Indigenous Self-Determination, Cultural Safety & Transparency in Archives

By Kirsten Thorpe and Lauren Booker

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Kirsten Thorpe presenting at The Archival Education and Research Initiative (AERI) Conference in Liverpool, UK

Issues of Indigenous self-determination, cultural safety and transparency are important priority areas in Archives. As the wider Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) sector face calls to Decolonise and Indigenise their policies and practices, information professionals find themselves in a situation where it is no longer possible to be blinded to issues of racism and privilege that exist in relation to the development of their collections. Calls for action to dismantle white privilege and to increase Indigenous voice in the field area increasing, as is research and scholarship to unravel the tensions that exist, in the hope of building new frameworks and paradigms to address complex historical issues of archival neglect.  

“Archival records are part of this (colonial) traumatic history, we need to challenge how we engage with these records to support communities”

Kirsten Thorpe talking about “Rights in Records”

An important forum for discussing emerging issues and priorities in this area is the annual Archival Educators Research Institute (AERI). AERI has been operating for over a decade as a week-long institute to strengthen education and research and to support academic cohort-building and mentoring. The Indigenous Archives & Data Stewardship team – Kirsten Thorpe and Lauren Booker – travelled to the University to Liverpool, United Kingdom this year to be a part of the 11th AERI forum, to connect with other academic staff and students who are working in archival studies across archival education, research and scholarship.  

Kirsten (who is also studying her PhD in the IT Faculty at Monash University) presented two papers at AERI, the first discussing Indigenous Rights in Records in relation to support for members of the Stolen Generations, and secondly an overview of her doctoral research which is investigating questions of Indigenous Cultural Safety and Self-Determination in Australian Libraries and Archives. Lauren (a PhD student in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at UTS) presented a paper on her doctoral research which is looking at questions of institutional transparency  and the sensitive archival collection.  

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Both Kirsten and Lauren’s papers discussed the importance of designing research that is informed by Indigenous research methodologies and local community priorities. This is an area of need in archival studies, particularly in bringing Indigenous researchers into the space to challenge and transform traditional archival practice and theory. AERI is held annually, and the forum next year will be held back in North America. It was especially rewarding to present papers on behalf of the Jumbunna Research team, and to connect with other researchers who were working in social justice and advocacy spaces with marginalised peoples.  

You can read more about AERI here: http://aeri.website/  and follow the twitter feed from the 2019 forum #AERI2019 here: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23aeri2019&src=typeahead_click