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This policy is currently under review.

The department through the Aboriginal History Research Unit (AHRU) utilises Western Australian State Government records compiled by various departments that administered Aboriginal people between 1886 (The Aborigines Protection Act 1886 established the Aborigines Protection Board) and 1972 (the official end of governmental legislative control of Aboriginal people.)

The original records are held at the State Records Office of Western Australia (SROWA) where, under the State Records Act 2000 they are classified as ‘open’ to the public or ‘restricted’ and subject to assessment by the DAA.

The department also utilises other historical material in the performance of its function through legal agreements with the owners of the material.

This policy outlines and explains the department's policy regarding:

  • the link to legislative compliance requirements
  • terminology
  • access to restricted records
  • the censoring of the restricted records
  • access to restricted records for Native Title purposes
  • access to records for general researchers
  • access to other historical records managed by the department.

1. Legislation

The department is required to incorporate the following legislation into the Access to Restricted Information Policy.

The Freedom of Information Act 1992 (FOI)

The FOI Act is the principal legislation governing the clauses within this Policy and the required procedures following an appeal from an applicant who has been denied access to information.

The State Records Act 2000 (SRA)

The SRA is principally designed to determine laws for government record-keeping practices; the control of State records and archives; and access to archive records where access is not determined by the FOI Act.

The Adoption Act 1994 (AA)

The Adoption Act 1994 provides laws about access to information that identifies birth parents and children legally adopted into another family. The principal component of this Act to be applied to AHRU’s operations is Part 4 (Division 4) which establishes the right for both biological parents and people who were adopted in childhood to place a veto on contact by the other party.

2. Terminology

Own information
Information that is about the applicant is defined as the oldest living lineal ancestor as well as information relating to his/her ancestry and/or any sibling in a case where both parents are deceased.
Own file
Files with an end date of 75 years or more that do not contain restricted information as well as more recent files that have been assessed and opened in accordance with this policy.
Restricted file
Files containing restricted information and those with an end date of less than 75 years that have not been opened in accordance with this policy.
Family history applicant
An applicant seeking their own information or that of an ancestor family member.
Native Title researcher applicant
An applicant for information as defined in the department's Native Title Access Policy.
General researcher applicant

Any applicant for information that is not a personal or family history applicant or Native Title researcher seeking access to restricted State records.

3. Applications

Family history applicants

  • An applicant has the right to receive their own information.
  • An applicant has the right to receive information about their ancestors (parents, grand-parents) if those ancestors are deceased in line with the clauses outlined in this policy.
    • If the applicants’ parents or grandparents are alive consent must be obtained from the closest relative; and
    • If the applicants’ ancestors are still alive but cannot be located or are unable to grant consent due to medical reasons, the Director, Community Partnerships, may grant the request.
  • Where a person has been adopted or was the subject of a proposed adoption the applicant will be referred to the Department of Child Protection and Family Support (DCPFS).
  • Clause (1) and (2) also apply to applicants adopted in childhood, where the applicant knows the name of his or her birth parent(s) and/or family.
  • Where a person has been adopted during childhood and knows the name of his or her birth parent(s), consent for access to information is required from a birth parent.
  • If the birth parent(s) of the applicant have placed a veto on contact with him/her under the Adoption act 1994, information will not be provided.

General researcher applicants

  • General Researcher Applicants can access third party personal information with the written consent of the person who is the subject of the information.
  • General Researchers can access third party personal information about a deceased person with the written consent from the closest relative to the deceased person. Proof of identification is required from the applicant seeking personal and family information.
  • Individuals providing consent to a General Researcher applicant to access their personal records must provide evidence of their identity.
  • An applicant who wishes to engage another person to receive:
    • their information on his or her behalf; or
    • information about a deceased family member for which he or she has access rights
    • must complete the consent form and nominate where the response is to be forwarded.

4. Censorship of restricted material

  • Information that is about the applicant will not be censored.
  • Where an applicant’s information is of a medical nature, and the Director is of the opinion that disclosure of the information to the applicant, may have a substantial adverse effect on the physical or mental health of that person, the Director will liaise with the Coordinator of Corporate Information about enacting the procedures of a Section 28 of the Freedom of Information Act 1992.
  • The disclosure of any medical information relating to anyone other than the applicant, such as an ancestor, will be provided in accordance with the provisions of the State Records Act 2000.
  • Information that refers to a third party in the context of his/her duties as an officer of a government agency will not be censored.
  • AHRU officers will use their discretion in redacting material that is deemed to be of a (traditional) secret/sacred nature following consultation with the Aboriginal Representative Body.
  • AHRU officers can use discretion to determine whether the disclosure of any other third party information is contrary to public interest in censoring the record where the information is declared to be beneficial in nature.
  • Redactions to records are to be kept clear so that should an applicant wish to pursue access to the redacted information, he or she can do so under the Freedom of Information Act 1994.

5. Researcher

Native Title researcher

See separate Native Title Access Policy (Attachment 1).

General researchers

  • General Researchers seeking access to restricted files will need to complete an Application Form and forward this on to the Director, Community Partnerships, for processing.
  • A General Researcher who wishes to utilise the name(s) of any person/family that may appear within an item in a publication/public document must attach a supporting letter from that person and/or descendent of a deceased person/family and/or a community or organisation that is the subject of the proposed publication, along with the Application Form.
  • The Director, Community Partnerships, may use his/her discretion with the respect to the need to redact information in compliance with the existing department Policy for Access to Restricted Archival Information.
  • Any information contained within a file that is likely to breach the privacy of the information will be redacted from a copy of the file provided to the applicant.
  • Following a review of a restricted file/s by department officers, the General Researcher will be advised that:
    • the status of the item has been changed to open (there-by allowing automatic access); or
    • a redacted copy will be provided (information that is deemed by the Director, Community Partnerships, to be in the public interest may not automatically be redacted from a document).

6. Other

Historical material managed by the department

The department manage privately owned records through legal agreements with the owners of the material.

This collection includes privately owned records such as:

  • The South Australian Museum owned Norman Tindale Collection (restrictions apply).
  • The University of Sydney owned A.P. Elkin genealogies (restrictions apply) – only ‘next of kin’ can receive material.
  • The Jan Goodacre Collection managed by the AHRU. (Restrictions apply).
  • The Daisy Bates Collection owned by the National Library of Australia. (No restrictions apply).
  • The A.R. Radcliffe Brown Collection. (Restrictions apply) – only ‘next of kin’ can receive material.
  • The Gerhart Laves collection. (Restrictions apply.) – only ‘next of kin’ can receive material.

South Australian Museum records

All material from the South Australian Museum collection provided by applicants for information must have a statement attached to it that informs the recipient:

  • that the accessed information is owned by the South Australian Museum;
  • that copyright of the information is held by the South Australian Museum;
  • that the copy of the accessed information is released for the purpose of genealogical research;
  • that application for any other use of the information must be placed with the South Australian Museum;
  • should the information be used for any other purpose, that no further information will be released to the applicant; and
  • contact details of the South Australian Museum.

Tindale photographs

Applicants can receive a copy of a photograph of themselves and their direct lineal ancestors from the Tindale collection, should they exist. Tindale photographs provided to applicants must have a statement attached that informs the recipient that:

  • for copyright reasons, permission to copy photographs must be obtained from the South Australian Museum.

Tindale genealogies

An applicant has the right to receive a copy of his or her own genealogical record as well as the record of their direct lineal ancestry.

Where a South Australian Museum genealogy is provided, the document must be accompanied by the following, clearly stated information to the applicant. Example as follows:

© The Museum Board of South Australia 1952.
Board for Anthropological Research AA 346/4/20/1

Page reviewed 11 September 2023