Indigenous Collections in Australian Libraries


Libraries in Australia play a significant role in the preservation of indigenous materials, and their activities should correspond to the changes regarding their storage methods. Hence, the primary task is to define the approaches used for this purpose and find ways to improve the system of libraries’ functioning for the benefit of indigenous users. The apparent tendency in the work of libraries is the digitalization of the indigenous physical collections. However, for the successful implementation of digitalization programs, it is necessary to review the existing physical materials as well as reveal the issues regarding access to them. There are several academic papers intended to consider these challenges, and they are vital for further research on the preservation of indigenous collections and access to them.

The Current State of Indigenous Materials in Australian Libraries

Lilley, S. (2019). Through Indigenous Eyes: Looking for Indigenous Services in Australian and New Zealand University Libraries

Some collections of indigenous materials belong to libraries of universities, and they aim at presenting them on their websites for access to indigenous students and scholars. The research conducted by Lilley (2019) intends to demonstrate the current state of these materials on the example of such universities in Australia and New Zealand. The author considered forty-eight university libraries with the help of a six-factor tool for evaluation (Lilley, 2019). This method allowed him to make a positive conclusion on their work.

The importance of this study is defined by the necessity to offer extensive resources to indigenous students. The universities should ensure their active participation in the studying process and foster their academic success. For this purpose, the author analyzed such factors as the use of indigenous language on the website, availability of strategic documents, indigenous collections and library guides, contacts, and indigenous staff (Lilley, 2019). This analysis allowed him to reveal the issues that should be resolved for the inclusion of indigenous students and the provision of essential services.

The results of this study reflect on the work of the system of provision of services and resources for indigenous students. According to them, it is efficient but some aspects still should be improved (Lilley, 2019). Thus, for example, home pages of university websites contain information on Aboriginal owners of the region but lack the indigenous collections on the websites (Lilley, 2019). Therefore, the primary task for the universities would be their inclusion as online sources for students.

Hence, the principal malfunction of the library system is in the lack of specific services and materials in some universities of Australia. Only 45% of the websites include information on indigenous owners of the land, and only 25% of universities have strategic documents referring to indigenous students (Lilley, 2019, para. 17, 19). The conducted research implies further development of a strategy allowing to place the indigenous resources on the websites of Australian universities.

Nicholls et al. (2016). From Principle to Practice: Community Consultation Regarding Access to Indigenous Language Material in Archival Records at the State Library of New South Wales

The materials in indigenous languages should be considered as the property of Aboriginal Australians. However, their rights are not observed according to the guidelines developed by First Languages Australia (FLA) and National and State Libraries of Australasia (NSLA) (Nicholls et al., 2016). To improve the situation, the researchers evaluated indigenous language resources from the State Library of New South Wales (SLNSW) (Nicholls et al., 2016). The results of the study allowed them to conclude on the necessity to strengthen the connections between SLNSW and indigenous population groups.

This research was based on the consideration of Australian records related to indigenous people. Such records included the materials of different periods and their evaluation with the help of NSLA and FLA guidelines (Nicholls et al., 2016). The study allowed the scholars to define the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be informed on these resources and their role in the development of practices related to their preservation (Nicholls et al., 2016). The application of this research can be expanded to other institutions in the future.

The results of the study include the principles of building relationships with indigenous communities in Australia. After a series of conducted interviews among the participants, it was possible to make a report on the progress of the implementation of specific measures (Nicholls et al., 2016). Hence, the approach combining the efforts of researchers and librarians in terms of proper processing and provision of indigenous resources seems to be beneficial. The future implications of the conducted research relate to fostering relationships between SLNSW and indigenous populations of Australia. However, such initiatives can be expanded to other libraries in the country that contain indigenous language materials. These institutions would benefit from similar programs by developing a strategy of their application to the state libraries in all of the regions.

Thorpe, K. (2019). Transformative Praxis – Building Spaces for Indigenous Self-Determination in Libraries and Archives

The article presents the views of an archivist working in the library sector in Australia on the development of indigenous materials. She highlights the need for their greater inclusion for further research and preservation. According to the author, such representation of indigenous resources in Australian libraries would allow revealing the effects of ongoing colonization on the way of life of aboriginal peoples and the existing disparities in society (Thorpe, 2019). She examines these issues solely based on her personal experience.

For the research, specific methods and approaches were used. Thus, Thorpe (2019) used the method of autoethnography to reflect on the issues emerging during her professional career to present the information from her other studies. For the processing of the received information, the author refers to a row of theories and concepts. Some of these approaches are Nakata’s concepts of Indigenous Standpoint Theory and the Cultural Interface, Kaupapa Maori Theory, and the concepts of ‘Decolonization’ and ‘Praxis’ (Thorpe, 2019). The variety of methods allows presenting a clear picture of the current situation regarding indigenous resources in Australian libraries.

As a result, Thorpe (2019) distinguishes principal areas that need to be improved for the achievement of support of indigenous self-determination. One of the scholar’s primary suggestions relates to the use of indigenous research methodologies with the inclusion of the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Thorpe, 2019). This approach would allow making the cross-cultural exchanges more efficient and provide more support to indigenous populations.

Another suggestion is the adoption of protocols facilitating the development of action plans for the promotion of the representation of indigenous peoples. Combined with the efforts of professional associations, these protocols would contribute to greater participation of Aboriginal populations (Thorpe, 2019). The future study of these issues would be benefited from the inclusion of the specialist’s view and suggestions for making more precise conclusions on the problems.

Thorpe & Byrne (2016). Indigenous Voices in the State Library of New South Wales

The provision of services to indigenous peoples in the libraries, as well as the clear structure of storing the available materials, is a critical issue for Australian resources. It primarily relates to the State Library of New South Wales as it contains one of the largest indigenous collections in the country (Thorpe & Byrne, 2016). Therefore, Thorpe and Byrne (2016) consider the way this collection is managed and governed in accordance with the new guidelines. They also narrate the actions intended to increase the representation of indigenous peoples in the Library Council.

For consideration of relationship issues between state libraries and indigenous population groups, the authors use the existing protocols for their research. Thus, they apply the ATSILIRN (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archives and Information Services Protocols) to libraries to reveal the current malfunction in their work and make suggestions on possible improvements (Thorpe & Byrne, 2016). Such documents are vital for compliance with the regulations on the storage of indigenous records in the context of state libraries in the country.

The review made by the scholars allowed them to conclude on the possible changes in the provision of services for indigenous population groups in Australia regarding the protocols. In conclusion, they highlighted the significant role of state libraries in the development of relationships with indigenous populations in New South Wales (Thorpe & Byrne, 2016). However, despite the apparent efficiency of the libraries’ work, some areas can be improved.

First of all, there is a need for special consideration of secret and sacred materials in the indigenous collections. Even though their presence was unintended, the consultation with indigenous communities is critical for the use of such materials (Thorpe & Byrne). Second, the librarians should avoid the possible presentation of offensive materials in their collections (Thorpe & Byrne). Third, particular attention should be paid to the intellectual property of indigenous peoples (Thorpe & Byrne). The guidelines created by the scholars can be useful for further research considering the proper management of indigenous resources.

Thorpe & Galassi (2018). Diversity, inclusion & respect: Embedding indigenous priorities in public library services

The previously mentioned academic papers proved the presence of indigenous resources in Australian libraries as well as their relatively good compliance with the existing protocols and guidelines. However, such materials should be adequately managed by the libraries. Thorpe and Galassi (2018) highlight the importance of their diversity and propose an Indigenous Services Business Plan to promote access to the indigenous resources and ensure their diverse nature. This project relates not only to the State Library of New South Wales but also to the other libraries in Australia.

In order to match their ideas with the existing information on the topic, the researchers used a variety of credible sources. They primarily refer to the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the data of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) (Thorpe & Galassi, 2018). These sources were complemented by the information received in the public libraries of Australia.

Having evaluated the primary sources, the authors presented the goals of their initiative and the ways of their achievement. According to Thorpe and Galassi (2018), the principal objectives of the Indigenous Services Business Plan are the implementation of ATSILIRN protocols as well as the strategies for collecting indigenous materials, promoting indigenous priorities, and aboriginal languages revitalization. By taking these steps, the researchers would be able to eliminate the malfunctions of public libraries.

The focus of this article on improving relationships between libraries and indigenous population groups is beneficial for both of them. Its future implications mostly relate to the necessity to distinguish the materials belonging to various groups of indigenous people to maintain the awareness of their diversity. Moreover, such a practical approach to the solution of problems in public libraries with the presentation of these resources would enhance the strategic planning of libraries for language and cultural revitalization (Thorpe & Galassi, 2018). This academic paper is useful for further research to demonstrate practical solutions to emerging issues.

Webb & Franks (2019). Metropolitan collections: Reaching out to regional Australia

To increase the number of indigenous resources to the public libraries’ collections, it is crucial to explore the methods of gathering information and stories of the first peoples of Australia. Hence, the researchers examine the ways to share historical information with these population groups for their higher participation in society (Webb & Franks, 2019). This is a complex process of interaction of various peoples and the creation of knowledge networks for the benefits of public libraries with indigenous collections.

In the study, the authors emphasize the role of both physical and digital materials. To ensure the preservation of the indigenous resources, they consider the case study of a Proclamation Board purchased by the State Library of New South Wales (Webb & Franks, 2019). It faced the challenge of its digitization and further keeping in the library storage. However, in this case, the librarians managed to maintain the high quality of both physical and digital resources.

Another concern of the scholars relates to the idea that non-Aboriginal researchers are unable to present a true picture of the daily life of these populations. On the example of the personal journals of George Augustus Robinson, it was proven that these sources of information do not correspond to reality (Webb & Franks, 2019). The consideration of this case leads to the necessity to reevaluate the existing resources provided by non-Aboriginal people to avoid misinterpretation of their culture.

The principal conclusion of the study is the significant role of indigenous collections for public libraries. However, some of the materials seem to be of questionable nature and need to be reconsidered with the participation of indigenous peoples. Such an exchange of information would allow the libraries to present trustworthy information on their culture. As for further research, the conclusion on the need for accessible and reliable indigenous materials would be an excellent complement to the initiatives intended to increase their representation.

The Process of Digitalization and its Complications

Bow & Hepworth (2019). Observing and respecting diverse knowledge traditions in a digital archive of indigenous language materials

The accessibility of indigenous digital collections in public libraries of Australia is complicated by the lack of agreement between legislation and organizations providing for their inclusion. Hence, the authors consider the current issues between Australian copyright law and Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) and ways to solve them with respect to their policies (Bow & Hepworth, 2019). For this purpose, they compare the guidelines of these projects to address the copyright problems efficiently.

The necessity of their research is defined by seeming impossibility to match the requirements of these two approaches to the inclusion of indigenous resources in the collections of public libraries in accordance with current legislation. For this, the scholars consider such aspects as the forms of knowledge, ownership status, value, and time frame (Bow & Hepworth, 2019). The implementation of such a method also allowed them to address the issues of making digital copies and their preservation in public libraries.

As a result of the study, the authors proposed a method to resolve copyright issues in the context of a single project of resource digitalization. Such solutions have not been tested, and they present the new area for scientific research of indigenous materials in Australia and their use according to different copyright laws of population groups (Bow & Hepworth, 2019). Hence, further, the examination might lead to the emergence of new issues not considered in this article.

In future research, it would be useful to include the legal provisions related to the use of indigenous materials in public libraries. This article represents one of the approaches, which can be used for resolving issues resulting from the difference in western and indigenous “laws” (Bow & Hepworth, 2019). The intentions of researchers are orientated on the satisfaction of both parties as their mutual support would ensure better preservation of indigenous resources.

de Souza et al. (2016). Aboriginal knowledge, digital technologies and cultural collections.

The study complements the efforts of researchers in the area of indigenous materials preservation by adding information on how to properly manage the collected resources in accordance with the existing policies and protocols. For this article, the views of both Aboriginal people and archivists were considered (de Souza et al., 2016). To receive extensive information on digital technologies applicable to the storage of indigenous materials, the authors reviewed the works of other scholars and conducted a series of interviews (de Souza et al., 2016). The primary sources allowed them to define the principal themes that need to be discussed in the context of aboriginal knowledge preservation and digitalization.

Hence, four key areas of research were distinguished and consequently considered by the researchers. They included the ownership and management of resources, the control of metadata, the role of digital archives, and the access to online resources for Aboriginal population groups for further control (de Souza et al., 2016). All these aspects were included in the interviews, and the reflections of respondents on the existing practices and policies were recorded.

With the help of the conducted research, the authors managed to reveal the most critical issue regarding the indigenous collections in public libraries of Australia. It relates to the lack of opportunities to access the recourses provided by indigenous population groups by their members (de Souza et al., 2016). Therefore, despite the support of public libraries and their extensive work intended to gather more information and digitalize it for the use of these people, the issue of the availability of specific services remains critical.

This article would be useful for further research as it highlights the importance of orientation of provided services and information on the members of indigenous population groups in Australia. Indeed, the inability of libraries to ensure the access of Aboriginal peoples to their digital archives would signify the failure to enhance their participation in society. The inclusion of the results of the study will allow considering the issue in all possible aspects.

Du (2017). Research on indigenous people and the role of information and communications technology in development: A review of the literature

There is a large number of studies devoted to indigenous people and information about them. However, to turn this theoretical knowledge into developed programs for further improvements, it is vital to reconsider the existing research and define the common topics of interest. For this purpose, the researcher reviewed relevant academic papers and revealed the increasing interest of Australian scholars in the subject (Du, 2017). Hence, this information would be useful for further consideration of indigenous resources and their proper management in the public libraries of the country.

For the article, the author used all publications regarding the indigenous collections written in English. The Australian publications, which became a part of the study, were found in the digital archives of the University of South Australia (UniSA) in Adelaide, and they allowed making precise conclusions on the situation in the country (Du, 2017). With the assistance of professional librarians and archivists, the researcher managed to include all of the aboriginal population groups of Australia in the article. As a result, she distinguished four major research topics of interest in the context of Australian indigenous studies.

The first and most popular topic is the preservation of indigenous culture and knowledge. The articles devoted to it consider the existing methods of preserving the information highlighting the importance of digitalization (Du, 2017). The second area of research relates to indigenous literacy and education as these issues define the future opportunities of members of indigenous population groups to access the stored information (Du, 2017). The scholars of the third group of studies examine the issues resulting from the interaction of indigenous people with technologies, and the fourth topic relates to digital divide issues (Du, 2017). Thus, the revealed topics of interest cover all the possible aspects, and this information allows reevaluating the efficiency of measures by them.

The conducted review of scholarly articles devoted to the use and management of indigenous materials allowed the author to conclude on the current state of this global area of research. Moreover, it revealed the principal challenge for indigenous people of Australia in the use of digital technologies known as the digital divide (Du, 2017). The inclusion of this article in future research would allow analyzing the works of other scholars for developing new guidelines corresponding to the changed situation.

Thorpe, Galassi, & Franks (2016). Discovering indigenous Australian culture: Building trusted engagement in online environments

The article complements the works of other scholars focusing on the improvements in the access to digital archives of Australian public libraries for indigenous populations. The principal objective of the study is to understand how to eliminate challenges influencing the process of obtaining information and deal with the emotional content of historical resources (Thorpe et al., 2016). For this purpose, the authors reviewed both Australian and international works of scholars regarding indigenous information management.

The materials under consideration included both physical and digital archives of public libraries of Australia. Their inclusion allowed distinguishing the specific issues related to the use of different types of archives and the methods applicable to the improvements in their management (Thorpe et al., 2016). The researchers also considered protocols for libraries and archives as they play a significant role in creating positive relationships between libraries and indigenous populations, thereby increasing the participation of the latter.

The received information allowed the scholars to review the initiatives of the State Library of New South Wales and their correspondence to the specified objectives. Thus, they evaluated the measures intended to improve the management of indigenous collections and build the partnership between this institution and primary participants promoting the development of collection (Thorpe et al., 2016). As a result, the scholars suggested several actions for libraries aimed at creating trustworthy environments. They include the need for governance structures, ethical practices, taking risks for better collaboration, methods to define their success, and trusted environments.

The importance of this research is in the impact of such initiatives on the future of indigenous populations in Australia. The libraries should overcome the issues resulting from the digitalization of Aboriginal collections and ensure access to these materials for researchers. The tools assisting them in the process are various protocols related to both physical and digital resources (Thorpe et al., 2016). The approximate course of action was presented on the example of the State Library of New South Wales that successfully implemented similar policies and improved the collaboration with indigenous population groups. Hence, the consideration of this article in future research will be beneficial in terms of following the successful example of this library and comparing its policies to the policies of other public libraries in the country.


The successful implementation of initiatives of public libraries in Australia regarding the preservation and collection of indigenous materials is conditional upon the proper management of both physical and digital materials. To define the issues that need to be resolved, the researchers conducted a row of studies on the current state of indigenous collections and revealed the areas of improvement. However, the lack of information about the existing relationships between libraries and indigenous populations complicates their realization. Hence, in future research, it would be necessary to consider the current programs of libraries from the point of view of indigenous people. The coordination of efforts of various population groups in Australia would be beneficial for the preservation of indigenous collections, their digitalization, and the provision of access to them.


  1. Bow, C. & Hepworth, P. (2019). . Journal of Copyright in Education and Librarianship, 3(1), 1-36. Web.
  2. de Souza, P., Edmonds, F., McQuire, S., Evans, M., & Chenhall, R. (2016). Aboriginal knowledge, digital technologies and cultural collections. Melbourne Networked Society Institute, 4, 3-50.
  3. Du, J. T. (2017). . Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 66(4), 344–363. Web.
  4. Lilley, S. (2019). Information Research 24 (3). Web.
  5. Nicholls, S., Booker, L., Thorpe, K., Jackson, M., Girault, C., Briggs, R., & Jones, C. (2016). . Archives and Manuscripts, 44(3), 110-123. Web.
  6. Thorpe, K. (2019). . In the Library with the Lead Pipe, 23. Web.
  7. Thorpe, K., & Byrne, A. (2016). . The Australian Library Journal, 65(1), 17-29. Web.
  8. Thorpe, K., & Galassi, M. (2018).. Public Library Quarterly, 37(2), 180-194. Web.
  9. Thorpe, K., Galassi, M., & Franks, R. (2016). . Journal of Web Librarianship, 10(4), 343-363. Web.
  10. Webb, D. & Franks, R. (2019). Metropolitan collections: Reaching out to regional Australia. M/C Journal, 22(3).

"Looking for a Similar Assignment? Order now and Get a Discount!

Place New Order
It's Free, Fast & Safe

"Looking for a Similar Assignment? Order now and Get a Discount!