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Ian Hogbin and local research assistants in Guadalcanal

Indigenous records

Records of Aboriginal and Pacific Islander peoples
We hold the oldest Australian academic anthropology records documenting Indigenous communities in Australia and the South Pacific region. They are listed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register.

These records comprise the personal archives of prominent anthropologists (including AR Radcliffe-Brown, AP Elkin, HIP Hogbin and Camilla Wedgwood), records of the Anthropology Department, and records of researchers funded by the Australian National Research Council (including WEH Stanner, Olive Pink, Ursula McConnell, and WL Warner).

Included are field notes, genealogies, correspondence, photographs, audio-visual material, reports and secondary sources. The field research records date from 1910 and include references to over 60 Aboriginal languages.

First Nations Peoples should be aware that the University of Sydney Archives hold sensitive content in various formats including audio, film, photographs and printed material, which may be considered distressing, inappropriate or offensive. The Archives holds material that contains images and names of deceased people. Material in the collection about First Nations people and cultures has traditionally been created and recorded by non-Indigenous people. As a result, this material may contain inaccuracies and misinterpretations. Researchers should also be aware that some material contains descriptions and words which do not reflect current understandings and could be considered offensive and inappropriate in today’s context. While the Archives does not support such language and views, this information is presented without alteration.

Archives series identified as containing records relating to Australian Indigenous people:

Archives series identified as containing records relating to indigenous peoples of the Pacific region:

These lists of language groups and places are drawn from the current guides to the record holdings. Some spelling will be out of date. These lists should not be taken as definitive. It is expected that additional languages and places will be identified through the process of indexing the records.

  • Languages (Bardi, Karadjeri, Jabera-Jaber, Lunga, Ugarinyin, Worror, Nyul Nyul, Djaru)
  • Places (Forrest River, Hall’s Creek, Beagle Bay)
New South Wales
  • Languages (Kumbuingari, Kattang, Bandjalang, Murawari, Kamilaroi, Yualarao, Yiegara, Dangati, North Raga, Barkunjee, Amberu, Anewan, Birpai, Wanygawalku, Ngaimba, Yukumbil, Yuungai, Kogai, Wiradjuri)
  • Places (Bellbrook, north-east NSW, south-east Qld, Walgett) 
Northern Territory
  • Languages (Rembarnga, Djauan (Jawoyn), Djinba, Wailbri, Waramunga, Djarada, Mangarai, Alawa, Wagaitj, Aranda) 
  • Places (Arnhem Land, Roper River, Port Essington, Groote Eylandt, Bathurst Island, Milingimbi, Elcho Island)
  • Languages (Wik Munkun, Yukum, Yagara, Ompela, Djandai) 
  • Places (Yarrabah, Weipa, Cape York)
South Australia
  • Languages (including Antakarinya, Aluridja, Arabana, Yaralde, Wirango) 
  • Places (Mt Margaret, Fowlers Bay)
  • Languages (Bangerang, Nganguruku/Capwuron)
Western Australia
  • Languages (Karigarra, Kariera, Ngaluma, Warienga, Maia, Binigura, Burduna, Baiong, Noala, Ingarda, Warienga, Thalainji, Bailgu, Mardudhunera, Targari, Wajeri, Nyamal)
  • Places (Albany, Bernier and Dorres Island, Carnavon)

We manage these records in accordance with ATSILIRN protocols recognising the particular historical and emotional importance these records hold for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Access to some records is restricted for privacy reasons or out of respect for the rights and/or beliefs of indigenous peoples.

If you wish to seek access to restricted records permission from either the individual referenced in the records or the source community is required.

The photographs within the Elkin personal archives are currently closed. A project is underway to identify the relevant people/community/communities that can grant access to the images.

Before requesting copies please read our information on copying and reproduction of records.

If you are seeking copies of records for a Native title claim you must be an authorised representative of the claimants.

All copying is undertaken by an external bureau and is paid for by the researcher. There will also be an associated administrative cost to the Archives for preparation of the material to be digitised.

Featured image (top of the page): Ian Hogbin and research assistants in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, 1930s. Ian Hogbin Personal Archives, P15_12_9_001.