Why get in touch?
Dr Kat Ellinghaus
As well as the stories that we find in the archives, we would like to talk with people about their family’s experiences of exemption policy. I’m interested in your story, big or small. We could have a chat over the phone, Skype or in person. If you are comfortable, we could do a formal, recorded interview. You can remain anonymous if you wish.
This project is pending approval by the University of Melbourne Faculty of Arts HEAG Human Ethics Advisory Group.
Why might you want to do this?
You might want to contribute to the writing of an accurate, inclusive history of this country. This research may not only be of use not only to future historians, but also to policy-makers and non-profit organisations engaged in collaboration with Indigenous communities. Participants may feel empowered by the opportunity to tell their stories and have their and their family’s achievements recognized.
What are the risks?
Life history interviews always carry a risk that some questions may touch upon sensitive issues, and that these issues can vary from person to person, and this risk is of course much higher for colonised populations who have been on the receiving end of harsh policies, social disadvantage and institutionalised racism. In particular, questions about family, cultural conflict and economic hardship might create distress for these interviewees. Therefore, there is the danger that you could be upset by the memories brought up through certain lines of questioning. Because Indigenous communities are relatively small, you might also be fearful that, even if we don’t use your name, what you say might make you or the people you talk about publicly identifiable. Concerns about confidentiality are heightened in this context. There is also the possibility that a non-Indigenous interviewer might cause you distress through a lack of knowledge and sensitivity to Indigenous experience.
What will we do to ensure your story is safe?
The main priority of this project is to respect, protect and maintain the rights of Indigenous people to their traditional knowledge, cultural expressions and intellectual property. All possible measures to protect these rights will be undertaken throughout the entire process, from first approach through to publication of results. Researchers will respect participants’ rights to maintain secrecy of Indigenous knowledge and practices. They will show or distribute restricted material only with express permission from those who provided or are responsible for it. They will consider the impact of disclosure on the wider community, and if wider consultation is required prior to disclosure, this will be undertaken. This research will reflect the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have distinctive customs, language, spirituality and understandings that derive from their cultures and histories.
Do we have information about your family?
The records of exemption are held in state archives around the country and are often restricted because they contain sensitive material. I’ve been able to collect an extraordinary amount of information through the files that are available. We have a huge database, which comes from around the country. If your family or a member of your family had a history of exemption, it is possible that they are mentioned in the material that we have collected. It is also possible that for whatever reason we do not.
If you would like to us to check our files, please get in touch!
We will not be able to share any documents with you, but we can tell you (if there are any) where relevant documents are and how you might access them.