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Decolonizing recordkeeping and archival praxis in childhood out-of-home Care and indigenous archival collections

A Correction to this article was published on 17 March 2020

This article has been updated

Abstract

This paper presents the aims and findings of two research projects—Rights in Records by Design and Indigenous Archiving and Cultural Safety—making particular reference to the ways in which Australia’s current child welfare systems and their recordkeeping and archival praxis have been indelibly shaped by colonization and its legacies, which persist into the twenty-first century. We posit that the classist, heteropatriarchal, sexist and racist colonial constructs of child welfare, the neglected and criminal child, and Indigeneity persist to this day and continue to be embodied in the form and content of records and archives, as well as in the principles and values embedded in recordkeeping and archival systems. The paper begins with discussion of framing concepts drawn from records continuum theory and critical theory, followed by an overview of both projects. We then explore in-depth findings of the Rights Charter, Historical Justice, and Educational components of Rights in Records by Design and Indigenous Archiving and Cultural Safety with particular attention to colonial values and negative constructs of childhood and Indigeneity, respectively, and their impacts from colonial times to the present. Importantly, we discuss the intersection of constructs of childhood and Indigeneity with colonial values and constructs embedded in recordkeeping and archiving systems. We note that the primary purpose of recordkeeping in colonial times was to provide critical infrastructure that enabled imperial control and exploitation. Consequently, we point to the need for childhood recordkeeping and archiving itself to be decolonized, to embody constructs of the child as having agency and rights, and, in turn, to play its part in decolonizing childhood. Finally, we discuss the contributions that each project is making to decolonizing recordkeeping and archiving theory and practice, and the potential for decolonized recordkeeping and archiving to play their part in decolonizing childhood for children in out-of-home Care and Indigenous Australian children caught up in the Indigenous child welfare system, respectively.

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Change history

  • 17 March 2020

    In the original publication of the article, the term ���Indigenous��� in the title was not capitalized. As the article is specifically referring to Indigenous people in Australia, the correct article title should be as given below.

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Acknowledgements

The Rights in Records by Design Project is funded through an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant DP170100198. The Chief Investigators are Associate Professor Joanne Evans (Monash University), Associate Professor Jacqueline Wilson (Federation University Australia), Professor Sue McKemmish (Monash University), Associate Professor Philip Mendes (Monash University), Professor Keir Reeves (Federation University Australia), and Dr Jane Bone (Monash University), with postdoctoral fellow Dr Gregory Rolan and research fellow Frank Golding OAM. Associate Professor Joanne Evans is also the recipient of ARC Future Fellowship FT140100073 Connecting the Disconnected: Co-Designing Inclusive Archival and Recordkeeping Systems. We acknowledge the contributions of all those involved in the Setting the Record Straight for the Rights on the Child Initiative (CLAN, Care Leavers Australasia Network; Child Migrants Trust, Connecting Home; CREATE Foundation, Centre for Organisational and Social Informatics, Monash University; Collaborative Research Centre for Australian History, Federation University Australia and eScholarship Research Centre, University of Melbourne), and particularly those at the May 2017 Summit (major funding from the Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University, additional contributions from University of Melbourne, Federation University Australia, and the Australian Society of Archivists/Council of Australian Archives and Records Authority) to the development of the National Framework for Childhood Out-of-Home Care Recordkeeping. In its seed iteration, funded by the Faculty of IT at Monash University, the Imagined Archives project research fellow, Dr Antonina Lewis, has worked closely with two young women in their twenties, and less intensively with a number of other young people and with a community of later-life Care leavers. The project has benefited from the emotional, intellectual, professional, and artistic generosity of many who have shared their time and knowledge, on or off the record. These include individuals associated with: CLAN, Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Memory Projects, Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, Blak Dot Gallery, Find and Connect web resource, and cohealth Arts Generator. Kirsten Thorpe is a PhD candidate within the IT Faculty at Monash University. Her research focuses on Indigenous Archiving and Cultural Safety and examines the role of decolonization and self-determination in libraries and archives. Kirsten’s PhD is funded by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship.

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Correspondence to Sue McKemmish.

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McKemmish, S., Bone, J., Evans, J. et al. Decolonizing recordkeeping and archival praxis in childhood out-of-home Care and indigenous archival collections. Arch Sci 20, 21–49 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10502-019-09321-z

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Keywords

  • Rights in childhood recordkeeping
  • Decolonizing recordkeeping and archiving
  • Indigenous archiving
  • Cultural safety
  • National framework for recordkeeping for children in out-of-home Care
  • Care leavers