Bushfire Crisis in Australia – update 4 January 2020

The Blue Shield Australia Committee and all involved in our member organisations join in the national concern for everyone impacted over the past few months from the many extreme bushfire disasters.  We are also grieving the loss of life, and of animals, heritage sites and landscapes.  

Our Members’ first priority must be the safety of families and the community.  There are currently many dangerous fire zones that pose a serious threat to life. We remind everyone to follow alerts, messages and warnings as the catastrophic conditions continue.

Blue Shield Australia member organisations have not received many notifications of damage to Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums, Historical Societies and Sites at this stage.   We note that the Bundanon Trust has been evacuated, including artworks. More news on Bundanon from The South Coast Register and the Sydney Morning Herald. We also note concerns for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In December the Clifton Creek Primary School Library was lost, new book donations are now being requested. The Wytaliba Public School Library was also destroyed in November and local donations are still requested. We know that a number of Indigenous Sites are in the path of fires, but at this stage, we are unsure of damage. There has been a report about the Bunj Bim National Park.

We acknowledge and sincerely thank the brave firefighters, emergency and defence force personnel, volunteers and co-ordinators who have enacted plans to save many community buildings, sites and collections.

Colleagues in our Member organisations are encouraged to advise their own Association about any collections, buildings and sites that have been affected, damaged or impacted. 

The loss of personal property has been great, and the immediate threat to life is still at its height in many regions.   Personal safety and following all Emergency Services directives is imperative at this time. 

There will be a long recovery ahead for many Australian communities in the coming months and our member organisations look forward to assisting our cultural heritage colleagues when the time is right.   We hope that these BSA Resources and links to information will be helpful in a range of recovery activities. 

We remind our colleagues and members to donate funds to authorised organisations such as the Australian Red Cross and all Rural Fire Services (rather than goods at this time) and please continue to book-in to donate blood and plasma to the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood.  

Members who are not currently affected – now is a good time to review your own personal and cultural heritage organisation’s disaster preparedness plans and contact lists and to support those colleagues directly and personally impacted. 

Responses to the ongoing National Bushfire Crisis :

Australian Museums and Galleries Association (AMaGA)

Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)

Australian Society of Archivists (ASA)

Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material (AICCM) Fire Recovery Resources – If you need the immediate help of a professional conservator in your bushfire recovery, you can use the Need a Conservator search.

International Council of Museums Australia (ICOM Australia) – updated 15/1/20

Australia International Council on Monuments and Sites (AICOMOS) – updated 20/1/20

Sue Hutley

Chair, Blue Shield Australia


Bushfire Recovery

In the wake of unprecedented bushfires across eastern Australia during November 2019, we have updated our list of BSA Resources and links which may provide useful information and contacts for disaster recovery after a bushfire, including salvaging fire-damaged records.

Colleagues from Australian Museums, Archives, Galleries, Monuments and Sites, Libraries and Historical Societies can contact Blue Shield Australia via email info@blueshieldaustralia.org.au

We thank and acknowledge the brave work of firefighters, first responders and community volunteers at this time.

If you would like to donate and contribute to bushfire recovery activities, this is a useful list of organisations directly assisting.

ALIA Disaster Management for Libraries, 2nd Edition 2019

The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Blue Shield Australia, have launched the 2nd Edition of the ALIA Disaster Management for Libraries Guide, Templates and Scenarios. With thanks to Heather Brown and Christine Ianna for all of their work updating these important and useful resources. Please share these resources widely with your disaster management networks.


A well-documented and tested disaster plan can ensure library staff respond quickly and effectively, minimise loss of stock and equipment, ensure the safety and well being of staff, provide continuity of service in some circumstances, and recover quickly. Plans are most effective if staff are trained in using the disaster response plan, and the plan is easily accessible when it’s needed most.

Libraries can find their premises, collections, staff and users under sudden threat, in the case of a fire or burst water pipe in the building. They can be part of a bigger disaster, for example a flood, not only damaging the building and contents, but also affecting the wider community. Libraries sometimes emerge unscathed from a disaster and become part of the essential support service afterwards, as happened in the 2009 Victorian bushfires and the 2011 Queensland floods.

In 2009 ALIA first prepared a number of guides and templates to get you started towards disaster preparedness, and in 2019 these have now been updated.

‘Creating the Future: Trust. Diversity. Imagination.’ (AMaGA) 2020 Conference

The Australian Museums and Galleries Association (AMaGA) 2020 conference will be held in Canberra – ACT, between 18-21 May 2020.
The theme for the conference is ‘Creating the Future: Trust. Diversity. Imagination.’ AMaGA 2020 will invite new perspectives on the museum and gallery sector’s role in creating the future.

AMaGa is looking forward to developing an ambitious, imaginative and outward-looking program that questions assumptions. This is your chance to share your ideas about addressing our sector’s impact on communities, ecologies and economies and building trust and empathy in the context of global challenges.

We are particularly looking for papers that bring inter-generational, cross-platform, cross-cultural and inter-sectional perspectives to the conference. We are also looking for new perspectives on the work of the sector and its role in shaping our future communities, society and world.
Presentation formats for proposals may include : a Pitch, Lightning Talk, Debate, Performance or Film.

Significant dates:
Call for Abstracts – NOW OPEN – closes Monday 30 September 2019
Registration – opens October 2019
Further informationhttps://amaga2020.org.au/abstract-submission/

Fires, Floods and Failures. ALIA URLs Symposium

Canberra – 1 May 2019

Australian Society of Archivists

This year ALIA URLS (ACT) Group and Blue Shield Australia are hosting a one-day Seminar at the National Library of Australia on the topic of ‘Fires, Floods and Failures: Future Proofing against Disaster’

Hear how our colleagues deal with disaster planning and emergency responses in relation to libraries and cultural collections.

Date: Wednesday 1 May, 2019
Time: 9:30am – 4:00 pm
Price: $100 for ALIA members
Location: Conference Room, 4th Floor, National Library of Australia, Canberra

The program and registration details can be found at: https://membership.alia.org.au/events/event/fires-floods-and-failures-future-proofing-against-disaster

Implementing the Hague Convention in Australia

The 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999 comprise the primary international humanitarian law regarding the protection of cultural property during armed conflict.

Australia has not yet ratified the two Protocols of the Convention, unlike the USA (in 2009) and the UK (in 2017).

The only impediment appears to be lack of a government decision to do so.

Pioneering Resource on First Aid to Cultural Heritage Now Available

ICCROM and the Prince Claus Fund have published an innovative handbook and toolkit on First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis, for free download.

The resource has multiple uses: it will help to improve emergency preparedness within cultural heritage institutions, serve as a reference to train others, and act as a guide for planning and implementing coordinated cultural heritage first aid.

The First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis Handbook and Toolkit is the outcome of nearly a decade of field experience gained by ICCROM, and a close partnership between ICCROM, the Prince Claus Fund and the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative. It has been developed to answer to the increasing need for cultural heritage professionals and humanitarians alike to have a reliable and user-friendly reference that integrates heritage safeguarding into emergency and recovery activities, offering standard operating procedures that are applicable in almost any crisis context.

Who will be interested in reading it?

  • Cultural heritage professionals and institutions that would like to develop coordinated emergency plans.
  • Community-based organizations and humanitarian aid professionals who are working to enhance disaster resilience in-risk prone regions of the world.
  • Civil protection, civil defence and military personnel, firefighters, and others in charge of protecting communities and their assets during disasters and conflicts.
FAC workflow

What does it feature?

  • The Handbook offers step-by-step instructions and real-life case examples. It walks readers through the three  phases of cultural heritage First Aid – (1) situation analysis; (2) post event, on-site damage and risk assessment; (3) security and stabilisation, which collectively lead to early recovery.
  • The phases include workflows and procedures that resemble those followed by emergency responders and humanitarian aid professionals, making in-field coordination possible.
  • The layout and language is simple and easy to understand.
  • It is interactive, so you can move quickly through the sections in order to arrive at what you need.
  • Diagrams, photos and drawings illustrate the text for easy reference.
  • A glossary and several references allow readers to deepen their understanding of concepts and materials.
  • The toolkit is rich with checklists, templates and tips that can be customised to any situation.

Download it, save it to your phone, and share it with as many people as possible so that together we can improve emergency preparedness and response, and build resilience for cultural heritage worldwide.