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Researchers Hunt 20th Century Indigenous Community Newsletters for Rare Serials Collection

Researchers are on the hunt for copies of newsletters produced in Indigenous communities around Australia in the latter half of the 20th century.

The newsletters were produced by schools, churches, language centres and other organisations to share information about the day-to-day activities, interests and concerns of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in both urban and remote areas.

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) holds newsletters representing over 200 groups in its rare serials collection — but is keen to find more.

First media mention of new band

AIATSIS curator Dr Blake Singley said an October 1980 copy of Tjakulpa from Papunya announced the formation of the Warumpi Band, whose members wrote, recorded and released the first Australian rock song in an Indigenous language.

Warumpi Band members stand with their guitars.

Photo: LtoR: The Warumpi Band’s Gordon Butcher, Neil Murray, Sammy Butcher, Dennis Minor and George Rrurrambui in 1981.

“It’s really the first mention of the Warumpi Band in print or in any other media I imagine,” Dr Singley said.

“[Tjakulpa was] a fairly homemade affair … the banner has been hand drawn and much of the material in the earlier editions in particular has been written in language.

“It just tells the goings-on of the community in a very unfiltered way.”

Some of the Indigenous community newsletters in the AIATSIS collection.

Photo: Some newsletters included hand drawn pictures and articles in Indigenous languages. (666 ABC Canberra: Louise Maher)

AIATSIS also has one copy of one edition of the newsletter produced by the Black Community School in Townsville, founded in 1973 by lands right campaigner Edward Koiki Mabo.

Fellow curator Dr Charlotte Craw said it told of the need for further funding for the school, as well as students’ personal stories.

“There are testimonies from the children attending the school who are talking about their experiences of mainstream education and often the racism that they’ve experienced in mainstream schools,” Dr Craw said.

Snapshot in time and family history resource

AIATSIS has also begun digitising some of the newsletters, starting with The Maningrida Mirage from 1969 to 1974.

“The community does still have a ringbinder full of copies of that newsletter … but they’re in poor condition,” Dr Craw said.

“So they actually approached us a few years ago asking for digital copies of the ones we’ve kept here, where they’re stored in archival conditions.”

As well as providing social snapshots, the newsletters are also regarded as an important primary source for family history.

“If people who are doing that kind of family history research come and look at these magazines they might find little moments in time that can help jog people’s memories and open up some intergenerational conversations as well,” Dr Craw said.


This article originally appears at:
Article taken from the following publication:
ABC News
Article submitted by:
Louise Maher

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