Publications and other resources about Indigenous Australians
The National Archives of Australia holds large quantities of files, also known as records. Some contain information about Indigenous people, mainly in Victoria and the Northern Territory.
To help find records about themselves or their family, the Archives has published books, guides, fact sheets and articles. Below is a list of key resources.
Note: the publications include references to and photographs of Indigenous people who have passed away.
Between Two Worlds: The Commonwealth government and the removal of Aboriginal children of part descent in the Northern Territory
by Rowena MacDonald, IAD Press & Australian Archives, Alice Springs, NT, 1995.
Based on a long-running exhibition, this book examines the separation of Aboriginal children of part descent from their families and their placement into two Northern Territory 'half-caste' institutions run by the Australian Government. It includes oral histories, documents and photographs and shows what happened to the children. Browsing copies available in Archives reading rooms.
Family Journeys: Stories in the National Archives of Australia
National Archives of Australia, 2008.
One of the stories in this collection of family histories focuses on the Cubillo family of the Northern Territory. It talks about the migration of Antonio from the Philippines and his marriage to Lily of the Larrakia people. It is illustrated with various archival records.
Footprints: The Journey of Lucy and Percy Pepper
National Archives of Australia and the Public Record Office Victoria, 2008.
Developed in consultation with the Pepper family of Victoria, this book tells the story of the family's struggle to stay together, at a time when laws and government policy defined who was ‘Aboriginal’ and who was not. Browsing copies available in Archives reading rooms.
Aboriginal Deaths in Custody: The Royal Commission and Its Records, 1987–91, by Peter Nagle and Richard Summerrell, National Archives of Australia, 1996 (revised 1998).
A comprehensive listing of the records of the 1987 Royal Commission examining deaths of Aboriginal people while in custody.
Finding Families: A Guide to the National Archives of Australia for Genealogists, compiled by Margaret Chambers, National Archives of Australia, 1998.
A comprehensive guide to finding records related to family history in the National Archives. Chapter 3 deals specifically with records on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
walata tyamateetj: A guide to government records about Aboriginal people in Victoria, Public Record Office Victoria and National Archives of Australia, 2014.
A guide to help Victorian Aboriginal people find records about their family and country. It includes a historical overview by Richard Broome. It will also assist anyone researching the history and administration of Aboriginal affairs in Victoria to find relevant records.
Tracking Family: A Guide to Aboriginal Records Relating to the Northern Territory, National Archives of Australia, 2015.
A guide to help Indigenous people of the Northern Territory find records in various government agencies, church archives and libraries. Includes a list of all NT church-run missions and homes where Aboriginal children were placed.
Bringing Them Home (BTH) name index
This index is a list of names of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who appear in government files. Staff at the Archives can search the BTH index for particular names. They can also search a list of World War I Indigenous servicemen. For assistance, contact our Reference Service.
Information about National Archives records on the administration of Indigenous affairs by the Commonwealth Government.
The main database of the National Archives, RecordSearch, can be searched online, and at the National Archives offices in all capital cities. It provides access to millions of records in the collection.
Fact sheets are available online or in hard copy in National Archives reading rooms. They list records on specific topics.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- Aboriginal petitions
- Bonner, Neville
- British nuclear tests at Maralinga
- Finding records relating to an Indigenous person
- Indigenous family history beyond the National Archives
- Namatjira, Albert
- Pastoral industry in the Northern Territory
- Perkins, Charles Nelson
- Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody
- The 1967 Referendum
- The Wave Hill 'walk-off'
- Bringing Them Home name index
- Memorandum of Understanding with Northern Territory Aboriginal People
- Memorandum of Understanding with South Australian Indigenous people
- Memorandum of Understanding with Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency
Articles and news notes
1973, Memento, no 25, January 2004 (pdf, 1.17mb), pp 2–3
The Cabinet release of 1973 records mentions the first National Aboriginal Consultative Committee election (with photograph taken at the Bagot Settlement, Darwin).
Archives helps bring them home, Memento, no. 11, May 1999, pp 1–2
The National Archives has developed a Bringing Them Home name index.
Between Two Worlds: a moving exhibition, Memento, no 15, September 2000, pp 2–3
The Between Two Worlds exhibition opened in Canberra.
Between Two Worlds comes home, Memento, no 14, May 2000, p 7
The Between Two Worlds exhibition is about to return to Canberra. The exhibition examines the separation of Northern Territory Aboriginal children of part descent from their families.
Between Two Worlds comes home, Memento, no 17, May 2001 (pdf, 929kb), p.7
News note covers the relaunch of the exhibition in Darwin in February 2001.
Breaking the silences in the Constitution, by Larissa Behrendt, Memento, no. 39, 2010 (pdf, 6mb), pp 11–12.
Professor Larissa Behrendt argues that the decision of the framers of our Constitution to exclude human rights protections needs to be amended by including clauses to protect fundamental rights.
Closer Indigenous links in SA, Memento, no 22, January 2003 (pdf, 874kb), p 13
News note on the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the National Archives and Nunkuwarrin Yunti of SA Inc covering access to records.
Extra funding for Indigenous Projects, Memento, no 7, March 1998, p 10
The National Archives received funding as part of the Commonwealth's response to the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families.
Faces at the Archives, Memento, no 25, January 2004 (pdf, 1.17mb), p 12
Brief news note mentioning talk by Aboriginal storyteller, Boori 'Monty' Pryor.
Faces at the Archives, Memento, no. 32, Summer 06–07 (pdf, 2.5mb), p 30
Brief news note on the launching of the Tracking Family guide.
Faces at the Archives, Memento, no 34, January 2008 (pdf, 2.4mb), p 27
Brief news note on the events for Constitution Day 2008, including Prof Mick Dodson.
Gwalwa Daraniki: land rights struggle on record, by Philip O'Brien, Your Memento, Issue 3, 2011.
The story of the 1972 Larrakia petition – one of the most important documents in the history of Indigenous Australian's struggle for land rights.
Indigenous index growing daily, Memento, no 22, January 2003 (pdf, 874kb), p 13
News note on reaching 300,000 index entries in the Bringing Them Home name index.
In memory of Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda, Memento, no. 27, 2004 (pdf, 2.3mb), pp 10–11.
The story of Dhakiyarr Wirripanda, the first Indigenous Australian to be represented in the High Court of Australia.
Koori history coming to light, Memento, no 15, September 2000, p 12
Jane Beer is undertaking research for a Koori family history reconstruction and health project in the National Archives, Melbourne office.
Man on a mission, Memento, no. 21, Sept 2002 (pdf, 827kb), pp 16–17.
In 1910 the vast expanse of the Northern Territory and its people came under the control of the Commonwealth government. The government sent a scientific expedition to report on its potential for development. One member of the group was W Baldwin Spencer, an anthropologist who was known for his studies of Indigenous Australians.
Native title records kept for the future, by Kellie Abbott, Memento, no. 39, 2010 (pdf, 6mb), pp 28–29.
Valuable records about native title will be preserved for the future, with the signing of a new records authority.
Ships in the desert… asleep in our records, Memento, no 22, January 2003, pp 10–11
Camels and cameleers helped develop inland Australia.
The 1967 referendum: remembering the struggle, by Sue Taffe, Memento, no. 33, 2007 (pdf, 2.8mb), pp 15–17.
On 27 May 1967, a successful referendum was held to change the Australian Constitution. These changes allowed the Australian Government to legislate for Aboriginal people and to count Indigenous Australians in the national census. Historian Sue Taffe examines a little-known part of the story: the decade-campaign in support of the referendum proposals.
The signing of a special agreement, Memento, no 4, June 1997, p 2
In 1997 the Memorandum of understanding between the National Archives and Northern Territory Aboriginal Community representatives concerning access to records was signed.
Tracking Kultja, Memento, no 18, September 2001 (pdf, 1.2mb), p 19
Brief news note on the National Archives' involvement in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural festival to be held in Canberra in October 2001.
Tracking Kultja, Memento, no 19, January 2002 (pdf, 1.9mb), p 5
Brief news note on Peter Read's talk at the Tracking Kultja festival in October 2001.
This website features biographies of remarkable Australians. See the story of Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda, a Yolngu elder, who was the first Aboriginal person involved in a High Court case.
This website offers easy access to archival records for teachers and students. A keyword search on 'Indigenous' will find a wealth of material.