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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Funding assists WA library secure Durack family papers

Media release
2 October 2009

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Minister for the Arts Peter Garrett today announced funding of $150,000 to the State Library of Western Australia to help secure a nationally significant family archive.

The funding will assist the library to purchase and put on public display missing segments of the Durack Family papers to complement their existing collection of material from this prominent WA settler family.

Mr Garrett said that while the Durack name is closely associated with the settlement and development of north-western Australia, in particular the Kimberley region, their story is truly national.

“The Durack Family papers is an outstanding archive which documents the activities of several generations of a family at the forefront of European settlement in Australia, and of the development of Australia’s pastoral industry.

“These records are an important cultural resource for Western Australia and also of tremendous national significance. One of the great strengths of the archive is the textual, artistic and extensive photographic records it includes that document, over a long period of time, the lives of the Indigenous peoples who were the original owners of the land settled by the Duracks” Mr Garrett said.

The Library Board of Western Australia Chairman Janet Davidson said: “We are very grateful to the Australian Government for funding that allows this significant collection of a pioneering Western Australian family and of a highly decorated author to remain in WA”.

The archive comprises two separate but interrelated collections. The first collection consists of papers relating to Dame Mary Durack and her contribution to Australia’s aviation, nursing and artistic history, while the second relates to individual family members, such as Mary Durack’s father, Patrick Durack, and the family firm, Connor, Doherty & Durack.

It provides a rare insight into traditional and changing Indigenous lifestyles, including several rare documents such as the station worker Tommy Crongen’s ‘passport’ and manuscript mission newspapers.

“This archive is also a key source of primary data for historians of climate and ecological change as it includes the records of Kim Durack, who was instrumental in bringing about major environmental change in the damming of the Ord River to create the Ord River irrigation area.” Mr Garrett said.

The collection, which includes pastoral records and records of Indigenous Australians in several parts of the country, consists of correspondence, journals, memoirs, printed material, ephemera and photographs.

The Australian Government’s National Cultural Heritage Account has assisted cultural organisations, ranging from regional historical societies to state-based and national collecting institutions, buy more than 30 nationally significant objects or collections since its inception in 1999.

Commonwealth of Australia