Records of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples held at the University of Sydney Archives


The University of Sydney Archives holds important records about indigenous people from Australia and the Pacific region in its personal archives collections of prominent anthropologists. The overall quantity of records in the Archives related to Aboriginal people is approximately 35 shelf metres (140 boxes); the field research records date from 1910 and include references to over 60 Aboriginal languages.

Archives series identified as containing records relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
A R Radcliffe Brown Personal Archives 1910 – 1930 (P129)
A P Elkin Personal Archives [1891-1979] (P130)
Annie Margaret McArthur Personal Archives [1919-2002] (P205) Nutritionist on the 1948 American –Australian Scientific Expedition
Association for the Protection of Native Races (S55)
T W Edgeworth David Personal Archives [1858-1934] (P11/25/113)

Archives series identified as containing records relating to indigenous peoples of the Pacific region.
Herbert Ian Priestley Hogbin [1904-1989] (P015)
Peter Lawrence [1921-1987] (P170)
Annie Margaret McArthur Personal Archives [1919-2002] (P205)
Camilla Hildegarde Wedgwood [1901-1955] (P112)

Identified language groups from Australia
Access to records
Copying of records
Indigenous Index Project

Identified language groups from Australia

The below list of language groups and places is drawn from the current Guides to the record holdings and some spelling will be out of date. This list should not be taken as definitive. It is expected that additional languages and places will be identified through the process of indexing the records.

New South Wales
Languages (Kumbuingari, Kattang, Bandjalang, Murawari, Kamilaroi, Yualarao, Yiegara, Dangati, North Raga, Barkunjee, Amberu, Anewan, Birpai, Wanygawalku, Ngaimba, Yukumbil, Yuungai, Kogai, Wiradjuri)
Places (Bellbrook, north-east NSW, south–east Qld, Walgett),

Victoria
Languages (Bangerang, Nganguruku/Capwuron)

Queensland
Languages (Wik Munkun, Yukum, Yagara, Ompela, Djandai)
Places (Yarrabah, Weipa, Cape York)

South Australia
Languages (including Antakarinya, Aluridja, Arabana, Yaralde, Wirango)
Places (Mt Margaret, Fowlers Bay)

Kimberley
Languages (Bardi, Karadjeri, Jabera-Jaber, Lunga, Ugarinyin, Worrora, Nyul Nyul, Djaru)
Places (Forrest River, Hall’s Creek, Beagle Bay).

Western Australia
Languages (Karigarra, Kariera, Ngaluma, Warienga, Maia, Binigura, Burduna, Baiong, Noala, Ingarda, Warienga, Thalainji, Bailgu, Mardudhunera, Targari, Wajeri, Nyamal)
Places (Albany, Bernier and Dorres Island, Carnavon)

Northern Territory
Languages (Rembarnga, Djauan (Jawoyn), Djinba, Wailbri, Waramunga, Djarada, Mangarai, Alawa, Wagaitj, Aranda)
Places (Arnhem Land, Roper River, Port Essington, Groote Eylandt, Bathurst Island, Milingimbi, Elcho Island)

Access to records

The University Reference Archivists assist researchers who visit the Archives with guides and advice. We provide a limited reference enquiry service to people who cannot visit in person, replying by email, letter or phone-call. Online guides are available for some of the records series identified above at our listing of Personal Archives

The University of Sydney Archives manages these records in accordance with ATSILIRN Protocols and we recognise the particular historical and emotional importance these records may hold for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Restricted access conditions may apply to some records, especially in the personal archives collections and the photographic series. Please note that due to the nature of the records about indigenous peoples from across Australia and the Pacific, the University reserves the right to restrict, limit or refuse access to any document(s) without prior notice. Restrictions, limitation or refusal of access may be imposed on the basis of personal privacy or out of respect for the rights and/or beliefs of indigenous peoples. Access to restricted access records requires permission from either the individual referenced or the source community. If your family or community is referenced in restricted records, we will endeavour to provide you access to the items.

Copying of records

The Archives does not have photocopying facilities for general research queries. As stated in our Policy on Copying and Reproductions copying may be requested for Native title claims by properly authorised representatives of the claimants. We are also happy to discuss copying records for individuals and communities undertaking family history research but please be aware that there may be limitations on what can be copied due to the physical condition of the record and any copyright restrictions. Charges may be applicable in some situations depending on the nature of the query but all steps will be taken to assist individuals and communities access important records about themselves.

Due to limited resources, the University Archives is unable to carry out large number of copies. We reserve the right to decline any requests. If a large amount of copying is required, it may be possible to have copying carried out by an external bureau. In such cases the researcher will be charged the actual costs of the copying plus an hourly charge, with a minimum of one hour.

Indigenous Index Project

The accessibility and usage of these records by Aboriginal communities and researchers is severely limited by the lack of any language, name or subject index. To view relevant records it is necessary to visit the Archives in person and browse through holdings to see whether there is any relevant information on particular language groups. The need to browse has also impacted on these fragile records, as many are in pencil and on poor quality paper.

To ensure a better service to Aboriginal communities and researchers, the University of Sydney Archives has begun a project to create an Indigenous Index to records we hold.

The primary objectives of this project are to:
- improve the accessibility of linguistic, genealogical and photographic records about Aboriginal people held at the University of Sydney Archives,

- meet the needs of Aboriginal communities by providing culturally appropriate indexes and online search access.

The Project will deliver:

- an Indigenous languages and place-based index of records held at the University of Sydney Archives, which can be used to produce a geo-spatial (map-based) search interface providing a visual representation of what records are held, and when and by whom they were created.

- a name index which will not be publically available, but limited to searching by Archives staff.

The Project does not seek to index all Aboriginal-related records, but will prioritise field notebooks, genealogies, correspondence, songs, and unpublished manuscripts and correspondence series in which it is anticipated the primary linguistic information is held. Additional data, particularly about the large photographic series, may be added to the database at a later date.

To ensure privacy of personal data, and issues about sensitive and sacred references, the collection of data will be in accordance with guidelines to indexing produced by the Bringing them Home Indexing Project undertaken by the National Archives of Australia, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocols for Libraries, Archives and Information Services (ATSILIRN, 1997, 2005).