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Frequently Asked Questions

The AIATSIS Collection

  • What is in the AIATSIS Collection?

    The AIATSIS Collection is the world's largest collection dedicated to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories. It includes published books, journals, and pamphlets, as well as unpublished manuscripts, maps, sound recordings, films and video recordings, photographs, artworks, and objects. AIATSIS calls these collection items.

  • How can I search the Collection?

    You can search for items in the AIATSIS Collection, using Mura, the Collection catalogue or search through records and images for some other media types. 

    Some larger unpublished collections have a finding aid, which is a descriptive listing of what is in a collection of papers, sound recordings, or films and videos. A link to the finding aid is in the catalogue record.

    See our Mura User Guide for further information about how to search for items in the collection.

  • What if I can’t find what I’m looking for in the AIATSIS Collection?

    The AIATSIS Collection is not a complete collection of work authored by or about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and studies. If you cannot find a particular title, try searching Trove to locate the item at your local, state or university library.

  • Can I access collection items at AIATSIS?

    The Stanner Reading Room is located at AIATSIS, Canberra. The majority of published items held in the collection are readily available for public access in the Reading Room.

    Rare published items may be accessed on request depending on the condition of the item.

    Unpublished items may be subject to access and use conditions. Their catalogue records provide information about these conditions in the Access field. If you want to access unpublished items, you will need to complete an Indemnity form. You may also need to gain permission from depositors, copyright owners or community representatives, which may take some time. We encourage you to contact us before visiting.

  • I can’t visit AIATSIS. Can I get copies of items sent to me?

    A copy of parts of a published item can be sent to you subject to copyright law.

    Copies of unpublished items in the collection may be sent to you depending on the access and use conditions (see below). Please use the

  • Why do some items in the AIATSIS Collection have access and use conditions?

    Items in the AIATSIS Collection may have conditions that mean only some people may view, listen to and/or have a copy of them. There are a number of reasons why. For example, some items:

    • contain culturally sensitive content;
    • are restricted to men or women only;
    • are restricted to specific community groups or families;
    • contain personal information or genealogical information; and/or
    • the depositor or creator of the collection material would like to be informed of and/or approve access to their items.

    For further information please refer to the AIATSIS Access and Use Policy. 

  • How do I ask for access to or copies of items in the Collection?

    You can make a request for access to or get a copy of items in the Collection by completing our online request form. 

    When making a request, we encourage you to send us one of the following:

    Please also tell us the names of the particular people, languages, places or subjects you are interested in.

    Note that fees may apply.

  • Can I borrow items from the Collection?

    Unfortunately, no. The published items in the AIATSIS Collection are reference items which means they cannot be loaned out to the general public.

    If you would like to borrow published items, search Trove to check if you can borrow a copy from your local, state or university library.

    Unpublished items cannot be borrowed but a copy may be provided to you subject to access and use conditions.

    Requests for exhibition loans can be made by sending an email to

  • What is the ROMTIC program?

    Our return of material to Indigenous communities (ROMTIC) program recognises the importance of providing copies of collection items to the communities from which they originated. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians can receive free copies of up to twenty collection items per financial year relating to their cultural heritage or their family. Normal collection copying fees will apply to any further additional copies.
    We also encourage people to check what is in the collection from year to year as new items are added and digitised.

  • What is an ABI catalogue record?

    ABI stands for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Biographical Index. The ABI is an index of personal names that have been published or mentioned in materials held in the AIATSIS print collection. The ABI can be searched via our Collection catalogue, Mura. The index may be useful for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are researching their family history. 

Visiting AIATSIS


Engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

  • Who are the traditional custodians of my area?

    In order to find information about the traditional custodians of a particular area please contact the local area council, local Aboriginal land council or community organisation. Also try searching the Yellow Pages using the keywords ‘Aboriginal’ in the ‘Business type or name’ box and add a place name. Or, try a web search for ‘Aboriginal’ and the place name. You could also try the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations to locate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations within a particular area.

  • Where can I get information about local Aboriginal land councils or Prescribed Body Corporates?

    The Australian Government website has some information and links.

    Extensive information about Prescribed Body Corporates can be found on the PBC website.

  • I would like to engage with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people for my studies or work, can AIATSIS help?

    AIATSIS cannot help with referral services for engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities or individuals. We recommend that people who want to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should get in touch with their local Aboriginal land council or other local Indigenous organisation(s).

  • How do I find and use word(s) in an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander language?

    There are more than 250 Indigenous Australian languages and many more dialects. Each language is unique and specific to a particular area. We recommend that you reach out to your local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language centre or community group, community organisation or land council for advice. AIATSIS is unable to provide advice about the appropriate use of Aboriginal language terms.

    You can search for languages by name or location with our Austlang database.

    First Languages Australia also has resources about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

    Learn more about Australia’s first languages or the language work at AIATSIS.

  • What is the difference between a 'Welcome to Country' and an 'Acknowledgment of Country', and why is it important?

    It is important that those who are on the traditional lands of Australia’s First Peoples are right-minded and cleansed. Welcome to Country rituals go back to when visitors had to wait to be welcomed into a camp or ceremony — sometimes left sitting outside the camp for days until people were ready for them and sure that they would not bring harm.

    Welcomes to Country have become strong features of contemporary Australian life and are often held at the beginning of meetings and events and may include song or dance and other local rituals such as smoking ceremo­nies.

    Welcomes can only be given by the traditional custodians of that Country, or those who are given permission by the traditional owners to do so.

    Acknowledging when you’re on the land of traditional owners is a sign of respect which recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ownership and custodianship of the land, their ancestors and traditions. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples can show this form of respect.

    Most areas will have a local Council of Elders, land council or community organisation who can advise about Welcomes to Country.  It’s important for non-Indigenous Australians to recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations have a lot of demands on their time and that access to knowledge may need to be paid for.

Family history

Indigenous Research Exchange

  • What is the Indigenous Research Exchange grant program?

    AIATSIS is committed to ensuring greater involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in setting research priorities, leading research projects and determining the appropriate collection and use of data about communities. The Indigenous Research Exchange (the Exchange) Grant Program will:

    • support high quality impactful Indigenous led research 
    • improve the accessibility and availability of quality robust research and evidence based solutions
    • support organisations (outside of research bodies) to participate in research activities that will have relevance and impact beyond the community and project
  • Who determines which research priority themes are used for each round?

    The AIATSIS Indigenous Research Exchange Advisory Board (the Advisory Board) provides strategic guidance to the Research Grants Program and ensures the outcomes and objectives are achieved.  
    Only applications that are consistent with the published priorities for the open or targeted grant round of funding will be considered.

  • What is an open round grant opportunity?

    Participation in the open competitive grant opportunity is available to all eligible organisations that want to deliver Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander led research projects.

  • What is a targeted round grant opportunity?

    Participation in the targeted round grant opportunity is a competitive grant opportunity for eligible organisations who address particular research needs identified by AIATSIS. 

  • What if my project is impacted by COVID-19?

    As the advice received by the Australian Government's Department of Health changes, the Indigenous Research Exchange funding grant rounds and funded projects will continue as planned. Any changes to the grants program as a result of COVID-19 will be posted on our website

    If you have any concerns during the application process or whilst your approved project is being undertaken, please contact the Exchange team to discuss:

  • How should I demonstrate evidence of community support?

    All projects must be led by and supported by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait peoples in the community where you wish to undertake the proposed project. 

    All applications need to provide supporting documentation with evidence of community support, for example, through letters from community representatives.

    Some examples of organisations you might seek support from include:

    • Native Title and Traditional Owner organisations 
    • Elders Councils 
    • Relevant local Aboriginal corporations that work in the area of the project such as Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, cultural and arts centres, resource agencies, reference groups, research centres
    • Other non-government agencies such as those working with young people, employment, housing, substance abuse, justice issues
    • Local Aboriginal Land Councils 
    • Aboriginal Local government organisations
  • Who can I contact for help regarding my SmartyGrants application?

    In the first instance you should email the Exchange team , if your enquiry is a technical IT SmartyGrants system issue that we are unable to assist with, then your issue will be referred to the SmartyGrants help desk for assistance.

  • Can I submit a late application?

    Applications, including supporting documentation must be submitted via SmartyGrants on or before the due date. No late applications will be considered. 

  • How will my application be assessed? 

    How will my application be assessed?

    Eligible applications will be assessed by an independent, external expert panel who will assess your application against each of the criteria. See assessment criteria at 4.5 in the grant funding guidelines.  

    Your application will be considered on its merits, based on:

    • how well it meets the criteria 
    • how it compares to other applications 
    • whether it provides value for money.
  • When will I know if my application has been successful?

    All applicants will be notified in writing if their application is successful. 

  • Can I seek feedback if my application is not successful?

    If your application is not successful you will be formally notified. If you wish to seek feedback you can email the Indigenous Research Exchange on

  • What happens if only part of our funding request is approved?

    It is possible that only partial funding may be approved based on the assessors feedback. If this happens, we will work with your organisation to revise the project objectives, deliverables and budget before finalising your funding agreement.

  • Does my project have to be approved by the AIATSIS Research Ethics Committee?

    All projects supported for funding must be reviewed and approved by the AIATSIS Research Ethics Committee (REC) before your project begins. Release of funds will be dependent on ethical approval. For more information, please see the AIATSIS ethical research page

  • Knowledge Exchange Platform (KEP)

    What is the Knowledge Exchange Platform?

    The platform is currently under development and will be located on the Exchange Website.  It will provide a point of access to Indigenous research and data. The purpose of the platform is to address the need for access to data and information at a local level, and provide an evidence base for policy makers to design more effective programs and policies. The platform will connect people, data, ideas and evidence in a way that makes research findings more accessible, more contestable and more useable.

    What research/data will be available on the platform?

    The Exchange is currently investigating research and data sets that can be made accessible through the platform. The platform will provide access/links to:

    • AIATSIS research and data sets
    • Project findings and outcomes from the Research Grant Program
    • Other relevant Indigenous data repositories
    • Indigenous research or data that is deposited into the platform by other organisations, communities or individuals

    Research findings to be available on the platform include (but are not limited to):

    • Project reports
    • Qualitative and quantitative data
    • Frameworks
    • Models of best practice
    • Recordings
    • Images/video
    • Publications
    • Conference/workshop presentations

    Data will only be shared and made accessible where permission has been granted by the respective copyright and Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) holders.  

    How is research being kept safe on the platform?

    The platform is being developed with consideration of the highest standards in regards to IT security and cultural safety. The platform build is guided by Indigenous expertise to ensure best practice in data management, governance and access protocols. More information on security and safety strategies will be provided as they are finalised. 

    Will I be able to deposit my research on the platform? And who can access it?

    Researchers, organisations and individuals will be able to offer their research and data for inclusion on the platform once it has been tested and launched. The aim is to continually add new research to build on the evidence base. 

    Access to research and data on the platform will follow protocols that are being developed by the Exchange. Indigenous data governance, ICIP and the management of sensitive date will be the overarching principles of the platform to protect the rights of copyright and ICIP owners. For this reason access conditions will be determined by the owners of the data to ensure access is culturally appropriate – only those with permission will be able to access sensitive data. 

Research ethics