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Strategic Priority 4



Partnership and collaboration are at the core of AIATSIS’ business. The needs and priorities of communities in terms of culture, heritage and wellbeing are cross-sectoral. AIATSIS’ research, research leadership and custodianship of the collection as research infrastructure is cross-disciplinary. AIATSIS’ role in providing advice on the state of Indigenous culture and heritage touches all jurisdictions and levels of government. As an Indigenous culture and heritage collection and research institution, AIATSIS is part of a global community. Building strong networks and partnerships across stakeholders of all levels underpins AIATSIS’ fulfilment of all of its legislated functions.

KEY OUTCOMES 2018–2022

  • Actively building diverse and enduring relationships domestically and internationally
  • Being responsive and professional, with culturally competent work practices
  • Building an active network of corporate partners
  • Engaging our network of members, friends, volunteers, visitors and affiliates
  • Helping to develop community capability in relevant areas.

Key action: Increase international engagement

MoU formalises partnership between AIATSIS and Te Papa

In June 2019, AIATSIS and the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Wellington, New Zealand. The MoU outlines a commitment for the two organisations to work together in the field of Indigenous collections for the benefit of both organisations.

The partnership will help both organisations to better preserve and share the stories of Australia’s and New Zealand’s Indigenous peoples. AIATSIS and Te Papa hold vast cultural collections and administer large-scale digitisation programs. Both organisations have strategic goals focused on preserving national collections and making them accessible, as well as to lead and educate in areas of Indigenous research, ethics and protocols. This MoU is seen as a formal commitment to progressing those goals by sharing mutual expertise, knowledge and infrastructure.

This MoU with Te Papa complements similar agreements with the Smithsonian National Museum of Native America, King’s College (London) and Oxford University’s Pitt Rivers Museum.

An image showing Chief Executive of Te Papa Geraint Martin, AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie, Te Papa's Kauhautu (Maori co-leader), Dr Arapata Hakiwai and AIATSIS Collections Executive Director, Leonard Hill. AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie is signing a Memorandum of Understanding.
Chief Executive of Te Papa Geraint Martin, AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie, Te Papa's Kauhautu (Maori co-leader), Dr Arapata Hakiwai and AIATSIS Collections Executive Director, Leonard Hill.
An image of the official party at the MoU signing between Musuem of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and AIATSIS. The image shows 17 people posing for a photo.
Official party at the MoU signing between Musuem of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and AIATSIS.

Return of Cultural Heritage Project

The Return of Cultural Heritage project is scoping, facilitating and securing the return of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage material from overseas collecting institutions back to Country to support the cultural resurgence and maintenance of Indigenous cultures.

Funding of $2 million over two years was provided in the Australian Government’s 2018– 19 Budget through a package of measures to mark the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific and Australia.

As with all AIATSIS research, the project is being conducted in accordance with best practice engagement principles—‘Ask first’; Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies (GERAIS); and Free, Prior and Informed Consent. AIATSIS is partnering with Indigenous communities to return their material and to empower custodians.

During 2018–19 AIATSIS completed the first three phases of the project: planning, research and identification of materials for return, and collaboration and negotiation with selected institutions. The project team has identified 220 overseas institutions with collections of Australian Indigenous material. Of the 168 institutions contacted, thirty- four have expressed an interest in discussing a return request. Eight potential pilot case studies, involving eight institutions, twenty-six language groups and a provisional estimate of 266 objects were selected for preliminary return discussions.

Following discussions with each of the eight institutions, two pilot case studies were selected, with six discrete collections from five language groups. AIATSIS will continue to work with relevant Indigenous communities through 2019–20 to submit return requests and confirm return arrangements.

While the initial repatriation effort has necessarily been more focused, the initial research identified a combined total of just over 84 000 Australian Indigenous objects held in overseas collecting institutions. Further research is currently being conducted in an effort to gather as much information as possible relating to the collection and provenance of the material. Information gathered will be entered into the project’s database and will be made accessible to Indigenous communities.

The project team has also met with over fifty representatives from national collecting institutions, government departments, agencies and authorities as well as leading repatriation specialists from across Australia in an effort to establish linkages, promote the importance of repatriation and explore potential collaborations. Presentations have also been made to a range of museum and collection forums.

Council on Australia Latin America Relations funding for Learning Exchange

AIATSIS successfully applied for and received $63 000 from the Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR) to support a two-way learning exchange intended to promote the revitalisation of Indigenous languages in Mexico and foster Indigenous- led land and water management in Peru. A delegation is planned to travel to Mexico, Colombia and Peru in September 2019. Activities are expected to focus on language revitalisation, curriculum development and innovative language support programs in Mexico, and on land titling, resource development and Indigenous representation in Colombia and Peru.

Key action: Develop education, training and resources to foster cultural competency and learning

The Core Cultural Competency Program (Core) was developed during 2015 and 2016, after AIATSIS partnered with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) and the Department of Social Services to develop an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural capability e-learning program for use across the Australian Public Service (APS). The program is now used by ninety-two agencies, an increase of twenty- two agencies from last year. There were 8660 users enrolled in 2018–19, an increase of more than 2 600 enrolments from last year. Forty-two per cent of enrollees have completed the program.

In 2017–18, the course was adapted for use in the states and territories and in organisations outside the APS, alongside continued rollout and use within the APS. Rollout has continued in 2018–19, with improvements in delivery and targeting.

Feedback on Core

‘Very helpful. The course was excellent ... I learned a very great deal. Thought I was reasonably culturally competent … but I realise there is much more to consider.’—

Core user

‘I have greatly benefitted from this course and appreciate the care and dedication that has gone into it.’—Core user

Learning Ground

In 2018–19 AIATSIS developed and implemented the online learning management system Learning Ground. Development began in May 2018, and initial enrolments began in August 2018 with the Academy of Science. As of 30 June 2019, 1 135 users are enrolled in Learning Ground.

Learning Ground is designed to supply a reliable, standardised online user experience for Core participants anywhere and anytime with a suitable internet connection. It offers flexibility in how Core modules can be offered in different settings, and is aligned with other AIATSIS systems, ensuring in-house support and development expertise are available at all times.

Core for Correctional Facilities

AIATSIS was contracted by PM&C to develop online cultural competency training for correctional officers and frontline staff working in correctional facilities as part of the Commonwealth’s response to the findings of the Prison to Work report to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2016.

Drawing from the strength-based approach in the online cultural competency course for the APS and the Core Cultural Learning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia Foundation Course, also produced by AIATSIS, Core for Correctional Facilities consists of two modules—Module 1: Thinking About Cultures, and Module 2: Corrective Services Lived Experiences. The course includes thirty-one interviews with former and serving corrections staff, support workers and former inmates informing and educating participants through their lived experiences. The course was mapped as closely as possible to the Vocational Education and Training competencies required to be certified to work as a correctional officer.

Core for Correctional Facilities is provided through an online learning management system to deliver the training and provide a framework for reporting. AIATSIS completed packaging the course in November 2018, and itis now ready for rollout to correctional facilities across jurisdictions.

Key action: Redevelop our HR resource strategy focused on career advancement for succession planning; high levels of cultural competency; and effective HR support and services for AIATSIS staff and management

AIATSIS’ new Strategic Plan 2018–2023 includes an underpinning commitment that AIATSIS is characterised by an Indigenous voice in all that it does.

In 2018–19 all staff were given access to AIATSIS’ Core Cultural Competency Program.

Work also started on development of AIATSIS’ Indigenous Pathway Program, a career development program for Indigenous employees that will be implemented in 2019–20. This program includes three apprentices through the Australian Government’s 2020 Indigenous Apprenticeships Program.

Additional cultural training has been developed to support the Indigenous Pathway Program by ensuring cultural safety for Indigenous employees. It will also help AIATSIS meet its Indigenous employee target of 35 per cent through increased Indigenous recruitment and retention (currently 31 per cent). The additional cultural training will be delivered in 2020.

The transition of payroll services to the National Museum of Australia’s Cultural and Corporate Shared Services Centre continues, to improve support for AIATSIS through a service provider that specialises in the cultural collections sector. Phase One will deliver payroll processing services and is expected to be completed in 2019. Phase Two will identify additional functionality for AIATSIS including e-learning options, improved data transparency and performance support and reporting.

This additional functionality will also support the implementation of AIATSIS’ Workforce Management Program, which is in development and will be completed and implemented in the last quarter of 2019. This program will support managers in building and maintaining effective and agile teams through dynamic and responsive workforce management.

Key action: Collaborate with relevant partners and stakeholders in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and heritage

Partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders are a feature of much of AIATSIS’ work. Partnerships are mentioned throughout this report, and many of the current strategic and research projects listed in Appendix C involve partnership. Some highlights and collaborations not mentioned elsewhere are outlined below.

Community and organisation partnerships

AIATSIS continues to collaborate with the Stolen Generations support sector though the Family History Unit. AIATSIS is actively involved with the work of the sector to ensure the best outcomes for members of the Stolen Generations and their families. The Family History Unit works closely with Link-Up organisations and the Link-Up leadership group to support their clients, including through the provision of research support and the delivery of the Certificate IV in Stolen Generations Family Research and Case Management. The Memorandum of Understanding that sets out the partnership between AIATSIS and Link-Up organisations was renewed in 2018–19. The unit also provided unaccredited training in Indigenous family research to Indigenous caseworkers of Barnados Australia. The training provided participants with an understanding of the complexities associated with Indigenous family research, including resources and tools to assist in structuring the research to support their clients. The unit also participates in the Who’s Ya Mob Reconnection Program, held annually in Wellington, NSW, bringing together family history research organisations, record keeping institutions and members of the Stolen Generations to share best practice and emerging issues.

The Native Title Research Unit has continued its strong research partnership with the National Native Title Council, the peak body for Australia’s native title organisations, including Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers and Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs). The partnership includes training and research.

AIATSIS also partnered with the National Native Title Council and CSIRO to conduct the 2019 PBCs survey, to better understand the activities and governance of PBCs. The collaborative approach to the survey reduced the overall research burden on PBCs.

Research partnerships with community organisations include the Indigenous Youth in Native Title project, a collaboration with Bigambul Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (QLD), Macquarie Law School and the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR). Fieldwork will commence next year and include a second community.

AIATSIS has continued to collaborate with the Ngaiyuriija Ngunawal Language Group and Elders to provide language expertise and training to senior office holders and government staff on the use of Australian languages in their roles. One notable example was providing training for the new Governor-General, David Hurley, in giving the Ngunnawal Acknowledgement of Country, in preparation for his swearing-in on 1 July 2019.

Communities seek to partner with AIATSIS to help manage and disseminate important cultural information. The Lake Eyre Basin Community Advisory Committee handed over the management of the Lake Eyre Basin ‘Aboriginal Way’ Map to AIATSIS. The map, which took 12 years to develop, features songlines, historical trade routes and other cultural information about the basin, which covers 71 language groups. The map is an invaluable education resource on the richness, diversity and vibrancy of Aboriginal cultures across the Lake Eyre Basin to inform, inspire and transform people’s understanding of this region and its diverse peoples.

Research partnerships

See page 98 for information about the Indigenous Research Exchange, which includes initial partnerships with CSIRO/Data61 and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

AIATSIS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Research Network for Linguistic Diversity to carry out Paper and Talk: the Australian Breath of Life Institute pilot project. The project will bring together community researchers from five language groups, each with few or no speakers, for a two-week workshop at AIATSIS in September 2019. The community researchers will be connected with materials about their Indigenous languages held in national archives, provided with training in linguistic analysis, archival research and other skills needed to find, interpret and use the materials they find for language revitalisation.

Since January 2015, AIATSIS has partnered with the multi-university consortium the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL) to provide expedited access to materials in the AIATSIS Collection for use by CoEDL researchers. In return, the CoEDL researchers are supplying AIATSIS with additional metadata such as transcriptions or audition sheets on the materials (often the materials supplied have limited metadata). AIATSIS has provided over 100 audio recordings this financial year to CoEDL researchers.

Government partnerships

AIATSIS partners with policymakers and funding bodies to ensure that research is co- designed based on shared values and mutual benefit.

AIATSIS partnered with the Department of Communications and the Arts to design and deliver on the National Indigenous Languages Report—a multi-party project involving the Australian National University, AIATSIS, the Department of Communications and the Arts and other parties.

AIATSIS works in partnership with PM&C and the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) on a range of projects and programs, such as the development and rollout of Core cultural competency training. AIATSIS also provides ethics approval and advice to PM&C/NIAA—see page 78.

A parliamentary friendship group for AIATSIS was established in October 2018 with the objective of fostering collaboration between parliamentarians and AIATSIS, raising awareness of the collections and acting as a forum for leadership and discussion. The Member for Brisbane, Trevor Evans, and the Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, were the inaugural co-convenors. Two successful events were held, including one that supported local Ngunnawal language renewal, celebrating the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Partnership to preserve Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre audiovisual materials

In 2017, the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre (KALACC), in partnership with the University of Melbourne’s Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, undertook a Preservation Needs Assessment of their collections, which recommended that at-risk audiovisual materials be digitised and preserved by AIATSIS. On Thursday 7 June 2018 at the National Native Title Conference in Broome, KALACC and AIATSIS formalised their intent to support and learn from each other through a Memorandum of Understanding. Selected materials from the KALACC collections have since been donated to AIATSIS under a deed of gift for future preservation action.

The deposited collection contains an assortment of original cassettes and video tapes, recorded between 1984 and 2012. Collectively these materials document the history, culture and events of the people of the Kimberly region, including festivals, meetings and oral histories.

The initial assessment made recommendations on priorities for preservation, with a particular focus on vulnerable audiovisual materials.

In 2018–19, AIATSIS accessioned materials from this collection and completed digitisation of 135 hours of the most vulnerable video material across VHS, Betacam and MiniDV formats. Digitisation of 115 audiocassettes will follow in 2019–20.

Digitisation of this important historical and cultural material, and its imminent return to KALACC, ensures that it is both safely preserved and accessible for use by the communities of the Kimberley region and, where appropriate, the wider research community and public.

Molly Culbertson (left) and Amelia O’Donnell (right) sorting and documenting the audiovisual archives in the KALACC Fitzroy Crossing office before their transport to AIATSIS for preservation.Molly Culbertson (left) and Amelia O’Donnell (right) sorting and documenting the audiovisual archives in the KALACC Fitzroy Crossing office before their transport to AIATSIS for preservation.

Key action: In conjunction with the AIATSIS Foundation, develop and implement a funding strategy to seek input from corporate, private and philanthropic sources which allows AIATSIS to undertake work that is in accord with its strategic direction

The AIATSIS Foundation was established in 2015 to support the work of AIATSIS by developing the AIATSIS Collection, digitising and preserving material, supporting Indigenous students and visiting fellows, and special projects such as the development of Indigenous language dictionaries and the recording of song traditions.

AIATSIS and the Foundation continued to iterate the funding strategy during 2018–19. Fundraising developments included:

  • securing $2 million from PM&C in 2018 to enable up to 25 Indigenous language dictionaries to be produced and distributed to community members and language centres, and a donation from the band The Preatures to republish The Sydney Language
  • a fundraising prospectus and campaign to support the development of a national school visit program. Currently 160 000 students visit Canberra every year and are unable to see a dedicated Indigenous cultural and learning package.

The AIATSIS Foundation also commissioned the development of social impact measurement plans to determine:

  • the impact and significance of the AIATSIS Collection
  • the potential impact and benefits of a school visit program
  • the potential impact and benefits of a new building and exhibition space for AIATSIS.

These measurement plans will be used to support and target AIATSIS’ work and attract new revenue streams and partnership opportunities.

Key action: Engage membership in strategic thinking

Engagement with AIATSIS’ membership in 2018–19 has been limited due to competing priorities.

Key action: Work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to identify, conduct and communicate outcomes of projects and programs

In 2017–18, AIATSIS completed the pilot stage of the Preserve, Strengthen and Renew (PSR) project in Western Australia with the Karajarri Traditional Lands Association, the Kiwirrkurra community (via Desert Support Services) and the Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre. It aimed to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to gain greater control over their information and archives through collaboration on the selection and design of research, and involving communities in undertaking research, communicating outcomes, and managing and repatriating products and data.

The next phase of PSR will be based on the South Coast of New South Wales. Using insights from the pilot, it will involve digital return of collections material, revision of access protocols for existing material, recording of new cultural material, and impact evaluation. Its starting point is a CD-ROM, South Coast Voices, a compilation of material from collections relevant to the New South Wales South Coast which was prepared almost twenty years ago but was not ultimately returned to the community. As at the end of June 2019, provisional ethics approval has been granted, project planning is underway and an initial consultation visit to South Coast communities has taken place.