AIATSIS is an independent Commonwealth Government statutory authority. Located since January 2001 on Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra, AIATSIS is Australia’s premier institution for information about the cultures and lifestyles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. AIATSIS is governed by a Council of nine members, four of whom are elected by the Institute membership. The remaining five members, who must be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, are appointed by the Minister.
AIATSIS has a fifty year history of supporting and conducting research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and maintains a number of centres of research excellence. A primary role is the training of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers. Over fifty years the research efforts of AIATSIS have produced the world’s most extensive collections of printed, audio, and visual materials on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander topics. Since its establishment in the 1960s there has been a shift in the use of AIATSIS’ collections from solely academic research to also include use by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which for many is of a deeply personal nature given the particular focus on family history, native title and languages. These materials are used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for many reasons, including language and ceremony revitalisation, native title, establishing keeping places, for family history research and developing educational products. The collections of AIATSIS will provide vital support to the historical research of partners in the Deepening Histories of Place Project.
The AIATSIS Act (1989) and its policies have infused the whole organisation to respect the culturally appropriate ways of handling Indigenous materials and are an Australian leader in this. AIATSIS publishes the Guidelines for Ethical Research in Indigenous Studies which are now the standard framework for developing ethical research practices with Indigenous communities in the country. AIATSIS has also always been closely involved in the development of protocols for the treatment and access to collections material. AIATSIS was closely involved in the development of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library and Information Resource Network (ATSILIRN) Protocols. The Protocols are intended to guide libraries, archives and information services in appropriate ways to interact with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the communities which the organisations serve, and to handle materials with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content.
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