An Australian Government Initiative
A Disaster Recovery Resource for Public Collections in the ACT Region
CPBR logo


DISACT was formed as an informational network by disaster preparedness practitioners in the major cultural collecting institutions. The first meetings were held in 1999 and soon settled down to the current quarterly format. It became a major agenda of the DISACT network to push for the implementation of a mutual aid agreement which would not only provide for the continuation of the network's activities and help embed a culture of preparedness in all of the signatory agencies but also provide a regional resource for the many smaller collecting agencies. The MOU was finally signed off by all of the major Commonwealth cultural collecting agencies in May 2003. Since then a revision of the MOU was undertaken and circulated for endorsement. This document is included below.

A driving force behind this initiative has been Janet Hughes. Her paper, presented to the Prevention 2000 conference at Draguignan is also included on this site.



Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
Australian National Herbarium
Australian War Memorial
National Archives of Australia
National Film and Sound Archive
National Library of Australia
National Museum of Australia
National Portrait Gallery
Old Parliament House
National Gallery of Australia
ACT Government
ANU Archives

1. Objective

This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) sets out a framework for cooperation between the collecting institutions named. The aim is to promote cooperation between these institutions in the event of a disaster which affects one or more of the institutions. The MOU is not intended to be legally binding or enforceable and sets out only the parties’ broad understanding and intentions about cooperation in disaster recovery arrangements.

In addition to paragraph 9, this MOU can be reviewed at any time but cannot be amended except with the written agreement of all of the parties.

2. Responsibilities

The parties to this MOU recognise their stewardship responsibilities to have adequate arrangements in place to care for their collections in the event of unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters.

This MOU recognises that each institution will have its own Counter Disaster Plan. However, as some of the objectives and responsibilities of the parties in relation to protecting Australia’s cultural, historic and scientific heritage are largely complementary, the intention of this MOU is to improve the efficiency of response to a disaster, share experience and enhance cooperation between the institutions.

This MOU covers the following situations and activities that are relevant to disaster prevention and recovery operations:

3. Initiation and coordination of mutual emergency assistance

The parties to this MOU agree that, when an emergency is experienced by one of the parties, help from other parties to the MOU may be requested by any of the parties. Such help may be requested by telephone from the Disaster Recovery Coordinator of the affected party to the officer responsible for Disaster Recovery Coordination at the institutions from which help is being sought.

Assistance requested may include:

  • loan of equipment such as fans, vacuum cleaners, etc;
  • provision of emergency supplies of recovery materials (such as blotters, plastic sheeting, etc) on a replacement basis;
  • provision of specialist staff who have skills required for disaster recovery for a period of up to two days, recognising that it may be difficult to hire immediate assistance from commercial providers; and
  • any other assistance considered necessary and mutually agreed.

The request for assistance from the affected institution at the time of a disaster should be as specific as possible about the type of staff sought and the period of time for which they are sought to assist.

4. Minimising threats to National Collections and Risk Management

In order to maximise the efficiency of mutual assistance in the event of a disaster the parties agree to develop and have in place a Counter Disaster Plan or the template for the development of a Counter Disaster Plan.

Each institution will prepare and maintain an updated list of priority collection material detailing the most significant items in their collection, their location and other basic information (specifically handling issues) to assist in their recovery. This list is to be secured with an off-site copy.

Parties to the MOU will develop plans of storage and display areas to assist in a salvage situation and develop a strategy for collection control during salvage.

5. Consultation on Counter Disaster Planning

Each institution will notify the others of any proposed changes in their Counter Disaster Plan which are likely to impinge on arrangements for mutual assistance.

Parties to the MOU will progressively lodge sealed copies of their Disaster Plan with another Commonwealth or ACT government agency. The agency will need to guarantee immediate 24 hour access to the archived plans.

6. Sharing of information

During the course of this MOU the parties will:

  • undertake to share information through activities such as organisation and participation in joint training exercises.
  • provide information to a working group with representatives from each party to assist joint arrangements such as common use contracts for providers of emergency services (eg. freezer facilities);
  • provide information to a working group with representatives from each party listing materials and equipment that are available for emergency use by the parties to this MOU.
  • prepare a readily available register of these disaster recovery resources.

Training exercises and seminars will be organised, resourced and promoted by parties to the MOU on a rotational basis. Training exercises may include the participation of relevant tertiary institutions and other relevant organisations.

7. Cost of assistance

In the spirit of mutual co-operation, and recognising the benefits of direct experience in disaster recovery to all parties, the parties will provide support to the party affected by a disaster without charge except for replacement of any recovery materials used unless otherwise mutually agreed by them. Any such agreement will be entered into separately from this MOU.

8. Responsibility for staff

Eachinstitution will be responsible for its own staff participating in joint disaster recovery operations and delegate one relevant person as a Disaster Recovery Co-ordinator for their institution. Within twelve months of signing, members should ensure that the Disaster Recovery Co-ordinator has been trained at a DISACT sponsored workshop.

9. Intended period of arrangements

The MOU will come into effect at the date when all listed institutions have signed. The parties agree to review the arrangements every two years or at any time agreed by the parties, such as following the occurrence of a major disaster.

10. Reporting on the effectiveness of the arrangements

Reports reviewing the effectiveness of training measures will be included in the biennial review by the parties of the MOU. Reports reviewing effectiveness following a disaster will be made by a representative of the affected party as and when they occur.

Updated 25 February, 2008 , webmaster, CPBR (