First Nations Archives Advisor seeks fuller picture of Queensland’s records
- Last updated:
- 24 March 2022 9:50AM
- First published:
- 25 October 2021 11:17AM
Proud Butchulla woman, Rose Barrowcliffe, was recently appointed as the inaugural First Nations Archives Advisor with the Queensland State Archives.
For Rose, archives are not just an interest, but a way for First Nations people to have their perspectives included in the way history is told.
“The role is new and really, it’s about supporting the Queensland State Archives in assisting the Queensland Government with their pathway to Treaty,” Rose said.
“My role is helping the Queensland State Archives to think about representation and agency of First Nations people in that process of truth telling, and how it can be a place that supports Indigenous people to take control of their own narratives and knowing their histories.
“If I can help to make the archives and records a place of interest for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to make their communities and cultures stronger, then I think that’s the ultimate goal.
“Archives are incredibly important but have been underutilised quite a lot to date, so I’d love to see it become a place that’s as well-loved and well-used as a local library.”
Rose’s appointment to the new role involved a research journey that led to her undertaking her PhD.
“I started my PhD because I heard about an archive that was about my traditional Country and I went to look at it, thinking surely, it’s going to have lots of Butchulla content, and it really didn’t and that was shocking to me,” Rose said.
“So that sparked my interest and that’s what set me on my research path to understand how archival practice affects representation of Indigenous people.”
Rose is still undertaking her PhD while she’s working in the role and held an exhibition as part of her doctoral research, called ‘Reading between the lines’.
“The exhibition invites visitors to walk on Country and hear Butchulla people’s thoughts on the K’Gari Research Archives, how they relate to Butchulla history and on archives more generally.
“It really frames it as the Butchulla history and the Butchulla stories have existed long before colonisation and colonial record and they still continue to this day.”
Through her research, Rose found a community of practice with the Indigenous Archives Collective.
“It’s group of Indigenous people and allies that work either within or associated with archives, not just in Australia but around the world,” Rose said.
“It’s about being a voice for Indigenous people in archives, both in the profession and also from a community point of view and making sure Indigenous concerns are being considered at all levels of archival practice.
“There’s two really important concepts in honouring perspectives in archives - one of them is the right to know and the other one is the right of reply.
“The Tandanya Declaration is an international declaration about the rights and responsibilities that archives have to Indigenous peoples, not just in Australia but around the world.
“Part of my role is helping Queensland State Archives to understand how we can take that global declaration and apply it locally.”
Acknowledging First Nations records, and perspectives is the first step to put those principles into practice.
“The records that we have in Queensland State Archives are records of Queensland Government agencies and departments, which are often paper records. It’s important to recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have their own records and their own archives and often those records are not written down and they are recorded in stories, in songs and artworks and dance,” Rose said.
Including different perspectives, respecting diversity within communities and looking to better understand our history, is a way to move forward as a state.
“Queensland is a very diverse place, and we have lots of different identities and cultures within the state.
“I think if you’re going tell history, you need to respect that there are a lot of different perspectives from every part of that history and to do justice to people that live in the state, you need to include those perspectives in the history telling,” Rose said.
Watch Rose’s video about her new role.
My name is Rose Barrowcliffe, I am a Butchulla woman, and I am a PhD student at the University of the Sunshine Coast, and I was recently appointed the First Nations Advisor to the Queensland State Archives.
The role is new and really, it’s supporting the Queensland State Archives in assisting the Queensland Government with their pathway to Treaty.
A large part of that is truth telling and obviously the Archives have a big part in that because they hold the records from the Queensland Government.
So, my PhD is about archival practice, and how that impacts on the representation of Indigenous peoples, which then, how does that impact on what we know is history. And I made a mini documentary series which is what became the exhibition.
My interest and my research in archives has really just come from my own personal experience of visiting an archive and being shocked that there wasn’t more about Butchulla people in the archive and that’s what got me started on my research journey.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have their own records and their own archives and often those records are non-literate as in they’re not written down and they are recorded in stories, and songs and artworks and dance and we need to be mindful of incorporating those stories as well and listening to them and giving them equal weight.
My role is helping them to think about representation and agency of First Nations people in that process of truth telling and how Queensland State Archives going forward can be a place that supports Indigenous people in this state in taking control of their own narratives and knowing their histories.