Australia: Latrobe Valley historical societies ask for greater funding in budget submissions

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Latrobe City, highlighted in orange, in Victoria, Australia.
Image: User:Cassowary.

On Monday, Barbara Johnson, secretary of the Latrobe Combined History Group, spoke to Latrobe City councillors in Morwell, Victoria, Australia asking for an increase in grants to local historical societies. Since 1994, the area's six historical societies have received a yearly grant of A$500 each from the council for administrative purposes. In her speech, Johnson spoke about historical societies as a "repository of information for [the council]", and stressed that they needed to "remain alive and viable" to provide services to the council when needed.

The meeting of the council which Johnson spoke at was unscheduled, coming about after the council's draft budget was released on April 12, with a period of 28 days being allowed for submissions on proposals in the draft budget. Johnson, who submitted on behalf of the Latrobe Combined History Group, opted to also speak on her written submission at the Monday's meeting.

Johnson mentioned rising communication costs in her speech, saying that in the past few years, postage costs have doubled. While historical societies have attempted to reduce costs by moving to the internet, said Johnson, this still meant spending on domain names, software and web development. Societies are also obligated to test and tag their equipment, and in the case of the Traralgon Historical Society, the expense for this is in excess of A$250 annually.

Johnson said that each society has had to make its own changes on meeting increased cost and demand, citing the Traralgon Historical Society as an example, which reduced the number of bulletins it produces, and stopped outsourcing production of bulletins to local businesses, which Johnson said took "income away from businesses within the town". She concluded her speech by remarking that historical societies "need to remain here if we are able to have that for future generations".

In her written submission, Johnson requested A$1000 per society, and confirmed after a question from Councillor Dale Harriman that such a suggestion would cost the council A$3000 more than the status quo. Harriman stated that "there's ongoing work [that historical societies] are doing for council, of great benefit to the whole community, and we're paying [historical societies] A$500 like we did seventeen years ago".

Harriman also asked Johnson how much historical societies were charging for the work they were doing. In one example, Traralgon and Moe societies provided maps to identify asbestos in residential housing, with Johnson saying that the cost charged was A$400, to which Harriman responded that A$400 was "less than it cost you to actually chase up and find them".

The Latrobe Combined History Group, which Johnson represents, includes six historical societies from Boolarra, Moe, Morwell, Traralgon, Yallourn North and Yinnar.