The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) hosted the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, for a tour of the Institute to showcase AIATSIS’ work on Sunday, 4 February, 2018.
The Prime Minister was accompanied by Mrs Lucy Turnbull AO, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion and the Minister for Indigenous Health, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP.
AIATSIS Chief Executive Officer Craig Ritchie and AIATSIS Chairperson Professor Michael McDaniel acted as tour guides for the evening.
The tour started with a brief history of AIATSIS covering the transformation from an academy to preserve the cultural practice and legacy expected to disappear through assimilationist policies, to a national knowledge and cultural institution led by Indigenous people with deep connections to Indigenous Australia.
The Prime Ministerial party then travelled through the technical and operational parts of the Institute, including the video suite, photographic studio, the engineers’ workshop, and the art and objects vault.
In the Stanner Room staff gave an overview of the AIATSIS Collection, assessed as the most extensive and best contextualised collection of Indigenous Australian material in the world, highlights included:
- Luise Hercus Collection – one of the first researchers to receive support from AIATSIS for her fieldwork, Dr Hercus’ collections lodged with AIATSIS contain over 1000 hours of sound recordings that cover over 56 languages and dialects.
- AIATSIS Languages Collection – includes materials from 762 language varieties (languages / dialects / patrilects) in a range of formats.
- Jimmy Pike Collection – Walmajarri country is vibrantly presented in the acclaimed and prolific artist’s collection of drawings, prints, and paintings.
- Olive Pink Material – includes ethnographic material, data on culture, contact and living conditions of Aboriginal people, language materials, as well as botanical specimens and children’s drawings.
- Toyota Dreamings – paintings that depict Warlpiri men’s ceremonial sites relating to the creation of the Milky Way, and are of immense artistic, historic and aesthetic significance.
- Identity magazine – the key publication of the Indigenous-controlled Aboriginal Publications Foundation. AIATSIS also holds the manuscript papers and the photographic collection of the APF.
The Prime Minister and his party were highly engaged throughout the tour, asking questions of staff as they worked their way through the building being introduced to the many aspects of the broad work of AIATSIS.
The party were accompanied by Council Members Jodie Sizer and Geoffrey Winters, the AIATSIS Senior Executive and the many staff who gave up their Sunday evening to speak to the work of AIATSIS.
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