Documenting COVID-19 in Australia

COVID-19 is arguably the greatest challenge facing Australia today. Documenting and preserving the effect of the pandemic on society is vital to ensure future generations understand its impact and how we responded.

Event details

Events and Exhibitions

Date & time

10 December 2020

9.30 am to 4 pm


Online event



Hear leading representatives from government, collecting institutions and academia discuss what needs to be preserved and the challenges involved.

This full-day virtual symposium will examine issues such as:

  • What kinds of documentation do we need to target for preservation?
  • Who is taking responsibility for the different kinds of documentation?
  • How do we ensure that we are capturing the best and most representative documentation?
  • How do we make sure we are not duplicating efforts in one area, while neglecting important documentation in another area?

Presented by UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Program and the National Archives of Australia.

Supported by AUCloud


10:00 am to 11:00 am

Opening address

Roslyn Russell, Chair UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Committee

Welcome to Country

Paul House, Ngunnawal [Ngambri] Elder

Session 1: Context

  • David Fricker, Director-General National Archives of Australia and Vice-President UNESCO Memory of the World International Advisory Committee
  • An overview of current efforts to improve the planning and coordination of documentary heritage preservation work in Australia and globally, including a summary of the progress and challenges of the UNESCO Memory of the World Program, 2018 Summit and the Canberra Declaration.

The global perspective

Dr Fackson Banda, Chief UNESCO Documentary Heritage Unit, Paris

Setting the scene

Adrian Cunningham, Archivist and Member UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Committee

Case study: Documenting other important aspects of Australian society (Performing Arts)

Jenny Fewster, AusStage, Flinders University

11:00 am to 12:15 pm

Session 2: What is being done, and what should be done, to document the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • Dr Brendan Murphy, Secretary Australian Government Department of Health
  • Lauren Carroll Harris, Critic and digital curator
  • Dr Anthea Hyslop, Historian

Government, community and historical perspectives on the question of what aspects of COVID-19 in Australia deserve to be prioritised in our national documentary heritage preservation initiatives.

1:00 to 2:00 pm

Session 3: What COVID 19 documentation activities are under way?

  • Kevin Bradley, National and State Libraries Australia
  • Craig Middleton, National Museum of Australia
  • Tatiana Antsoupova, National Archives of Australia
  • Gayle Lake, National Film and Sound Archive

Documentary heritage professionals discuss work that is currently underway to identify, preserve and provide access to documentation of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, including its scientific, political, social and economic dimensions.

2:15 to 3:15 pm

Session 4 | Challenges of documenting COVID 19

  • Dr Dan Angus, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Terhi Nurmikko-Fuller, Australian National University
  • Jay Weatherburn, University of Melbourne
  • Scott Stephens, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

A conversation about the challenges and opportunities associated with documenting the impact of the pandemic in Australia. Issues addressed will include social media, digital humanities, digital preservation and ethics.

3:20 pm

Wrap-up: Lessons, action, discussion

Adrian Cunningham, UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Committee

3:45 pm


Roslyn Russell, Chair UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Committee


Dr Daniel Angus is Associate Professor of Digital Communication, and leader of the Computational Communication and Culture program in QUT’s world-leading Digital Media Research Centre. His research focuses on the development and application of visual computational analysis methods in communication and media studies, with a specific focus on conversation and social media data. Dr Angus has been involved in computer science research for more than 15 years and contributes regularly to government, media and industry on the impact of technology on society.

Tatiana Antsoupova has worked in collecting and government archives for more than 20 years, including nine years at the Noel Butlin Archives Centre at the Australian National University and 15 years at the National Archives of Australia where she is currently Director, Agency Engagement. Ms Antsoupova has previously worked as a government archivist in Russia. She has a degree in history and archives management from the Moscow State Institute of Archival and Historical Studies, and undertook archival studies at the School of Library and Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh in the United States.

Kevin Bradley PSM is Assistant Director-General at the National Library of Australia, where he is responsible for building and managing the collection in all its forms. His long career at the Library has included a range of curatorial and executive positions. Mr Bradley has published on topics such as Australian folklore and vernacular culture, oral history, ethics and collection management, sound and audiovisual preservation, and archival practice. He is a member of UNESCO Memory of the World Preservation Sub-committee and the Australian Memory of the World Committee.

Adrian Cunningham has 40 years of experience working with documentary heritage at national and state libraries and archives, and currently as an independent consultant. He has published widely on matters associated with archives and recordkeeping. Mr Cunningham has been a member of the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Committee since its inception in 2000. He is also a Fellow of the International Council on Archives and the Australian Society of Archivists.

Jenny Fewster began working on performing arts databases in the early 1990s in her role as Research Assistant at the Performing Arts Collection of South Australia. She joined AusStage, the national online resource for live performance research, when the project began in 2000 and was appointed Project Manager in 2003. Ms Fewster is currently Deputy Chair of the Performing Arts Heritage Network of the Australian Museums and Galleries Association, and has served on that Committee for the last 12 years. In 2019 she was granted life membership of the the Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies.

David Fricker is Director-General of the National Archives of Australia, a position he has held since 2012. His strategic focus has been on whole-of-government transition to 'digital continuity' in information management; expansion of preservation capability for paper, audiovisual and digital records; acceleration of the declassification of sensitive archival documents; and the exploitation of emerging technology to enhance the public’s access to archival resources. Mr Fricker is currently the President of the International Council on Archives, and a Vice Chair of the UNESCO Memory of the World International Advisory Committee.

Dr Lauren Carroll Harris is a critic and digital curator who has contributed to Cineaste, The Saturday Paper, 7am podcast, Guardian Australia and The Baffler among others. She founded the Prototype digital arts platform, and was a staff critic for Radio National’s The Screen Show and assistant editor of RealTime magazine. She has a PhD in cinema studies from the University of New South Wales.

Dr Anthea Hyslop taught history at the Australian National University from 1989 to 2009, and before that at Adelaide, Melbourne and La Trobe universities. She specialises in the social history of medicine, has published several articles on Australia’s experience of the 1918–19 influenza pandemic, and is currently writing a book about it.

Gayle Lake is the Chief Curator at the National Film and Sound Archive where she oversees the collection development, cataloguing and preservation of 3.3 million analogue and digital items. A primary focus is the digital preservation of the collection to ensure it is accessible for interpretation, research and re-use. Ms Lake has worked in various capacities in the film and cultural sectors including the Australian Film Institute, Sydney Film Festival (Director 1998–2004) and Australian Film Commission/Screen Australia.

Craig Middleton is a Curator at the National Museum of Australia and Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University. His research interests are in Australian social and political history, specifically histories of LGBTIQ+ identified communities and critical museology. His book, co-authored with Dr Nikki Sullivan, Queering the Museum was published by Routledge in November 2019. He tweets at @_museumguy

Dr Brendan Murphy commenced as the Secretary of the Department of Health on 13 July 2020. Prior to this appointment he was the Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Government and prior to that, the Chief Executive Officer of Austin Health in Victoria. He was formerly CMO and director of Nephrology at St Vincent’s Health, and sat on the boards of the Centenary Institute, Health Workforce Australia, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute and Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. Dr Murphy is also a former president of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nephrology.

Dr Terhi Nurmikko-Fuller is Senior Lecturer in Digital Humanities at the Australian National University. She is a member of the Australian Government Linked Data Working Group, a Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Data Enhanced Virtual Laboratory Champion at eResearch South Australia, and a 2016 Fellow of the Software Sustainability Institute in the United Kingdom. In addition she is an iSchool Research Fellow at the University of Illinois and a British Library Researcher in Residence. In 2020, Dr Nurmikko-Fuller was appointed a member of the Territory Records Advisory Council of the ACT Government’s Territory Records Office. She is on the Steering Committee of Linked Pasts, an international consortium for Linked Data in the Humanities, and is the Chair of Trustees of Conductive Music, a UK-based charity that focuses on providing educational resources that bring music, science, and creativity together in education.

Dr Roslyn Russell has been Chair of the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Committee since 2013. She is a former Chair of the UNESCO Memory of the World International Advisory Committee (2009–13) and former Chair of its Register Sub-committee (2005–09). Dr Russell is a member of the International Council on Archives Sub-committee on Education and Research and has contributed to several publications relating to the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme.

Scott Stephens is the religion and ethics editor for ABC online, and the co-host (with Waleed Aly) of The Minefield on Radio National. His book, On Contempt, is forthcoming from Melbourne University Press, and he is presenting the 2020 Simone Weil Lecture on Human Value at the Australian Catholic University.

Jaye Weatherburn is Program Manager, Digital Preservation at the University of Melbourne where she is involved in implementing a 10-year digital preservation strategy. She is also Head of the Australasia and Asia-Pacific with the Digital Preservation Coalition. Ms Weatherburn is co-author (with Ross Harvey) of Preserving Digital Materials (3rd edition 2018).

Dr Fackson Banda is the Chief of the Documentary Heritage Unit at UENSCO that manages the Memory of the World Programme. He has served at UNESCO for almost 10 years working on media literacy, journalism education and media development. He is the winner of 2008 MISA (Media Institute for Southern Africa) Press Freedom Award and was the SAB LTD-UNESCO Chair of Media and Democracy in the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. A scholar of African political thought and media, he has taught and published in the areas of postcolonial theory and media, technology and development, civic education and communication as well as community media and policy, among others.