Archives are a unique and irreplaceable heritage, passed from one generation to the next, that play an essential role in the development of societies by safeguarding and contributing to individual and community memory.

For First Nations peoples, who have been subjected to imperial and colonial state expansion, the archive can hold important links to family and community.

However, many archival collections result from that same colonial expansion, creating a memory that reflects the world as seen through the eyes of the colonist.

As societies come to terms with past wrongs, the role of the archive, as a place of memory, reflection and support for current and future Indigenous generations becomes increasingly important.

Taking the lead from the Tandanya-Adelaide Declaration, State Records of South Australia is re-imagining its role and relationship with Aboriginal people; with the archive becoming a model for respect and collaboration.

This document contains State Records' response to the Tandanya-Adelaide Declaration

Background

On 25 October 2019 the International Council on Archives (ICA) with support from the National Archives of Australia (NAA) held its first Indigenous Summit:

See us, Hear us, Walk with us: Challenging and Decolonising the Archive.

The ICA’s Expert Group on Indigenous Matters (EGIM) led the Summit discussions.

The Summit was held at the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Adelaide.

Bringing together First Nations peoples and archivists from around the world, the Summit sought to:

  • identify key issues faced by First Nations peoples and archives
  • examine options to develop a proactive international agenda for preserving First
  • Nations language and oral history
  • explore the vital role of archives in supporting truth-telling and reconciliation
  • consider approaches to re-designing archives to support decolonisation.

At the conclusion of the Summit the EGIM presented the Tandanya-Adelaide Declaration – the first international archives declaration on Indigenous people and matters, to David Fricker, President of the ICA and Director-General, NAA.
The Declaration calls on jurisdictional archives of the world to acknowledge and adopt the themes and commitments of the Declaration, for immediate action.

In accepting the Declaration, Mr Fricker stated that 'the Declaration presents the opportunity for archives of the world, to work respectfully through past, current and emerging complexities and challenges, towards recognition and confirmation of the place and rights of Indigenous peoples in the world and archives'.

The Declaration was signed by all Summit attendees and is held by the National Archives of Australia.

Themes and Commitments

The Tandanya-Adelaide Declaration establishes the following five themes, with each theme supported by commitments for immediate action:

  • Knowledge Authorities
    Acknowledging there are Indigenous cognitive frameworks to understand ideas of history, memory, heritage and cultural identity.
  • Property and Ownership
    Understanding that there is a need for state-sanctioned archival institutions to recognise Indigenous ownership of Indigenous traditional knowledge, cultural expression, knowledge and intellectual property.
  • Recognition and Identity
    Understanding that the 500-year history of the colonial encounter has been an Indigenous struggle for recognition.
  • Research and Access
    Recognising research and access to archival records is a socially mediated process and a conceptual site of conflict between European and Indigenous ways of knowing.
  • Self-determination
    As noted in the UNDRIP, “Indigenous people have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

The themes and commitments build on the ICA’s responsibility to ‘re-imagine the meaning of archives as engaging models of social memory; to embrace Indigenous worldviews and methods of creating, sharing and preserving valued knowledge’.

In February 2020 State Records held an open forum, where it sought to hear from Aboriginal people and support organisations about how it could, as the State Government archive, respond to the challenges outlined in the Declaration. 

The forum was attended by State Records staff and representatives from key institutions such as the Healing Foundation, LinkUp SA, Reconciliation SA, Anglicare, Relationships Australia, Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement, the State Library of South Australia, the National Archives, the University of Adelaide, Flinders University, the South Australian Museum, as well as Aboriginal elders.

Building on the views of those who attended the forum, State Records has considered each of the themes and the supporting commitments enshrined in the Declaration, and has developed a series of actions it will implement over the coming years.  

At the heart of State Records’ response to the Declaration is an understanding of the need to engage, listen and learn from Aboriginal people in South Australia.

Action Plan

Knowledge Authorities

‘Acknowledging there are Indigenous cognitive frameworks to understand ideas of history, memory, heritage and cultural identity’.

Short to medium term goals:

  • We will make the Research Centre a more open and inclusive space
  • The underlying premise is that everything we do is in consultation with Aboriginal people and informed by Aboriginal views
  • We will investigate the establishment of an Aboriginal advisory group for State Records, to assist and advise us on the implementation of this action plan and help us engage in the right way with the right people
  • We will raise awareness within Aboriginal communities of our services and the work we do
  • We will continue to partner with other organisations to deliver services to Aboriginal people
  • We will establish a program of engagement with the Aboriginal community which includes participation in Sorry Day and reconciliation events, and investigate ways to bring the archives to the people through digital or physical means
  • We will describe archives in ways which have meaning for Aboriginal people, including Aboriginal language and terms

Longer term goals:

  • We will investigate ways to enable Aboriginal individuals and communities to add their stories to the archive, promoting healing through truth telling
  • We will investigate ways to establish a right of response to the government record for Aboriginal people
  • We will cross reference series in the catalogue, so that links between records relating to individuals and communities are clear
  • We will link our collection of records of Aboriginal people to other institutions collections where there are crossovers

Property and Ownership

Understanding that there is a need for state-sanctioned archival institutions to recognise Indigenous ownership of Indigenous traditional knowledge, cultural expression, knowledge and intellectual property’.

Short to medium term goals:

  • We will reach a common understanding of what de-colonising the archive means, and use this as a platform for change

Longer term goals:

  • We will work to repatriate Aboriginal records to community where appropriate

Recognition and Identity

‘Understanding that the 500-year history of the colonial encounter has been an Indigenous struggle for recognition’.

Short to medium term goals:

  • We will commit to succession planning for Aboriginal staff, increase the number of Aboriginal staff within the organisation, and ensure that Aboriginal people work with Aboriginal records
  • We will advise government agencies to consider the voices of Aboriginal people in record creation and management
  • We will educate government agencies about the long term value of records to Aboriginal people, and about access considerations unique to Aboriginal people

Research and Access

‘Recognising research and access to archival records is a socially mediated process and a conceptual site of conflict between European and Indigenous ways of knowing’.

Short to medium term goals:

  • We will work towards improving access to records relating to Aboriginal people and communities
  • We will encourage agencies not to force Aboriginal people to use bureaucratic processes for access
  • We will ensure our staff are culturally aware and have undertaken trauma informed training
  • We will investigate the removal of fees for access, for members of the Stolen Generation
  • We will prioritise access for ageing Aboriginal people
  • We will include Aboriginal people in decision making about access to records
  • Records relating to Aboriginal people will be identified and indexed, and their existence will be made known to relevant people and communities
  • We will continue to work to reconnect families and help Aboriginal people discover their history, and make provision for supported access where appropriate
  • We will improve finding aids for records of relevance to Aboriginal people, and ensure aids are accessible over time
  • We will seek ways to overcome the remote physical location of the Research Centre for Aboriginal communities
  • We will digitise and publish records of interest to Aboriginal people, while respecting cultural and personal sensitivities
  • We will prioritise volunteer work focussed on improving access to records of relevance to Aboriginal people
  • We commit to the aims of the Narrungga Buthera Agreement

Longer term goals:

  • We will pursue changes to the Information Privacy Principles Instruction, so that records relating to Aboriginal people are not redacted to exclude important third party information
  • We will pursue legislative change which provides increased access to records about Aboriginal people and communities
  • We will propose a whole of government access agreement with SA Link-Up

Self-determination

‘As noted in the UNDRIP, “Indigenous people have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development’.

Short to medium term goals:

  • Our appraisal policy will encompass the Aboriginal point of view
  • We will educate the State Records Council about the important role it has to play with regards to the appropriate retention of records relating to Aboriginal people
  • We commit to retaining a strong Aboriginal voice on the State Records Council
  • We will work with agencies to offer relevant temporary records back to communities when retention periods expire

Longer term goals:

  • We will act as an archive of last resort for communities who have record holdings with no appropriate storage
  • We will support Aboriginal communities who have archives, in how they manage them i.e. preservation, digitisation, arrangement