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A brief history

Aboriginal Family Research

Whats it all about?

© Copyright Margy Duke


1 hour  /   $40

Aboriginal Family Research is not a lighthearted topic.  After being involved on both sides of the child protection fence (as an Aboriginal child in care and as an Aboriginal child protection worker).  I have been able to identify different types and degrees of Aboriginal disconnectedness which dictates the approach in which I then undertake in my research. It is of course an extremely sensitive topic for so may reasons least of all because our Aboriginal history of genocide and assimilation is so recent that it sits within living memory for many of us. The wounds are raw.

Most people believe the White Australia Policy was one policy dictating the removal of our people, however it was a collection of Federal Government Policies such as the Immigration Act of 1901 and the Defense ACT 1903 that were designed for one keep Australia white. These laws also effected the lives of every other person of colour living in Australia and/or from other cultures wanting to come to Australia. They even prevented Aboriginal men who wanted to serve their country in war. Anyone who was NOT of British heritage such as the Chinese who where horribly persecuted and discriminated against, South Sea Islanders, Indians from Asia and even Continental Europeans where targets. Each state had a version of the Aborigines Protection Act which allowed total control over Aboriginal peoples lives. These laws both restricted and limited almost every aspect of their existence, from birth to death.


The Stolen Generations are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were taken - 'Removed' - from the care of their families and communities directly as a result of these government policies. In the early days our people were rounded up and placed on Reservations and Missions, many of which still exist today. As time went on there was a realisation that these 'dark people' were not just dying out and becoming extinct they were surviving...the approach needed to would be easier to breed the 'native out' and so Aboriginal children became the target. The child removals that took place were supported by these legislation's and were acted out by not only governments agencies but by various churches under the guise of needing to 'Save the black man - Save the natives -Save the heathens'. Additionally other various welfare bodies also undertook removals. Aboriginal children where gathered up from their parents, families and communities and mostly placed in institutional homes such as Bomederry Aboriginal Babies Home, Cootamundra Girls Training Home and Kinchela Boys Home in NSW where they could be trained to be white. In later years  they entered Out of Home Care, aka Foster Care.


Sadly...genocide and assimilation have been common themes for our people since the British colonization began in 1788.


Being Aboriginal & Having Aboriginal Ancestry

Whats the Difference?

First & foremost, Your Journey is yours alone!


If you were removed and identify as a Stolen Generation person, your Journey Home is about

Healing, Reconnecting,  Re-establishing  and Re-building your Relationships

back to your Aboriginal family, back to your community, culture and history and stories.

Being Aboriginal - Being Aboriginal is a lived experience, its about Walking with Us and its about Relationships. People who identify themselves as 'Aboriginal' range from dark-skinned, broad-nosed to blonde-haired, blue-eyed people. Aboriginal people define Aboriginality not by the skin colour but by relationships and by connectivity, by being a part of the overall Aboriginal community in Australia. If you are a Stolen Generation person and your removal disconnected you, then your walk is about reconnecting you back to your People, your Elders and your Nation. The trail through your disconnection can be followed because it is relatively recent and because your individual community will still be living.
Having Aboriginal Ancestry - Having Aboriginal ancestry is acknowledging that somewhere in your family's history you had an Aboriginal ancestor. But for whatever reason, (sadly in most cases it has not been due to romantic and love interest reasons), that Aboriginal ancestors cultural & family connections were never continued..its not a living entity within your recent family history and hence you identify as having an Aboriginal ancestor rather then being an Aboriginal person.
An analogy I like to use is; My 5x Grandmother, Amelia DuCriox was a French woman, she was French born, spoke the French language, had French parents and immigrated to Australia with her Irish born husband John McCrohon. They are both my ancestors and I carry a degree of their DNA within me, but...I do not and cannot identity as being either a French or an Irish person, but rather that I have French and Irish ancestry.   


Aboriginal Family Research aka Looking for your Mob

What I need to help establish  & confirm your Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander heritage?


What I will need


I require as much information as possible about your ancestry.

1. Your parent's names? Born where? When? Their brothers and sisters? Your grandparent's names or nicknames? Born when? Where? Their brothers and sisters?

2. All birth or marriage certificates of your parents or grandparents.

3. Were your family associated with a mission, a station, a town?

4. A certificate that traces your family to a particular Aboriginal station or reserve. (these are rare)

5. You may have oral history stories that link to an area or person or even a photograph.

6. If you have been displaced and don’t have any documents I will require as much information as possible to begin the search.



Confirmation of Aboriginality

Please Note: Certificates of Aboriginality are a highly contentious issue within the national Aboriginal community. They should not be taken lightly or for granted. Being Aboriginal is about Relationships, Connecteness, Belonging and Identity.

© Copyright Margy Duke

Why do I need to provide a letter confirming my heritage?

A range of government and community services and programmes are specifically targeted at addressing the social, health and educational issues that Indigenous people may face as a result of past government policies and inadequate access to educational, employment and health services. Requesting proof of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage from applicants for these services helps to ensure that they are benefiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

Do I meet the criteria for an official confirmation?


The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act (2005) (Cth) defines Aboriginality/Torres Strait Islander heritage as:

            •Aboriginal person means a person of the Aboriginal race of Australia.

            •Torres Strait Islander means a descendant of an indigenous inhabitant of the Torres Strait Islands.


Additionally, there are three criteria which Indigenous organisations will require you to satisfy before they will provide you with proof of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage. These criteria, which are often referred to as a ‘working definition’ of Aboriginality or Torres Strait Islander heritage, are also used by many government agencies and other institutions to interpret the meaning of the above definitions.


The three criteria are:

            •being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent

            •identifying as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person

            •being accepted as such by the community in which you live, or formerly lived

What I need to help establish  & confirm your Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander heritage?


Confirmation of heritage requires you to provide a registered Indigenous community organisation with sufficient evidence of your heritage that their committee can review in order to issue you with a letter of confirmation stamped with their common seal.


The first step 


I require as much information as possible about your ancestry.

The second step

Once I have established your Aboriginal connections I will contact either an Indigenous community organisation based where your family is known, or if you have moved regions or been displaced, in the location where you now accepted by community. It is useful to contact an organisation where your family is from, if possible, as someone in the community might know of or remember your family.


An Indigenous organisation in the area where you live may also be able to provide you with a letter of confirmation. For instance, if you live in Canberra and your family is from the Canberra region, you could contact the Ngunnawal Land Council in Queanbeyan. If you live in Canberra but your family is from elsewhere, you would contact the Land Council in the area your family came from or were known.


What to do Next?


For some people moving forward can be a little scary, fear of the unknown can be daunting and stall your search, in saying that, it will happen as and when its meant to happen, some things cannot be forced and I have found that after years of doing family research, doors will not open until you are spiritually and emotionally ready for them to open.


For other people the drive to know who they are and where they come from is very intense and they know what they need to keep traveling ahead.

If you're not sure I would suggest you give me a call so we can yarn about your situation and possible next steps. Those steps do not have to be about engaging my services, it may be about me acting as a sounding board to help you re-focus and prioritise your next steps. 

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