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Repatriating language materials


How can I get copies of research material that has been recorded for my language and bring them home to my family and community?



Our FAQ about language information provides some general advice about websites which can help get you started in learning more about a particular language.

The Linguist List has an international directory of linguists which currently has almost 25,000 entries. If you know that a particular linguist has worked on your language, look for them in the directory to find their contact details. Many linguists are happy to provide copies of materials to family members and descendants.

Archives are a valuable source of data about Indigenous languages. Some of these archives have digital materials which can be downloaded from their web sites. Others make copies of archived materials available, subject to access conditions.

Language centres and Indigenous knowledge centres often hold collections of local materials. You may be able to use the collection or repatriate copies of materials from the collection. Language centre staff may be able to help you locate materials in other archives or libraries, and may be able to connect you with linguists who have worked on your language.

AIATSIS (the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies) is a research, collecting and publishing institution in the field of Australian Indigenous studies.

The AUSTLANG database is an online searchable resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. The database enables users to search for a language by a language name or a place name, or by navigating Google Maps, and to view a variety of information on the language. AUSTLANG users can also launch a catalogue search of the AIATSIS collection catalogue, MURA.

Mura is a searchable online catalogue of the AIATSIS collections. Those seeking information about Australian Aboriginal languages can search, for example, by the name of the language, the AIATSIS language code, the name of a speaker who may have been recorded, and the name of a researcher who is known to have undertaken research on a particular language.

Visitors are able to use AIATSIS collections on site, but AIATSIS does not lend material from its collections to individuals. However, inter-library loans of published books may be arranged by your library.

Certain materials may be copied, depending on Access and Copyright conditions. Individuals may request photocopies of journal articles or book chapters through the AIATSIS Copying service. There is a standard fee for each item.

Through its ROMTIC (Return of Material to Indigenous Clients) program, the AIATSIS Audiovisual Archive provides free copies of audio recordings, video recordings and photographs to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients.

The National Library of Australia catalogue can also be searched for language works by the name of the language, the name of a speaker who may have been recorded, and the name of a researcher who is known to have undertaken research on a language.

The SBS Australia TV program "Who do you think you are?" featured Torres Strait Islander singer Christine Anu on 18 October 2009 (Series 2, episode 4). This episode follows Christine as she researches her family history and learns about her ancestors, culture and language. This episode provides very helpful advice for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who wish to research their own family history.