As researchers in the interpretivist paradigm we are expected to grapple and come to some sort of understanding of our participants’ worldview. This strikes me as an impossible task. When asked, my supervisors assured me that it is in fact impossible, but as long as we accept that we have tried our best and engage in reflective practice that our research will be robust. I find it difficult to come to terms with these concepts especially since my research focuses on Aboriginal culture. I feel as though it would be the height of stupidity to pretend to have even a basic understanding of their worldview. Although my professors raised the point that perhaps I am actually doing the Aboriginal community a disservice by assuming that we have vastly different worldviews. How do I navigate the line between ‘othering’ the Indigenous community and respecting the fact that cultural differences exist?
In 2008, then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered a ground breaking apology to the Stolen Generations. Many thought that this would be a momentous step toward reconciliation and a fresh start for Aboriginal Australians.
Instead, removal rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have increased by 65 per cent since Kevin Rudd said sorry to the Stolen Generations. This has largely gone unreported by the Australian media.
According to The Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services there were 14,991 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care as of 30 June 2014.
That makes up 35 per cent of all children in care, despite the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children only make up 4.4 percent of the population.
According to New Matilda, Debra Swan worked in NSW Child Protection services for 13 years before she quit in protest after her sister’s grandchildren were removed. Debra said that “The Stolen Generations never stopped. It’s a continuation. They just changed the language of it.”
These human rights abuses are continuing. The Australian archival community are making a valiant effort toward supporting victims of the previous Stolen Generations to have access to their records and therefore make sense of their experiences. Projects such as the Find and Connect web resource have made significant contributions toward helping these individuals reconnect with their records and their past.
However it is no longer enough to focus upon making our archival systems less biased towards white Australian and governmental records. We need to be engaging actively in outreach programs to minimise the damage done to these children today instead of waiting for the publication of another Bringing Them Home report in the future.
Photo taken of a protest march in 2014. Original image on stopstolengenerations.com.au
I am a research archivist based in Melbourne, Australia.
My research interests include:
- Connected systems and systemic thinking
- Personal archives and identity formation
- Digital humanities
- Archives and social justice
Learn more about my research activities here.