Category Archives: indigenous education

Returning and Connecting Collections with Communities

by Kirsten Thorpe

Cultural and Critical Archivist, JIIER Research

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) recently held a forum in Canberra, to report back on their project Preserve Strengthen and Renew in Community.  The project, which is a research pilot, aimed to work with community members to establish protocols for keeping materials safe, as well as to determine relevant access procedures for materials that were held in the AIATSIS collections. In addition to this, the pilot sought feedback on ways in which community members wished to manage processes around knowledge production, documentation and preservation.

The case studies for the pilot were drawn from Western Australian communities. As the project description notes:

The project involves three case studies and is carried out in collaboration with Indigenous Desert Alliance (Central Desert Native Title Services and the Kimberley Land Council) and Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre. The three project partners have varying objectives in terms of the production and management of materials. The Kiwirrkurra traditional owners are focused on initial discussions of processes for repatriation and information recording for future generations, Wangka Maya is looking at the management of material that exists as part of the AIATSIS archive, and Karajarri cultural advisors and rangers are seeking to develop cultural knowledge through the repatriation of archived material and the recording of new material, but are also looking at how information should be stored and the best way to achieve this.

The forum provided an opportunity for attendees to hear more about grass-roots needs in regard to the management of cultural heritage collections, as well as aspirations for the future. A number of community members from the Indigenous Desert Alliance were in Canberra for the forum, as well as representatives from the National and State Libraries of Australasia, Universities and community organisations.

The project page has reports on each of the field visits, reporting on return of materials, recording of new materials, and discussions around protocols for ongoing management. Each report has signed project approval letters from the respective organisations, demonstrating practice in line with the AIATSIS Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies. AIATSIS plan to share the pilot findings more broadly in support of communities connecting and returning collections in similar ways. The approach, they hope, will also be a guide for communities to assist them in developing community protocols.

It was evident in the forum discussions that many complex issues arise from discussions around return of collections to communities. From a lack of resources and skills for management of materials at a local level, to challenges around the capacity of collecting institutions to digitally returned often dispersed and under documented collections. Calls for a national framework were discussed at the forum, where communities could have access to a distributed network to support digital infrastructure and skills/training required for the long-term preservation of materials.  With major cultural and collecting institutions across the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector being connected to return materials in a coordinated way. Any further research coming from the pilot would benefit incorporating case drawn from diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia, in urban, regional and remote areas. Further research around the needs and capacity of collecting institutions to respond appropriately to requests for digital return is also vital.

There is growing research in the GLAM sector around these priority areas. The report and recommendations of the Trust and Technology Project (Australian Research Council funded project led by Monash University) provide some insight into the human rights and social justice agenda associated with returning archival collections, as well as an action agenda for holistic approaches to community-based archives.



New Team in Research

We welcome the following Managers to the Research team:

Matthew Walsh
Executive Manager of Jumbunna Research
Matthew is recognised as a leader in the area of institutional change through his contribution to Indigenous policy while in the role of Indigenous Employment Manager with the Office of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Leadership and Engagement).

Prof Chris Cunneen
Professor of Criminology
Professor Chris Cunneen PhD (Syd), MA (Syd), Dip Ed (UNSW), BA (UNSW) comes to UTS from his previous role as Professor of Criminology at UNSW Arts & Social Sciences and UNSW Law.

Professor Cunneen has a national and international reputation as a leading criminologist specialising in Indigenous people and the law, juvenile justice, restorative justice, justice reinvestment, policing, penology and prison issues, and human rights

Prof Nareen Young
Industry Professor Indigenous Workforce Diversity
Nareen Young is one of Australia’s leading and most respected workplace Diversity practitioners and thinkers and managed two Diversity peak bodies, with enormous success, for over 15 years.

Nareen comes to us after being employed as Executive Director at Pricewaterhouse Coopers Indigenous Consulting working on the most innovative, exciting approaches to cultivating and nurturing what Indigenous Australians bring to our workplaces and businesses. She spent 8 months in 2014 as Strategic Adviser – Flexibility at Westpac, and utilises her knowledge as a reporting CEO for 15 years through governance.

Prof Lindon Coombes
Industry Professor Indigenous Policy
Lindon Coombes has worked in Aboriginal Affairs for over 18 years in a range of positions.

Prior to joining his previous role in PwC’s Indigenous Consulting (PIC) in January 2014, he was the CEO of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, a representative body that provides a national voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Previous to these positions, he was CEO of Tranby Aboriginal College in Glebe; the oldest Indigenous education institution in Australia. He has also worked in a range of roles in the NSW Government. The last position held there was in the Senior Executive Service as Executive Director of Policy and Research at the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

The Cultural Resilience Team has also had an influx, the team of Prof. Bruce Pascoe, Pauline Clague and Jason De Santolo has two new members almost doubling their team.

Kirsten Thorpe
Kirsten joins as an academic and critical archivist.

Kirsten was the former Manager, Indigenous Services at the State Library of NSW where she led the delivery of services, collection and policy development relating to Indigenous documentary resources.Kirsten has facilitated the transformation of the State Library’s policies on working with Indigenous communities to record, collect and preserve cultural heritage through digital innovation.

Jonathan Jones
Jonathan is one of the most celebrated contemporary Indigenous artists working today.

His work has been exhibited in more than 60 major Australian and international art museums, galleries, festivals and biennales. Jonathan has won numerous large-scale public art commissions and both major public institutions and leading private collections have extensively collected his work.

This is an exciting new era and we look forward to seeing the impact of the team in the coming months.