Kia ora koutou katoa.. I would like to thank the Te Rōpū Whakahau as one of the recipients that gained funding to attend this International Indigenous Librarian Forum (IILF 2019) and the Mārama (Sponsors).
My name is Tania Bostock, I am a qualified Aboriginal (Mununjali and Bundjalung groups) with tertiary qualifications as a librarian and archivist. I have worked for over 27 years in in a historical library setting.
Let me start by introducing you international delegates to the general problems of Indigenous people of Australia today.
Size and population .. Australia is large … and for you International delegates this concept may be difficult to understand, thus I have added a visual.
In Australia we don’t measure distance with kilometres, but with time. Which is cultural significant to our dream time and our place in our countries development and our growth.
It can be complicated to understand, some locations such as remote Queensland takes several days to enter due. With other factors playing into the equation.
Going to Palm Island would take a day, while going to Weipa may take a week… as transport is complicated, accomodation and if there is a death then the entire community closes down for mourning purposes.
Location of Indigenous people. When it comes to getting information out to clients, the second problem is the location of Indigenous people in Australia.
Indigenous people are living in suburbia and remote areas… as you can see in Far North Queensland. We are economically disadvantage and visiting information institutions located in the cities is an expensive task, which can cost up to thousands of dollars when you added airfares, accommodation, food and inability to get information due to lack of reference tools.
Technology is improving issues but computers and broadband have only recently started to reach remote Queensland communities. In June 2018 Teltra was able to provide the Torres Strait Islands with broadband services for the first time.
Digitisation is a major advantage for us in regards to accessing our records. However information institutions are big on digitising, low on priorities Indigenous historical collections .
Amount of Indigenous Information to capture. Australians Indigenous information is history written in the land, in our art and in the oral history through stories and songs.
Unfortunately most of the landscape history is being destroyed by developer and the information collected by researchers is being lost in the repositories of the Information institutions.
What should be happening is the information institutions – Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) need to audit their collections and network to collaborate a sharing of resources or skills to accommodate equitable services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Libraries need to be more proactive to add other information institutions information on their online catalogue digitally. Adding images and a summary of museum Indigenous artefacts and anthropological investigations; Indigenous artworks on display; Archival name indexes to Indigenous peoples government family history records; local genealogical societies and community group information and researchers / authors written notes or documentation.
Less short-term exhibitions and more long-term content development is needed. Because until information institutions start opening up their collections to demonstrate why Indigenous people should donate information, they won’t ..
Institutions need to stop taking on a custodian approach, and change to becoming a service providers… in line with the government vision.
Time line of History and finding resource to demonstrate our history. All Australia knows their colonial history and if asked they understand the basic of Aboriginal history, but not the full extent.
Aborigines did not controlled this land, we lived with it .. We changed our culture to suite what was in our environment.
(image Australian map) Aborigines walked land that later became seas. We were not primitive, we were survivors and we changed our culture in accordance to what was available in our environment at the time.
We were the first explorers, the first culture and survivors of a genocide.
Settlers called us uncivilised to justify their cruelty and thieving of our land land. They did this through force and creating laws to justify their actions.
(image time-line) This time-line picture demonstrates the age of Aboriginal Australian in accordance to other races is a great visual representation .
Note the green square this is when the effects of settlement occurred.
(image land ownership) A basic map of land ownership between 1788 – 1965 demonstrate that the land was stolen and this taking of the land and removing of Aboriginal people was created by (image legislation) . Which gave us a short time-frame to gaining civil rights.
Social and economical disadvantages – In other word poverty. We are a third nation living in a first nation country.
The numerous government programs and sources of funding don’t seem to address the structural problems and therefore, the responses tend to be inefficient, partial and non-sustainable. Moreover, a large bureaucracy within the different layers of governments seems to hamper an efficient allocation and use of these funds. These are the reasons why an overarching human rights approach is needed to design the required strategies.United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Miloon Kothari: Mission to Australia, 31 July – 15 August 2006, Preliminary observations (page 6).
There is a hallow promise in policies that gaining professional qualifications, skills and experience will allow you to gain promotion. After twenty years of servitude in my library I have to admit that becoming the first Aboriginal librarian and gaining advanced skills in information management and knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection was the worst career move I had ever made.
There is a unconscious bias in information institutions against Indigenous professionals that cannot be breached. It is when …
- talented people are left out of your workforce or not allowed equal opportunity for development and career progression
- diverse voices (qualified / experience Indigenous people) aren’t heard in meetings and decisions can be impaired
- your culture is not genuinely demonstrating inclusive workplace principles
- employees are not able to fully contribute to your organisation
- creativity and productivity of your team or organisation may be compromised.
Social economical status. Indigenous people have so many problems that the priority [rightly so] is health, education and not information institutions.
However the problems that occur in health and “closing the gap” run true to information institutions.
As stated in the Close the Gap Rod Little from the National Congress of Australia’s First People on closing the Gap, runs true for the State Libraries Indigenous issues. … the failure to listen to professional’s solutions is contributing to things not going on track or being achieved, the people in the sectors that know what is required and how to practice are ignored. Mostly because a system of government have people that are not practitioners or beneficiaries of the service in control.
This is my artistic point of view of what is occurring in the library environment, it is to explain my field of dreaming ideology. “If you build it they will come”.
I had hoped to achieve Field of Dreaming in a library setting, but this will not occur, due to a controlling management group that will only hire Indigenous people in positions of power that will not question their decision making ideology or change the library systems to include Indigenous issues beyond public programs and policy writing.
This visual was to demonstrate that most of the information capture by researchers are information institutions in Brisbane, which digitally allow access through the internet but this technology doesn’t reach the remote locations.
As does the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community information doesn’t reach the Institutions.
There are Indigenous library centres opening in community locations to provide information, but they don’t have digital access to Indigenous information captured on their community and held in information institution.
Libraries provide the minimum amount of information to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people on their collections. Which is disturbing as they have funding to assist and the policies promising to perform this duty.
The information available is astonishing. Ephemera, maps, books, magazine, poster, tapes, cartoon, stamps, and more…
The way to solve this problem to connect the collections digitally to the wider community.
Australian library’s have advance Indigenous library policies, but they do no act on these policies, due to the upper managers controlling nature to stop progress through not funding core-business projects to provide equitable access to collection items.
To help with my direction I have a dream .. and now I have a medium to project information to the wider community and it is Wantima.
During my weekend for the next ten years I will grow Wantima to provide information to clients until library’s of Australia start taking the responsibility of this action.