The National Library’s Indigenous collection holds a diverse range of material, offering a rich interpretation of Australia’s past and contemporary Indigenous culture.
Australian Indigenous culture has a long and proud history spanning over 50 000 years. Its history is told through stories and represented through artwork.
The National Library aims to collect and preserve items of Indigenous cultural and historical significance, placing a strong emphasis on building our Indigenous oral history and pictorial collections. The Library also holds a range of different material formats such as archived websites, manuscripts, maps and ephemera.
The National Library’s published collections also include copies of all Indigenous Australian language dictionaries, word lists and lexicons published to date, covering hundreds of languages and dialects. This includes a significant number of interactive dictionaries.
Some items of current interest by and about Indigenous people are listed below.
- Bringing Them Home Oral History Project - over 300 interviews collected between 1998 and 2002 with Indigenous people and others, such as missionaries, police and administrators involved in or affected by the process of child removals. Listen online to a selection of interviews.
- Mura Gadi - an annotated bibliography of materials in the manuscripts, pictures and oral history collections related to Australian Indigenous people. This bibliography is current to 1999.
- Eddie Mabo's papers - the history of the campaign for native title documented in this manuscript collection comprises Mabo litigation records emanating from both the Supreme Court of Queensland and the High Court of Australia. The records include a statement of facts by the plaintiffs, wills, land transactions, court transcripts, exhibits, pleadings, applications, witness statements, submissions, correspondence, memoranda and research material.
- Tommy McRae drawings - record of traditional life, hunting, fishing, dancing and conflicts by an Aboriginal of the Wahgunyah tribe on the River Murray, 1880.
- Contemporary and historic photographs of Ernabella, South Australia. Ernabella was built as a Presbyterian Mission in 1938 on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, and was later renamed Pukatja. It is unusual in that the mission respected Anangu culture and traditions, offering education and medical assistance with no conditions. Now it holds Ernabella Arts, one of the longest continuously running Aboriginal arts organisations.
The Library wishes to acknowledge that some material in the collections relating to Indigenous people may be considered culturally sensitive. Our collections may contain images of deceased persons or depict distressing incidents.