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Indigenous Archiving and Wellbeing: Surviving, Thriving, Reconciling

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posted on 05.10.2021, 07:12 by Joanne EvansJoanne Evans

Recordkeeping and archiving play a crucial role in the progression of colonial and oppressive regimes. Australia’s government and collecting archival institutions manage this legacy, evidencing colonisation, not just in their archival holdings, but in how they are appraised, described, managed and made accessible. As Indigenous Australians in the second half of the twentieth century have sought access to records in institutional archives that document their lives, they have re-confronted not just the trauma in the records, but in the edifices and apparatuses around them.

Faced with the cultural genocide of colonisation, Indigenous Australians have utilised the strength and resilience of their oral traditions and other practices to retain connections to family, community and Country. These are the foundation of many community archives initiatives that are part of reclamation, revitalisation and continuation of language and culture, to come to terms with the ongoing ramifications from colonisation, and contribute to reconciliation for the whole Australian community.

In this chapter, we begin with the 1997 Bringing Them Home Report as a significant turning point when the trauma in institutional archives and archival practices were revealed to all Australians. We then discuss the increased insight into the historical, social and political determinants of health and wellbeing for Indigenous Australians that has developed since. While much is written about the decolonisation of archives from social justice perspectives, our focus is to explore this area from a wellbeing perspective, as a way to deal with the trauma of colonial archives for Indigenous Australians, and for all those who interact with them. We introduce and use a Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) model to reflect on the enriched understandings of the interconnectedness of Indigenous archiving with wellbeing that has developed over the past twenty years. We then examine continued challenges that exist for Indigenous peoples and communities in gaining access to institutional archives, and to meaningfully address their inaccuracies and incompleteness and ask how to foster continual decolonising of archival institutions, through embedding into archival frameworks, processes and systems rights of access, interaction and control for Indigenous Australians.


Connecting the Disconnected: Designing Socially Inclusive, Integrated, Archival and Recordkeeping Systems and Services

Australian Research Council

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