Go to top of page

Chief Executive Officer’s message

In what has once again been a challenging year, AIATSIS has managed to achieve a great deal. We have much to celebrate this year, including the AIATSIS educational resource Our Land, Our Stories taking out two honours in the 27th Educational Publishing Awards Australia, receiving the Best Student Resource 2020 and Outstanding Primary Resource 2020 awards.

The AIATSIS Indigenous Languages Preservation: Dictionaries project is symbolic of our relationship with communities across Australia. The tireless work of local individuals, their communities and linguists supported by AIATSIS led a resurgence of languages in many communities. Launched in July 2020, the Dhurga Dictionary and Learners Grammar, containing over 730 words, is testament to the relationships shared with communities. Also launched in July, the Ngiyampaa Wordworld: Thipingku Yuwi, Maka Ngiya, Names of Birds and Other Words dictionary is a much-needed resource not only for learning language but also to strengthen cultural identity for current and future generations in Western New South Wales. August saw the launch of the Dictionary of Umpithamu: With Notes on Middle Paman, focusing on the Charlotte Bay region of the Cape York Peninsula.

Awareness of the services offered by AIATSIS continues. The growing connection with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups and individuals is evidenced in the number of requests for collection items by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals. The popularity of discovering and accessing the AIATSIS Collection is matched by an increasing demand for information, seeing a 68 per cent rise in sales of Aboriginal Studies Press publications this year, and I am pleased to add that the majority of these publications are by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors.

Transforming AIATSIS’ digital platforms has accelerated because of the COVID-19 pandemic as we strive to remain connected with our stakeholders. This year our online audience grew by 54 per cent. This compensated for the closure of the Maraga Building to the public for three-quarters of the year, which sadly reduced that all important face‑to‑face contact with stakeholders.

In May - June we held the first AIATSIS Summit, co-convened with two South Australian partners. The Summit combined, for the first time, our two biennial flagship conferences—the AIATSIS National Native Title Conference and the National Indigenous Research Conference—and coincided with Reconciliation Week and Mabo Day. For five days, 910 Indigenous leaders, academics, policymakers, and native title and research experts addressed challenges and opportunities to strengthen culture, knowledge and governance. For me, it was the highlight of what has been a challenging year, and I am grateful we were able to hold it face‑to-face.

This report details our performance and achievements in 2020–21. Rather than highlight them all here, I encourage you to read it.

Again, I thank the staff of AIATSIS for their dedication, perseverance and teamwork. Even in the face of the year’s challenging events, the critical everyday work of AIATSIS continued in the workplace and in people’s homes. I thank the AIATSIS Council, and in particular our Chair Jodie Sizer, for their support, professionalism and leadership.

Craig Ritchie