Introducing the Family History Unit

Post date: 
Friday, 12 August 2016

The Family History Unit has recently been re-established at AIATSIS. We are delighted to once again be able to offer Family History Research directly to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait community, as well as to our Link-Up colleagues, where we are able to do so.

There are four of us in the Unit with a range of professional backgrounds. We all have Indigenous heritage and have a passion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family history research.

The Family History Unit, (L-R) PJ, Judy, Narelle and Kayannie
The Family History Unit, (L-R) PJ, Judy, Narelle and Kayannie.

The Family History Unit offers family history research assistance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who want to undertake their own research. We do this by listening carefully to the needs of the family researcher and then providing guidance on the best way forward.

Often, the best way forward is for the person to continue to undertake their family history research, with some support from the unit. On occasion, we may offer a small amount of research assistance to people who are experiencing particular difficulties with the family history research.

An example of a recent piece of family history research we did, involved an individual who was looking for information about their paternal Grandmother. This person had spent significant time undertaking their family history research and come to a standstill.

They had the full name and date of birth of their Grandmother and using this information we were able to locate an article about their Grandmother published in Dawn magazine, which provided further family history links. We also found a photo of their Grandmother, which was located in the AIATSIS collection.

We work with community in a number of ways. Many people have a lot of information and need a hand to further their research. Others come into AIATSIS and spend a bit of time here using our resources and talking through their research with one of our staff. Others require a bit of guidance to further their research and work collaboratively with us to do so.

You can read about our work with a group of young care-leavers looking to reconnect with their identity in these stories by NITV and ABC Online.

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Our team recently assisted a group of young care-leavers from Uniting Aftercare with their family history research.

Sometimes, despite all our efforts, we are unable to locate any further information for family history researchers. This can be due to historical government policies, poor records management, the loss of historical documents or deliberate attempts by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to avoid their details being recorded by Government.

Since 27 January 2016 the new team has worked closely with Link-Ups and many other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients. We are also piloting a Certificate IV in Stolen Generations Family Research and Case Management in South Australia and New South Wales. This course is being attended mostly by Link Up staff and it will be evaluated in the second half 2016, so stay tuned for further information.

For further information about finding your family, check out our Family History Kit.

We look forward to sharing our stories and resources with you so check back in often!

Last reviewed: 29 Sep 2016