Finding your voice: placing and sourcing an Aboriginal health organisation's published and grey literature

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Author: Clive Rosewarne
Date: Spring 2009
From: Australian Aboriginal Studies(Vol. 2009, Issue 1)
Publisher: Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
Document Type: Article
Length: 6,250 words
Lexile Measure: 1550L

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Abstract: It is widely recognised that Aboriginal perspectives need to be represented in historical narratives. Sourcing this material may be difficult if Aboriginal people and their organisations do not publish in formats that are widely distributed and readily accessible to library collections and research studies. Based on a search for material about a 30-year-old Aboriginal health organisation, this paper aims to (1) identify factors that influenced the distribution of written material authored by the organisation; (2) consider the implications for Aboriginal people who wish to have their viewpoints widely available to researchers; and (3) assess the implications for research practice. As part of researching an organisational history for the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, seven national and regional collections were searched for Congress's published and unpublished written material. It was found that, in common with other Aboriginal organisations, most written material was produced as grey literature. The study indicates that for Aboriginal people and their organisations' voices to be heard, and their views to be accessible in library collections, they need to have an active program to distribute their written material. It also highlights the need for researchers to be exhaustive in their searches, and to be aware of the limitations within collections when sourcing Aboriginal perspectives.


In 2002 the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Inc. (hereafter referred to as Congress) embarked upon the task of recording its organisational history. The aim of the Congress Social History Project was to gather a broad range of material relating to the organisation, its founding and growth, and ultimately to have this history published. The catalyst for this undertaking was the upcoming 30th anniversary of the founding of Congress. However, another impetus for action was that the people involved in its establishment were ageing or had already passed away. There was a pressing imperative to collect people's testimonies about why and how the organisation was established before these were lost forever. Over the next two years, 30 oral histories were collected. At the same time, an extensive search for written material and other ephemera was undertaken. This paper concerns the second aspect of the history project.

Context to historiography

Since Stanner (1969:17) observed in his Boyer Lecture that 'Aborigines having been "out" of history for a century and a half are now coming back "into" history with a vengeance', there has been a transformation in the way in which the Australian historical narrative is understood. This has involved a marked change in the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, both as the subjects or makers of history and as the writers of their own history.

For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous historians have extended the timeline of human occupancy on the continent. They have reassessed the interactions across the colonial frontier in both its earlier and recent representations, and have brought to bear a deeper understanding of the nuances in the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, non-Indigenous people and the state (Attwood 2005). This change, not...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A206392262