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Aboriginal History Research Unit

Last updated: 30/04/2018 10:26 PM
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The Department’s Aboriginal History Research Unit (AHRU) manages restricted access archive requests for files from its preceding departments held in the State Archives Collection. These are:

Western Australian State Archives

The majority of the records relating to Aboriginal affairs are State administrative files, including mission, station and personal records created by various government departments dealing with Aboriginal affairs from 1886 to 1972. These items are searchable via the State Records of Western Australia online catalogue.

South Australian Museum Records

The privately owned records from the South Australian Museum are genealogies, journals, photographs and data cards recorded by anthropologists Joseph Birdsell and Norman Tindale in Western Australia between the 1920s and 1960s. The online catalogue for these items can be found via the South Australian Museum Archives Search.

University of Sydney Records

The privately owned records from the University of Sydney are genealogical information comprising part of the collection of anthropologist A. P. Elkin.

Jan Goodacre Collection

In 2008, the Department acquired the Jan Goodacre Collection; a private collection of records about Aboriginal people purchased by the Commonwealth Government. 

Pension Recipient Profile Cards

The Department holds a small collection of Pension Cards created in the 1960s that provide information on people in receipt of a Commonwealth pension.  Information includes dates of birth, residence, employment, education, pensions and allowances. An index to the Pension Cards is available through the AHRU.

Under the State Records Act 2000 some of the state records are classified as restricted due to the personal and sensitive nature of their contents. AHRU assesses access to records according to who the applicant is and their purpose (see below for more information about Applicant categories). 

All privately owned material such as the South Australian Museum, University of Sydney and Jan Goodacre Collection records are all classified as restricted.

Records given permanent open status have been assessed as having no information that could be considered confidential to anyone. 

All records are subject to the Copyright Act 1968.

Who can apply for access to these records?

AHRU divides Applicants applying for records into three categories:

1. Personal and Family History Applicants

Personal and family history applicants apply for their own records or those of their direct ancestors.  Applicants can apply for any records relating to them held by the Department, or those relating to a specific purpose such as evidence of genealogy, dates and place of birth or a specific ancestor. Any relevant family history material uncovered during the research process is sent to applicants.  Where possible a detailed, annotated genealogy of direct ancestors is also provided.

To be eligible to apply, applicants should download and complete the family history application form (PDF 589KB) and submit it with a copy of photo identification to by contacting an AHRU officer on 08 6551 8002. 

For privacy reasons, applicants cannot receive records about living family members. If the applicants ancestors are still alive they will be required to submit a consent form. If the consent of a family member is required it should be signed by the relevant individual(s) with a copy of their photo identification along with the application.

Eligibility requirements and further information can be found in the Policy for Access to Restricted Information Managed by the Aboriginal History Research Unit (PDF 292KB)This policy complies with the  Freedom of Information Act 1992, the State Records Act 2000 and the Adoption Act 1994.

Please note the records held by the Department are not exhaustive and it is advised that applicants refer to additional resources. 

2. General Researcher Applicants

Access to records for General researcher applicants is assessed under the Policy for Access to Restricted Information Managed by the Aboriginal History Research Unit (PDF 292KB).  General researchers can be given access to third party personal information where it is considered this access is in the public interest. In these cases, information that identifies people must be censored from the record, unless consent is obtained direct from the party to which the information refers.

General researcher applicants apply for access to restricted records by completing and submitting a General Researcher Application (PDF 43KB) to 

3. Native Title Research Applicants

Native Title Research Applicants apply under the Department's Native Title Access Policy (DOCX 42KB)To apply for access to these records, please complete the Native Title Access application form (PDF 78KB) and submit it to Due to the scope of material managed by the Department for the purpose of Native Title litigation, it is recommended that applicants make an appointment to view requested material at the Department's premises where an AHRU researcher can assist them with their queries.

Please note: Family history applications are generally completed within 20 working days upon receipt of a completed application. All other AHRU applications are generally completed within 10 working days upon receipt of a completed application.

Please also note that the Department is unable to facilitate meetings for applicants without a pre-arranged meeting time.

For further information or to provide feedback about AHRU’s services, please ring 1300 651 077, facsimile (08) 6551 8088, or by email

Alternatively feedback in writing can be sent to: 

Aboriginal History Research Unit 
Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries
PO Box 3153