Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are a growing population of close to 50,000 people across the state.

Barriers to access

The members of this community face disproportionate and multiple layers of disadvantage, including shorter life expectancy, higher rates of infant mortality, poorer health, and lower levels of education and employment than non-Indigenous Australians. Around one-third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians are under the age of 15, and only 5.3 per cent are over 65 years of age (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008.0 - Census of population and housing: nature and content, Australia, 2016).

The Library and government

Victoria has adopted a whole-of-government approach to work with the Aboriginal community to address and reverse areas of disadvantage, focusing on self-determination.

As a public institution, State Library Victoria acknowledges the heritage and culture of Victoria’s First Peoples.

National and State Libraries Australasia

The Library is a member of the National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA) and commits to nationally and internationally recognised protocols to ensure that collections and services are accessible, appropriate and responsive to the needs and perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, see Appendix 2 of the PDF available for download on the Diversity and social inclusion action plan landing page

As a member of NSLA, the Library commits to promoting standards of excellence across the library and information sector, with a focus on:

  • the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be informed about collections that exist relating to them, their culture, language and heritage
  • the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to determine use and access provisions for heritage materials that reflect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture, language and perspectives
  • the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in decision-making processes at all levels to achieve informed and appropriate directions and agendas across the library and information sector
  • the development of strategies to increase employment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff within the library and information sector
  • the development of strategies to strengthen cultural competency across our workforce, including knowledge and awareness of issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander library users
  • the development of strategies to return usable copies of collection material to cultural owners to support cultural and language maintenance or revitalisation.

Employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians

The Library employs a 0.6 FTE Koori Librarian whose role is supported by a 0.6 FTE Koori Officer – both positions are identified for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants only. The primary role of the Koori Librarian is to guide the development of policy and practice for the implementation of the protocols endorsed in the NSLA position statement. The main policy development has been the introduction of the Cultural Permissions Program, which privileges Indigenous knowledge practices in the management of requests to use Indigenous collection material in publications and exhibitions. This ensures that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can determine the use of their cultural heritage held in the Library’s collections.

Cultural heritage and the collection

From its early days as the first collecting institution in the new settlement of Port Phillip, State Library Victoria has been in a unique position to develop our holdings of books, photographs and other material relating to Aboriginal peoples. Beyond collecting, the Library has undertaken a number of initiatives designed to promote understanding and recognition of the many forms Aboriginal cultural heritage takes. We have acted independently and in partnership with relevant festivals and organisations to deliver programming focusing on Indigenous art, culture, history and language.

Sharing research skills

In 2017 the Library successfully piloted a research skills program to meet the information needs of members of the Koori community. The program supported the exchange of expertise between Library staff and members of the Koori community to build capacity for independent research and enable our collections to inspire new research. There will also be an Indigenous Fellowship offered in 2018–19.

A culturally aware workplace

The Library provides Aboriginal cultural awareness training for staff to help build knowledge exchange and engagement, and will continue to over the next three years.