In 2018–19 AIATSIS has claimed and demonstrated our role in shaping Australian identity.
In October 2018 our new Strategic Plan 2018–2023 was released at Parliament House. The AIATSIS Council considered the question of what kind of institution AIATSIS needs to be now and into the future. Our mission is to support Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander cultural resurgence, share the story of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia in transformative ways and shape our national narrative.
The plan was launched at the inaugural event of the Parliamentary Friends of AIATSIS. The AIATSIS Council welcomes the support of co-convenors Mr Trevor Evans MP and Ms Cathy McGowan MP, and sees the formation of this group as another step in the ongoing productive relationship between AIATSIS and the Australian Parliament. Forums such as this complement our formal relationships with the Minister and the portfolio. The AIATSIS Council welcomed the appointment of The Hon. Ken Wyatt AM MP as the first Indigenous Minister for Indigenous Australians in May 2019, and we look forward to working together with him and with the new National Indigenous Australians Agency to deliver on our shared goals.
The 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages has shone a spotlight on AIATSIS’ role in the preservation and promotion of Indigenous culture. AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie was the Co-chair of the UNESCO International Steering Committee and spoke at the launch in Paris on 28 January 2019, and AIATSIS appropriately led the development and rollout of the Australian Government’s action plan. Celebrations such as the release of the commemorative fifty cent coin and postage stamp and the ‘Songs in Language: The Australian Indigenous Languages Playlist’ on Spotify have occurred alongside long-term efforts and perseverance by AIATSIS to work with communities to record, preserve, revitalise and share our languages. It is also essential to recognise the important and tireless work for language of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people such as Laurie Baymarrwaŋa, who was the focus of AIATSIS’ International Women’s Day celebrations.
AIATSIS’ international engagement also involved the signing of a memorandum of understanding for international cooperation with Te Papa in Wellington, New Zealand, an institution that shares our commitment to telling the long and continuing stories of our nations. Many cooperative relationships have also been initiated with overseas collecting institutions during the first year of the Return of Cultural Heritage project, funded with $2 million provided through the Australian Government’s 2018–19 budget package to mark the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific and Australia. This project will address adverse effects of colonisation by returning cultural material from overseas collections to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
After some years as a member of the AIATSIS Council, it was an honour to be appointed Chairperson in 2019, and to be the second woman to take this position since Professor Marcia Langton held the role from 1992 to 1998. On behalf of the Council, I thank Professor McDaniel for his leadership. I also welcome new Council member Dr Clint Bracknell, and thank Dr Valerie Cooms for her service. I look forward to continuing our ongoing work with Dr Myfany Turpin, Ms Rachel Perkins, Mr Steve Kinnane, Ms Donisha Duff and Mr Geoffrey Winters.
I also wish to thank CEO Craig Ritchie for his efforts and achievements throughout 2018–19, and all AIATSIS staff. I look forward to working on our many exciting initiatives supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural resurgence, extending our reach to the nation and the world.