The University of Sydney Archives has taken a leading role in the research, interpretation and access rights of Indigenous material in Australia. The university’s first Indigenous Research Fellow Yolngu Elder Dr Joseph Gumbula worked with academic Dr Aaron Corn to research photographs taken in the 1920s and 1930s in north-eastern Arnhem Land. The images were taken during the early settlement of the Miliŋinbi (Milingimbi) community by anthropologist William Lloyd Warner in 1927-29 and the missionary T.T. Webb from 1926-1939. Dr Gumbula also looked at records created by Professor AP Elkin and Dr Annie Margaret McArthur of Miliŋinbi (Milingimbi) and Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island).
In this video, Dr Gumbula and University Reference Archivist Julia Mant talk about the Yolngu-led project that was started with an Australian Research Council grant in 2007. It covers how access rights to the university archive collection were determined – categorising the photographs into garma, dhuni and ngarra access groups according to Yolngu way. Dr Gumbula reflects on how the consultation process with the Yolngu elders, whose family are depicted in the images, has had a significant impact on the community. Not only has the project had a profound impact on him personally, but it has created opportunities for a better understanding between the two worlds.
Miliŋinbi (Milingimbi) and Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island), North-Eastern Arnhem Land
The Macleay Museum is currently hosting the exhibition Makarr-garma: Aboriginal Collections from a Yolŋu Perspective. Guest curator Dr Gumbula shares his understanding of Aboriginal artefacts in the Macleay Museum from the Yolngu perspective. The exhibition at the University of Sydney charts the course of a day using objects, artworks and natural history specimens, historical and contemporary photographs, sound and light. It will run until 15 May 2010.
The Gumbula Project team, Julia Mant (far left), Dr Joe Gumbula and Dr Aaron Corn (centre)
Matjabala Mali’ Buku-Ruŋanmaram: implications for archives and access in Arnhem Land