Organisations in each state and territory can help with your Indigenous family history research. There are also a number of national organisations and non-government websites that support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family history.
- Libraries hold a range of material that is useful for family history, including books, indexes, original manuscripts and photos. Many larger libraries have special family history librarians who can help you with your research. Most libraries have online research guides to help you understand their collections.
- Archives hold original records, created by government agencies, private organisations or individuals. Archives are different from libraries, and you will need help from an archivist to locate and access records.
- Indigenous family history services are provided by state and territory governments to assist you in accessing records and personal information about yourself and your ancestors held in government archives.
- Link-Up organisations provide services to members of the Stolen Generations and their families. These include researching family and personal records, finding family members, organising reunions and providing holistic support and counselling.
- Organisations for adoptees and Care Leavers (and their families) can help you find information about your personal and family history and connect you with family. They also provide counselling and support services.
- Family history community projects and organisations offer practical help in researching your family history. Some are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander focused. They may have library collections, computers, access to online resources and provide training courses and workshops.
Before you make contact
Before approaching organisations put together any information you already have about your family. Names, dates and places are good starting points for them to help you with your research.
See Family history sources for more information about the kind of information you will find.
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)
The AIATSIS Family History Unit can help people researching their Indigenous family history. The AIATSIS Finding Your Family website is an online resource with a focus on helping people to learn how to do Indigenous family history research. AIATSIS offers an Australia-wide service. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Biographical Index enables you to do an online name search of some of the material in the collection. AIATSIS cannot compile family trees or help you to confirm Aboriginality, but they can offer you advice on how to begin this work yourself.
State Library of Western Australia
The State Library of Western Australia holds material that can help you trace your family tree. The library’s Genealogy Centre has a wide variety of sources for all Australian states and territories as well as for other countries. The JS Battye Library of West Australian history holds key resources for Aboriginal family history including mission records, photographs, oral history recordings and published books which can offer information on people, places and communities throughout Western Australia.
Perth Cultural Centre, 25 Francis Street, Perth WA 6000
Free call: 1800 198 107 (Western Australian country callers only)
Phone: 08 9427 3111
Fax: 08 9427 3256
Online form: yourenquiryservice.slwa.wa.gov.au/reft100.aspx?pmi=kyXDx0Ptld
https://www.slwa.wa.gov.au/explore-discover/indigenous-wa/family-history (Indigenous family history)
https://www.slwa.wa.gov.au/explore-discover/family-history (Family history)
A State Library of Western Australia project designed “to explore, identify and return Aboriginal heritage material” from Library collections. Storylines works with community to identify people, places and stories in the images and other records.
State Records Office of Western Australia
State government agencies controlled the lives of Aboriginal people in Western Australia from 1905 until citizenship rights were granted in the late 1960s. The official records that document this control are of vital significance, particularly for those people who were removed from their families and resettled elsewhere in the state. Many of these records are now held by the State Records Office. Archives staff can help you with locating records of relevance to your family history.
The Aboriginal History Research Unit in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs can also help you access state archives (see below).
Alexander Library Building, Perth Cultural Centre, James Street West Entrance 25 Francis Street, Perth WA 6000
Phone: 08 9427 3600
Fax: 08 9427 3668
www.sro.wa.gov.au/archive-collection/collection/aboriginal-records (Aboriginal records)
Aboriginal History Research Unit – Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries
The Aboriginal History Research Unit manages access to Western Australian state archives and some privately owned records. You can apply as a personal or family history applicant for your own records or those of your ancestors. You can apply for any records relating to you held by the department, or those relating to a specific purpose such as evidence of genealogy, dates and place of birth or a specific ancestor.
Level 2, State Library of WA, 25 Francis Street, Perth 6000
PO Box 8349, Perth Business Centre WA 6849
Phone: 08 9427 3469
Phone (switchboard): 08 6552 7300
Freecall (switchboard - WA regional callers only): 1800 634 541
Family History Application form - www.dlgsc.wa.gov.au/aboriginal-history/aboriginal-history-research-services/family-history#applicationforms
Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages
The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages has records of births, deaths and marriages in Western Australian from 1841. You can search historical indexes online for free. The cost of BDM records varies from state to state but is normally $30 to $50 per certificate.
Westralia Square, Level 10, 141 St Georges Terrace, Perth WA 6000
PO Box 7720, Cloisters Square, Perth WA 6850
Free call: 1300 305 021
Ph: 08 9264 1555
Fax: 08 9264 1599
Link-Up Western Australia – Yorgum Healing Services
Yorgum Healing Services provides Link-Up services to Aboriginal people affected by past government policies relating to the removal of children. Case workers coordinate family research, client reunification, back to country and overall Link-Up activities. The Link-Up Up team works closely with Social Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) counselling services to provide a holistic support service.
3 Brammal Street, East Perth WA 6004
PO Box 236, Northbridge WA 6865
Phone: 08 9428 3700
Fax: 08 9221 0487
South Hedland – Link-Up
3 Brand Street, South Hedland WA 6721
Phone: 08 9140 4029
Fax: 08 9227 0514
Kalgoorlie – Link-Up
1 YMCA Way, Kalgoorlie WA 6430
Ph: 08 9428 3700
Link-Up Western Australia – Kimberley Stolen Generation Aboriginal Service
The Kimberley Stolen Generation Aboriginal Service in Broome helps members of the Stolen Generations find information about their family and locate their family members. It also helps reunite family members who have not met before.
28 Barker Street, Broome WA 6725
PO Box 2775, Broome WA 6725
Free call: 1800 830 338
Phone: 08 9193 6502
Fax: 08 9193 5693
Department of Communities, Child Protection and Family Support
The Department for Communities, Child Protection and Family Support is responsible for records that include historical family and personal information about Aboriginal people and former state wards. The department’s Freedom of Information team can provide more information on accessing your own or your ancestor’s records.
189 Royal Street, East Perth WA 6004
PO Box 6334, East Perth WA 6892
Free call: 1800 000 277 (Western Australian country callers only)
Find & Connect Support Services Western Australia – Lanterns House
Lanterns House provides support and assistance to people who want to obtain records of your time in ‘care’ and to trace their family. Staff provide individual counselling and group support, and can connect you with other services and support organisations that may be able to help.
165 Great Eastern Highway, Belmont, WA 6104
Free call: 1800 161 109
Phone: 08 6164 0240
Tuart Place is a resource service for people who experienced out of home care in Western Australia. Tuart Place can assist with finding records, tracing family, counselling and social activities.
National Archives of Australia (Perth)
The National Archives of Australia holds federal government records, including many about Indigenous Australians (mostly people from Victoria and the Northern Territory). The archives has offices around Australia. Records about Western Australia are mostly held in Perth and Canberra. The Bringing Them Home name index can help you find information about Indigenous family members in National Archives records. The index is not available for the public to search, but an archivist will do a search for you.
384 Berwick Street, East Victoria Park WA 6101
PO Box 1144, East Victoria Park WA 6981
Phone: 08 9470 7500
Fax: 08 9470 7555
Ask a question about records: http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/askquestion/index.aspx
Web: www.naa.gov.au/collection/a-z/aboriginal-people (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people)
www.naa.gov.au/collection/family-history (Family history)
National Library of Australia
The National Library collects and makes available material of national significance about Australia and Australians. It holds books, manuscripts, newspapers, photographs and oral histories that could be useful in researching your family. Some of these resources, such as photographs and newspapers, can be viewed online via Trove. Other material, such as some oral histories can be accessed via the Library website.The library has a family history collection and staff you can help you to locate material.
Parkes Place, Canberra ACT 2600
Phone: 02 6262 1111
Fax: 02 6257 1703
Ask a Librarian (online contact form): www.nla.gov.au/askalibrarian
Australian War Memorial
Indigenous people have served in every military conflict that Australia has been involved in since the Boer War (1899−1902). Military records are a rich source of information about the men and women who served in the armed forces and they can provide information about family members.
Treloar Crescent, Campbell ACT 2612
Phone: 02 6243 4211
Fax: (02) 6243 4325
Researching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defence force service:
Researching a person – learn more about how to research your family member’s military service:
Research guides and websites for Indigenous family history
Research guides provide comprehensive information for people doing family history research. They often include an outline of the history of colonisation and Aboriginal protection/welfare legislation, linking these to the records that were created about Indigenous people.
Books published by AIATSIS
- Penny Taylor, Telling it like it is: A guide to making Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, AIATSIS, 1992
- Diane Smith and Boronia Halstead, Lookin for your mob: A guide to tracing Aboriginal family trees, Aboriginal Studies Press, 1990.
- Indigenous family history – State Library of Western Australia
- Aboriginal family history – State Records Office of Western Australia
- Looking west: A guide to Aboriginal records in Western Australia – Department for Child Protection (PDF 385 KB)
- Signposts: A guide for children and young people in care in WA from 1920 – Department for Child Protection
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – National Archives of Australia
- Storylines Project – searchable digitised collection of photographs, sound, movies and text of Indigenous people
- Centre for Indigenous Family History Studies (CIFHS) website is a name searchable archive of a selection of mainly government documents relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The site is updated with new records continuously. Many of the documents contain offensive language. In order to do a name search in documents on this website you need to type the following into google - site:www.cifhs.com – followed by the name you are searching for in quotation marks, such as “John Smith”.
General family history organisations and websites
Family history groups, local history societies and local libraries
Local family history groups, local history societies and local libraries are valuable sources of information and resources. They can put you in contact with people who have a good knowledge of the local history of a town or area. Many also have local studies collections with books, newspapers, family histories, photographs and manuscripts.
Western Australian Genealogical Society Inc.
The Western Australian Genealogical Society aims to promote, encourage and foster the study, science and knowledge of genealogy. It has a large family history lending library, runs education courses and has special interest research groups.
Find local libraries
You can use Australian Libraries Gateway – Find a Library to locate libraries in Western Australia with family history and local history collections. Under location select ‘WA’ and under library type select ‘Local/Family history’. You can also browse using the map.
Family history research websites
- CoraWeb – a comprehensive, categorised and cross-referenced list of links and useful advice about tracing your family history (Australia)
- Ancestry – Help & Advice – general family history advice, as well as information about using Ancestry’s paid services (Australia)
- Cyndi’s List – a comprehensive, categorised and cross-referenced list of links that point you to genealogical research sites online (Australia)
- FamilySearch Learning Center – articles and short online courses put together by the largest genealogical organisation in the world (USA)