Preserve the Asia Collection at the National Library of Australia

Statement of AMSEAS concerning the National Library of Australia Asia Collection

The Association of Mainland Southeast Asian Studies (AMSEAS) Council and its members are deeply concerned at the news that the National Library of Australia (NLA) is closing its Asian Collections Reading Room and may be considering ceasing its future acquisitions of works on mainland Southeast Asia.

AMSEAS is evidence of the fact that there is a large and growing community of around 400 hundred scholars in universities around Australia working on mainland Southeast Asia research. Since the opening up of Myanmar in 2011, there has been a boom in Burma/Myanmar Studies in Australia. The opening up of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam since the 1990s has led to a similar increase in teaching and research on these countries in Australia. Thailand has a longer history of openness and consequently one of the largest numbers of academics and postgraduate students working on that country. Another important growth area for mainland Southeast Asian Studies in Australia is postgraduate students from mainland Southeast Asia countries. The rapid growth in the numbers of international students in Australian universities over the last two decades includes many students from these countries.

The NLA’s Asia Collection is home to a world class collection on mainland Southeast Asian Studies and includes a BurmeseCambodiaThaiVietnamese and Lao collection. The specialist staff in the Asian collection are essential to the maintenance and expansion of the collection, and offer outstanding support to users of the collection.

AMSEAS strongly supports the maintenance of the Asian Collections, particularly the collections on mainland Southeast Asia. We would also encourage any of our members to write to the Director-General of the National Library of Australia, Dr Marie-Louise Ayres or show their support for the Asian Collections online (@nlagovau, #preserveAsianCollections).