The Tandanya Declaration

On 25 October 2019 the International Council on Archives and National Archives of Australia held the first Indigenous Summit See us, Hear us, Walk with us: Challenging and Decolonising the Archive led by the ICA’s new Expert Group on Indigenous Matters (EGIM) at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Adelaide.

The EGIM was established in 2018 and includes members and representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Norway, United States, Japan, Peru, and Chile.

The summit sought to:

  • identify key issues faced by Indigenous peoples and archives
  • examine options to develop a proactive international agenda for preserving Indigenous language and oral history
  • explore the vital role of archives in supporting truth-telling and reconciliation
  • consider approaches to re-designing archives to support decolonisation.

Summit attendees from around the world included archivists, record-keepers, librarians, curators and community organisations. The program included:

  • a smoking ceremony by Major 'Moogy' Sumner AM, Ngarrindjeri elder
  • David Fricker, Director-General of the National Archives of Australia and President of the ICA, meeting and presenting officials
  • an official opening by the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians
  • a keynote address by Craig Ritchie, Chief Executive of Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and co-chair of UNESCO Steering Committee Year of Indigenous Languages.

At the summit conclusion the EGIM presented the Tandanya Adelaide Declaration – the first international archives declaration on Indigenous people and matters, to David Fricker. The declaration calls on the jurisdictional archives of the world to acknowledge and adopt themes and commitments of the declaration for immediate action.

'…responsibility to re-imagine the meaning of archives as an engaging model of social memory; to embrace the Indigenous worldviews and methods of creating, sharing and preserving valued knowledge. To decolonise our archival principles with Indigenous knowledge methods, to open the meaning of public archives to Indigenous interpretations,…the remodelling of traditional archival principles’ 

‘The result will be a new model of public archives as an ethical space of encounter, respect, negotiation and collaboration without the dominance or judgement of distant and enveloping authority'.

David Fricker, in accepting the Declaration, advised that 'the declaration presents the opportunity for archives of the world, to work respectfully through past, current and emerging complexities and challenges, towards recognition and confirmation of the place and rights of Indigenous peoples in the world and archives'.

The declaration was signed by all summit attendees and is held by the National Archives of Australia. 

The Tandanya Declaration has been placed on the ICA website and the EGIM will work to have it translated in different languages and distribute it to archives, archives associations and organisations around the world. 

David Fricker, as the former National Archives of Australia Director-General (2011 – 2021) has also accepted the declaration. Future work as part of the National Archives' Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy will include commitments to actions in alignment with the Tandanya Declaration.

Tandanya Adelaide Declaration