Artwork © Richard Allan

Indigenous Matters

The Australian Library and Information Association acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to lands, waters, cultures, and communities. ALIA acknowledges Indigenous knowledge systems and ways of knowing that have existed on these Lands for millennia. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to Elders past and present.

First Nations Collection Description Guidelines Training 

We are delighted to share the new seven-part video training resources created by Tui Raven that accompany the Guidelines for First Nations Collection Description to support and inspire library and archive staff as they transition to implement the Guidelines into their descriptive practice at the item level, into updated team workflows, and as they review policies and content management systems. There are a number of illustrative case studies that highlight best practice and are useful for Indigenous people and library and archive users to be aware of to support their use of library and archive services. 

Watch the training videos on the ALIA Vimeo page here:


ALIA’s vision is for an Australia where library and information services are fully inclusive of Australia’s First Nation’s cultures and perspectives, truth telling is supported, and where First Nations peoples are an integral part of the Australian library services workforce.

In the context of our organisation, this means engaging meaningfully with First Nations’ workers in the library and information sector, removing barriers to a more diverse and inclusive library and information workforce, and supporting the implementation of First Nations’ policies and protocols in the Australian library and information sector.

Libraries and archives are not always safe spaces for Indigenous peoples in Australia. There are concrete efforts towards cultural safety, however, progress has been inconsistent and ununified, and if libraries and memory institutions are to be representative of the communities they serve, greater efforts are needed.

ALIA values the creation of strong, enduring and meaningful relationships that help us better understand how ALIA can effectively be of support in realising our vision.

Areas of activity

  • ALIA has facilitated the formation of an Expert Advisory Group made up of seven members. ALIA is listening to the group’s professional expertise related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander priority areas on LIS matters.
  • The ALIA Strategic Plan 2021-2024 sets out the task to support organisations seeking to increase diversity within their workforces and help develop libraries’ role as culturally safe spaces.
  • The Professional Pathways project is committed to embedding recognition and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contexts, knowledges and Country into core competencies. The Professional Pathways Framework was created in close collaboration with the ALIA EAG.
  • The ALIA Innovate RAP 2022-2024 was endorsed by Reconciliation Australia in 2022. Implementation of the RAP firms ALIA’s organisational commitment to reconciliation and provides a central focus for the many ways we contribute to affirmative reconciliation action.
  • Indigenous matters are included in the Foundation knowledge for entry level library and information professionals (2020) and in the Foundation statement for information professionals working in archives, libraries and records management (2020).
  • In ALIA's statement on copyright and intellectual property, ALIA recognises and respects the communal ownership of Indigenous cultural property. 
  • ALIA supported the original ATSILIRN protocols and is currently taking steps to support the review and revitalisation of the Protocols.
  • The ALIA CPD Scheme hosts an Indigenous Engagement specialisation and a Public Library specialisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services, both with a set of competencies and a skills audit checklist. The monthly CPD Digest newsletter provides ALIA Professional members with current learning resources related to this specialisation.
  • Internationally, ALIA provided initial support for the creation of the IFLA Section for Indigenous Matters and continues to be a financial member of the section.
  • Every ALIA conference, event and meeting commences with an Acknowledgement of Country or a Welcome to Country where appropriate.
  • ALIA is a long-term supporter of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, providing free promotion through ALIA newsletters and conferences.

2022 – 2023

  • ALIA partnered with AIATSIS, NSLA, CAUL, CAVAL, ALIA ACORD, and a First Nations researcher to begin the First Nations Collections Description Guidelines Project to support those working with First Nations collections create high quality metadata and item records.
  • ALIA provided two Indigenous Scholarships to LIS students from Charles Sturt University.
  • Professional Pathways Framework includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Professional Knowledge and Core domains, and was created in close collaboration with the ALIA EAG.
  • The ALIA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander EAG were brought to Ngunnawal Country for their annual face-to-face meeting at ALIA House.
  • The ALIA House team, in collaboration with the EAG, created a risk register template to mitigate negative impacts for First Nations workforces for libraries in relation to the Referendum on the Voice to Parliament.
  • The Online Storytime program collaborated with leading First Nations publisher Magabala Books to create two Indigenous written and illustrated children’s picture books. These were launched at Australian Parliament House.
  • ALIA National Office hosted a Charles Sturt University Indigenous scholarship recipient in virtual two-week placement. The student was supported to focus on their area of interest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives.
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stream was added to Public Library Proficiency training program for Libraries South Australia.
  • ALIA acknowledged Reconciliation Week and NIADOC with morning tea and staff professional learning activities. Money was raised for the ILF through a book swap.

2021 – 2022

  • The ALIA National Conference had the theme of ‘diversity’ and included numerous presentations by First Nations LIS professionals and about First Nations topics.
  • ALIA provided an Indigenous Scholarships for a LIS student from Charles Sturt University. The recipient wrote an article for INCITE magazine and has gone on to hold a significant Indigenous role in library and archives.
  • In collaboration with Jumbunna Institute, the ALIA Education and Policy Team developed and delivered Contexts, Collections and Communities for State Library of Queensland, a training program weaving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives throughout a public library course. 
  • The ALIA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander EAG were brought to an annual face-to-face meeting on Gadigal County at the University of Sydney.
  • INCITE in conversation spot lighted the Curtin team and their work with colleagues in the library and other areas of the university to engage Indigenous perspectives through the library’s services and collections
  • Ngunnawal artist, Ritchie Allen Jr, was commissioned to create a digital artwork for ALIA’s RAP and publications.
  • ALIA acknowledged Reconciliation Week and NIADOC with morning tea and staff professional learning activities. Money was raised for the ILF through a book swap.

2019 – 2021

  • ALIA completed and published a Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan for May 2019 – January 2021
  • Indigenous artist Wayne ‘Buddy’ Martin was commissioned to create a message stick which could be passed from one President to the next, to symbolise the passing on of knowledge, experience and goodwill from the current Board to the future Board. From the request, Buddy created two clapping sticks – a traditional instrument used during ceremonies. Both sticks are made from Mallee timber, the first was burnt to create dot and thatch patterns, representing craft and culture and features the ALIA star. The second stick is painted with kangaroo, emu, possum and goanna footprints and a circular design, which signifies everything beginning in the land and coming back to country.
  • ALIA published the report, 2019: A year in libraries which featured information on the 2019 United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages.
  • ALIA investigated the provenance of the Rainbow Serpent bark painting, commissioned for the ALIA Darwin conference in 1986 and secured a copyright arrangement for five years. The painting is a valued asset of the Association and a treasured feature within ALIA House.
  • Kirsten Thorpe presented the findings from her research report in a Research Review Seminar

2018 – 2019

Under President Lyndall Ley, ALIA’s presidential theme for 2018-2019 was ‘Indigenous matters’ and the following five projects were carried out.

  1. Finding ways to ensure more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are qualified for employment in professional library roles;
  2. Initiating a review and revision of the ATSILIRN (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library and Information and Resource Network) Protocols allied with work on classification of First Nations’ original material;
  3. Supporting libraries and library and information professionals to acknowledge and celebrate the International Year of Indigenous Languages in 2019;
  4. Creating ALIA’s first Reconciliation Action Plan;
  5. Producing guidance for libraries and library and information professionals seeking to improve library services for Indigenous people through the publication of a case study-based report.

These projects were undertaken by ALIA in partnership with LIS educators, National and State Libraries Australia, AIATSIS, ATSILIRN, the ALIA Australian Public Library Alliance and other stakeholders.

ALIA Board supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart

In July 2018 ALIA Directors stated their support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which aligns with the Association’s objects and values.

Referendum on the Voice to Parliament
There was a referendum vote on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament on 14 October 2023. To support library staff prepare and think through strategies for the wellbeing of First Nations staff and library communities, ALIA prepared a risk assessment template and toolkit for libraries, which can be found in Member Resources. The referendum has passed, but these resources may continue to be useful.


Libraries are here to direct people to information resources, help provide access to quality information about the referendum and support understanding of mis and disinformation. The NSW Aboriginal Land Council has a simple and clear factsheet on mis and disinformation

Below are election resources that are freely available to everyone and can help inform and promote understanding about how referenda function, the question being put to Australian citizens, and the issues at stake. Wellbeing resources are included to spread awareness of their availability and importance at this time.

Election resources

The Australian Electoral Commission website consolidates information about how to enrol, or check enrolment, instructions on how to vote, and sets out the referendum timetable.

The Australian Government Voice webpage outlines the official statements about what an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice would do and how it would be set up. You can also download information pamphlets, posters, fact sheets, and videos in eight First Nations languages and sixteen non-Indigenous languages including Auslan.

The Australian Human Rights Commission webpage provides a view of the referendum from a human rights perspective as well as a host of resources, and a resource kit.

Museum of Australian Democracy (MOAD) hosts a Referendums A – Z resource.

 The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) Voice webpage holds a range of information. You can also read the proposed constitutional amendment and the Voice design principles in full. 

Reconciliation Australia  provides a series of resources and rich information about the referendum as well as about disinformation and fact-checking resources.

SBS have resources in Auslan about the referendum and information about the referendum in twenty-one First Nations languages and over sixty non-Indigenous languages.

NITV (National Indigenous Television) have a range of videos and interviews about the Voice referendum from all positions on the political spectrum. 

Wellbeing resources

13YARN is a culturally safe First Nations crisis support line. You can call on 13 92 76 for free, confidential one-on-one yarning opportunity with an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporter, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Wellmob hosts social, emotional and cultural resources, developed by and for First Nations people. This includes websites, apps, podcasts, videos, social media, and online counselling with a focus on social and emotional wellbeing. 

AIMhi-Y is a mobile app designed to support the wellbeing of First Nations young people, aged 12-25. The AIMhi-Y app is available for download on mobile devices via the App Store (Apple) or Google Play (Android) 
The eSafety Commission hosts a suite of resources for First Nations digital wellbeing, including practical actions to protect yourself online, and ways to report harmful content on the internet.

The Australian Government Department of Health has a support service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, acknowledging that discussions about the Voice can be detrimental to wellbeing. 

Mental Health Australia is one of the Allies for Uluru and provides information and resources for individuals and the mental health sector to have safe, respectful conversations.