Putting history back in the hands of Aboriginal people, one family tree at a time

19 February 2019


A new printed and electronic resource launched at the South Australian Museum today makes it easier for Aboriginal people, including members of the Stolen Generation, to become the authors of their own family histories.

The Aboriginal Family History Unit was established at the South Australian Museum by Dr Doreen Kartinyeri, respected Ngarrindjeri Elder, in 1987 and has a proud tradition of helping Australian Aboriginal people to make more connections with their past and present families and culture.

Mr Ali Abdullah-Highfold, Kaurna, Ngarrindjeri man and Family and Community History Consultant at the South Australian Museum, said that while the Museum’s family history unit has a thirty-year history of helping Aboriginal people to connect with their family and community, the new resource will give Aboriginal people easier access to available resources for Aboriginal family history.

“The Family History Unit works with Aboriginal people including many members of the Stolen Generation, with the aim of furthering their connections to family, country and culture,” said Mr Abdullah-Highfold.

“Prior to the release of this new resource community members had to spend many hours with us, researching hand-written family genealogies.

“Now, by using this resource, people can find the name of a family member and contact us, we can then help people explore their genealogies and family history more readily,” said Mr Abdullah-Highfold.

The Family History Unit at the South Australian Museum has a rich collection of hand-written genealogies, crayon drawings, photos, film, personal data and cultural information, which was collected by anthropologist Norman Tindale during his work with the Anthropological Research Board in South Australia from 1938-1939.

“Imagine holding a crayon drawing that your great-grandmother created when she was a child or seeing a photo of her for the first time” said Mr Abdullah-Highfold.

“We created this new resource, which is primarily an index of names, to help more Aboriginal people access their histories,” he said.

People can use the printed index and PDF available on the South Australian Museum website, or gain digital access to their family genealogy through a free downloadable genealogy app by RootsMagic software.

“With the launch of this new resource we not only aim to make it easier for Aboriginal people to engage with family and community. We also see it as a way for Aboriginal people to document and build on their own family genealogies for generations to come,” said Mr Abdullah-Highfold.