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Talking FOIA in a Land Down Under

OGIS Director Miriam Nisbet making a friend in Australia.

Note: This year’s International Right to Know Day is September 28, 2012. OGIS Director Miriam Nisbet marks the day with the following post about a recent meeting with right-to-know advocates from around the globe.

Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in several events Down Under, where the talk was all about access to information. Nearly 100 countries were represented at the International Council on Archives (ICA) Congress in Brisbane, Australia. (The ICA Congress meets every four years in different regions of the world.) The Australian federal and state archival communities were terrific hosts.  Programs for every interest surrounding managing and preserving records of all kinds, as well as that very important topic of access, packed the agenda.

Archivist of the U.S. David Ferriero had rapt attention as he talked about the success of NARA’s Citizen Archivist.  I shared the U.S. experience with the Freedom of Information Act and the changes to FOIA that created OGIS. Read my keynote address, “Openness: Are We There Yet (and How Will We Know?),” here.

Many questions and great discussions!

ABC—the Australian Broadcasting Corporation also interviewed me. Listen here.

From Brisbane, I went to ICA-related events in Melbourne, Australia and Wellington, New Zealand, organized by the Records and Information Management Professionals of Australia (RIMPA). I spent a day at the University of Melbourne, where we had a lively lecture and Q&A about the U.S. FOIA and the Australian law, which was enacted in 1982. Watch here. In Wellington, in addition to the RIMPA event, I met with the Ombudsman of New Zealand, the former Ombudsman (and also former Governor-General of N.Z.) and the former Archivist of N.Z.

Everywhere I found great interest in what we’re doing in the U.S. and I learned about the Right to Know or the Right to Information or Freedom of Information—different terms in different places, but everywhere a critical hallmark of democracy.

And I got to hug a koala!