Women's Studies Resource Centre

22 Jun 2011 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before directing a question to the Minister for the Status of Women on the subject of the Women's Studies Resource Centre.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: After last year's savage budget cuts, I asked a question about the funding crisis that the Women's Studies Resource Centre found itself in with the removal of DFEEST and children's services funding in June 2010. The minister stated in her reply that she had liaised with both the Minister for Education and the Minister for Employment, Training and Further Education to secure funding. She said she was committed to continuing to work towards ensuring that we can reach a satisfactory resolution of this matter and make the collection available for future generations. Has the minister had any success?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Public Sector Management, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for Gambling) (14:25): I thank the honourable member for her interest in this very important resource centre. As I have already discussed in this place before, the resource centre was founded in 1975 by a number of women educators. It was a very unique facility. It was probably the only feminist library collection available in South Australia, and probably the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere; but, of course, as soon as you say that somebody steps up to the plate.

It was certainly incredibly unique, and it was a real first in many ways. It was the idea, hard work and commitment of a number of very great women who put that centre together and provided an immensely important resource. The centre has been providing resources to students, teachers and lecturers, particularly those studying women studies, women's education and gender studies, and a number of courses provided through high schools, TAFE and at university level. However, the library has been open for all those in the community looking for information and writings about women.

I understand that the centre is seeking financial assistance to continue operating, and that the provision of funding has been an issue for the facility for many years. Joint funding provided by the Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology and the Department of Education and Children's Services to the service since 2002 ceased in June of this year. I also understand that the centre continues to open on a part-time basis, with paid and volunteer staff, and unless it receives further funding, it will only be able to operate using volunteer staff.

It is not surprising, and I do not think anyone here would be surprised that, over the years, the number of people accessing this resource has diminished significantly. The demand, as you would expect, is not the same, and that is for a number of reasons. One is that people tend to access information via the internet, and there is a wide range of different search engines that have access to feminist literature and research. So the online service is becoming more increasingly popular.

There is also more feminist literature around, so that the accessibility of it in other libraries and resource centres has also increased, I am happy to say, over the years. It is not surprising that the demand for this particular resource centre has declined. However, as I said in this place before, I am committed to ensuring that that resource does remain intact. I am also very committed to ensuring that, wherever possible, that collection remains badged in some way that gives acknowledgement and recognition to the history of that collection and the work, commitment and passion of those women who put the collection together and those women who, over the years, have dedicated great deal of time and energy—a lot of it was volunteer work—to continue to maintain that collection.

I understand that the representatives from DFEEST and the Office for Women have been liaising with the centre, seeking a solution to ensure the long-term maintenance of the collection. I have been advised that DFEEST have now provided the centre with a final grant of $16,750 to help them develop and implement a relocation plan for their collection. I have been advised that a working group consisting of representatives from the centre, the Office for Women and DFEEST has been established to oversee the movement of this valuable collection to a suitable place. I have also been advised that representatives from the Barr Smith Library are also assessing the collection to ensure that key items are preserved.

As I said, we are working towards a solution. Some progress has been made. I know that there are a number of people who feel very strongly about this resource centre and would like to see the current arrangements continue indefinitely. I do not think that is a good idea. I think that we need to keep moving ahead with the times; we need to continue to make sure that our resources meet contemporary needs. I think change needs to occur and I think we need to continue to work with the resource centre and its other supporters to try to map out a new model for the preservation of that collection. That will continue to ensure that South Australians and other interested people can have access to that important collection. The thing is not signed, sealed and delivered, but it has certainly progressed, and there is certainly a great deal of commitment, as I said, to try to ensure that the preservation of the collection remains intact but in a new model.