Family history

We can help you with your Aboriginal family history. Our record collections may hold information about you or your direct ancestors.

The Aboriginal History Research Services (AHRS) can help you to locate records that relate to your personal or family history, including government records created by previous WA agencies that were responsible for administering Aboriginal affairs up until the 1970s as well as other non-governmental material. Due to the personal and sensitive nature of information contained in the records, many are restricted and not publicly available.

What can I apply for?

Applicants can select to receive copies of all or specific existing records held by the AHRS that relate to themselves and/or their direct ancestors, including their mother’s side of the family, their father’s side, or both. A researched family tree will be provided to assist with navigating the records where possible.

Protecting your privacy

For confidentiality reasons applicants must be the oldest living generation to apply. Third party consent can be given by the eldest relative (parent or grandparent) and submitted with the application using the third party consent form. You might also need to get permission from other family members to look at records for extended family connections.

Applying for information

To apply for a copy of all records relating to your family, fill in the family history application form and return it to with a photocopy of identification.

Application forms

Contact Aboriginal History Research Services

Telephone 1800 161 301
Address Level 2, State Library of WA, 25 Francis Street, Perth
Post PO Box 8349, Perth Business Centre WA 6849
Twitter @The_ACHWA

Frequently asked questions

What records does the AHRS provide?

For a complete list of records that the AHRS provides access to, please see the Aboriginal History Research Services page.

Do I need to be the oldest person in my family to apply?

To apply you must be of the oldest generation in your family or have the consent of the oldest living member. This means that if you have a living parent or grandparent on the side that you are requesting records for, they will need to sign Third Party Consent Form. The policy does not discriminate between siblings, therefore brothers and sisters have equal right and access to the records.

What sort of identification is acceptable?

We accept any form of official identification, however the common ones provided are listed below:

  • Drivers license
  • Passport
  • Medicare card
  • Centrelink card
  • Health Care Card

What happens if the AHRS does not hold any records relating to my family?

The AHRS collection is not exhaustive so we also encourage you to access other collections and link-up organisations for information about your family history. For a list of key organisations that might hold records and information to you, please see our Further Research Assistance page. Also see the AIATSIS Family History Kit for a complete guide on how to research your family history.

How can I access records for The National Redress Scheme?

People who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse are eligible to apply for the National Redress Scheme, which has been set up by the Commonwealth Government. The Scheme started on 1 July 2018 and will run up to June 2027. If you are thinking of applying for Redress, please see the National Redress Scheme website for information on how to apply. There are also a number of Redress Support Services in Western Australia that can provide free and confidential help with your application.

How do I obtain proof of my Aboriginal Heritage?

Your Aboriginal heritage is something that is personal to you. You do not need a letter of confirmation to identify as an Aboriginal person. However, you may be asked to provide proof or confirmation of Aboriginal heritage when applying for Indigenous-specific services or programs. Government agencies and community organisations usually accept three ‘working criteria’ as confirmation of Aboriginal heritage:

  • being of Aboriginal descent
  • identifying as an Aboriginal person
  • being accepted as such by the community in which you live, or formerly lived.

Doing your family history may help you obtain proof of your heritage. However, in order to meet the full criteria, you will need to contact your relevant Recognised Aboriginal Representative Body, which may be one of the organisations listed below. Who you contact will depend on where you family is from. An Aboriginal organisation in the area where you currently live may also be able to provide you with this confirmation.

Page reviewed 15 May 2019