Archival Science

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 353–372

Rethinking archival, ethical and legal frameworks for records of Indigenous Australian communities: a participant relationship model of rights and responsibilities

Original paper


Archival systems have been based on the conventional understanding of the relationship between record subjects as third parties and record creators as the principal parties to the record transaction, thus limiting the rights of those captured in and by the record. An alternative approach is a participant relationship model which acknowledges all parties to a transaction as immediate parties with negotiated rights and responsibilities. A number of legal and archival concepts support a participant model of co-creatorship and associated responsibilities in relation to ownership, access and privacy. The application of the participant model to Indigenous Australian record subjects, in particular to records about them held in archival institutions or in creating organisations would enhance Indigenous rights in records. Indigenous claims to ownership over archival sources of Indigenous knowledge can be characterised in the legal concept of a bundle of rights that recognises more than one interest to control, disclose, access and use records. Human rights principles in international and national human rights instruments also support the assertion of Indigenous rights in records. Archival and legal reform is required to fully implement the participant model but a number of archival, ethical and legal strategies would accelerate its implementation. The re-conceptualisation of the record subject as a record co-creator can also be applied to non-Indigenous contexts and therefore has significant archival and legal implications.


Participant model Indigenous Australian archives Indigenous human rights Record co-creatorship 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre For Organisational and Social Informatics, Faculty of Information TechnologyMonash UniversityCaulfield EastAustralia

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