walata tyamateetj: a guide to government records about Aboriginal people in Victoria

4 Apr 2014


A joint guide to government records about Aboriginal people held in Victoria was first published by the National Archives of Australia and Public Record Office Victoria in 1993, during the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People. This guide, called My Heart is Breaking, was subsequently reprinted in 1994 and again in 1997 following Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families.

The records listings originally compiled by Ian MacFarlane and Myrna Deverall have provided the groundwork for this new publication. Demand continues for a guide that assists both the Koorie community and other researchers to access records from Victorian government agencies that relate to Aboriginal people.

walata tyamateetj includes information about Victoria’s Aboriginal records through a comprehensive listing of records, and provides an opportunity to publish a guide to the records in both hard copy and electronic formats. Uniquely for Victoria, the records created by the many Victorian government agencies overseeing the administration of Aboriginal affairs have become part of the collections held by both Public Record Office Victoria and the National Archives of Australia.

The collection was separated due to an administrative change of responsibility for Aboriginal affairs from the State to the Commonwealth in 1975. This guide highlights the wealth of material about Aboriginal Victorians that can be found within government archives, and assists researchers to access these records, regardless of which archive they are currently in. walata tyamateetj is one of many joint initiatives between Public Record Office Victoria and the National Archives of Australia to raise awareness of available resources for Aboriginal Victorians and to improve access to government records about Aboriginal people, families, communities and culture.

Much has been achieved in the years since the first guide to records was published 20 years ago. In 2004 a joint Koorie Reference Officer role was created to work across both organisations. The role is now a focal point for the provision of services to the Aboriginal community and part of a small team known as the Koorie Records Unit, which was established within the corporate structure of Public Record Office Victoria with a view to continuing cooperation with the National Archives of Australia.

The creation of a shared reading room facility at the Victorian Archives Centre has also been emblematic of the broader cooperation between the two organisations. The Victorian Archives Centre in North Melbourne provides a central place to access and research the records listed in this guide. Other collaborations between the National Archives of Australia’s Melbourne office and Public Record Office Victoria to promote and improve accessibility to records relating to Aboriginal people held by government and other organisations include publications, workshops and training, and grants programs targeted at highlighting and raising awareness of the rich collection of Aboriginal resources available in Victoria. The Victorian Koorie Records Taskforce provided leadership for many of these initiatives between 2001 and 2011.

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