected by the fires, including smoke damage?
Once the danger has passed it will be time to survey any damage done to your collection, including buildings. Your first point of call should be Blue Shield Australia. Blue Shield is an international organisation, working to protect the world’s cultural heritage threatened by armed conflict and natural disasters.
Please also let your State/Territory Branch know of any damage. They may be able to offer assistance and support. You can also always contact the National office on 02 6230 0346.
Once you have assessed the damage, you may require the help of a professional conservator. AICCM has an excellent register of conservators https://aiccm.org.au/need-a-conservator.
Preservation Australia can also offer immediate emergency assistance in the salvage, recovery and treatment of your objects https://preservationaustralia.com.au/what-we-do/disaster-services/.
Can you help? AICCM Volunteer Register
AICCM will be putting together a register of expressions of interest received from people to volunteer their time and/or services with conservation of fire, water or smoke damaged items.
If you need help, or if you can help, visit https://aiccm.org.au/disaster/2020Bushfire
Be (as) Prepared (as you can be)
The extent of these bushfires is unprecedented and unpredictable. If you are in an area prone to fires, please take the time to develop your organisation’s Disaster Preparedness Plan immediately.
If you already have a Disaster Preparedness Plan, now is the time to revisit or review it.
Many resources are available through the Blue Shield Australia Website: https://blueshieldaustralia.org.au/resources/
For an easy, step-by-step guide to creating your Disaster Preparedness Plan, check out Be prepared: guidelines for small museums for writing a disaster preparedness plan.
In the event your collection comes under threat of fire or smoke and you are in urgent need of help with temporary storage, transport or recovery, reach out to your neighbouring museums and galleries or other collection organisations such as libraries and archives, or (if convenient) your state or national institutions. Keep these contacts close for the future.
If danger is near, or smoke or other hazards are present, please ensure staff or volunteers are safe and limit exposure wherever possible.
We would like to reiterate that in this time of emergency you, your co-workers, and your family are the highest priority and your safety should be secured before your collection’s.
Your museum as a community well-being hub
Museums, galleries and libraries are important community hubs and can play a crucial role as a safe space of recovery and reflection.
Emerging Minds have developed a Community Trauma Toolkit. This toolkit contains resources to help and support adults and children before, during, and after a disaster or traumatic event. It will help you understand some of the impacts of disaster and how you can help lessen these impacts.
Insurance for the future
AMaGA has negotiated Museum Collections Insurance through our preferred broker Gallagher. Members receive a discount on premiums for all museums insurance solutions.
Short and long term priorities for AMaGA
A key priority for the Association is the review of our Climate Policy (currently called Sustainability Policy). Our national Policy Review Committee, chaired by Shane Breynard, will be consulting on this policy in the first half of 2020. The 2020 National Conference to be held in Canberra 18-21 May will also have a strong focus on climate change, sustainability and the environment.
One of our most important roles as a membership association is to provide networks for our members to communicate and help each other.
We will be investigating the idea of a register of organisations willing to house objects in an emergency, people who can help with conservation efforts, and registers of corporate industry partners who can help with transport, storage, and rebuilding.
Advocacy for the provision of funding for disaster relief and preparedness for cultural collections and cultural infrastructure from all levels of government. We will also be investigating the role of the newly formed National Bushfire Recovery Agency and how it can help with recovery efforts of our cultural heritage, and communicating with the Department regarding any significant oversights in this area.
In order to better inform our advocacy efforts, we will be conducting several short surveys of our members in the coming months. Information we want to gather will include income lost due to the bushfires, including shutting down for smoke, lost tourism due to road closures, etc, as well as the preparedness of our collecting organisations in a disaster, and what you believe is needed to ensure the safety of our national cultural heritage.
AMaGA will review the current 2020 webinar series and determine where additional disaster preparedness or emergency conservation training can be held. Our State/Territory Branches will also be conducting workshops and other activities throughout the year.
Potential AMaGA Emergency Fund
AMaGA will be approaching a number of our regular sponsors and supporters, as well as reaching out to new potential corporate partners, to develop a fund for community museums and galleries specifically for disaster preparedness and disaster relief including conservation.
While the current state of emergency is still active across so many states, we highlight the fact that any financial donations should be directed to first responders, humanitarian and animal welfare, so this project will start later in the year.
Images: Cape Du Couedic Road on Kangaroo Island before (photo: Mark Daffey) and after (photo: AAP).