Institute on the move PDF Print E-mail

Russell Taylor
Russell Taylor
Exciting times are ahead for the staff at AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies), with the official opening in September of their new premises on Acton Peninsula in Canberra. A strong focus of the work of the Institute has been the support it offers for language work, and in this area, AIATSIS is preparing to meet rapidly increasing demand. Principal Russell Taylor, spoke to the Voice of the Land about the role of AIATSIS in promoting and supporting language projects.

 

VOTL:What impact has the emergence of language as a priority issue had on the role of AIATSIS in the past few years?
The increased recognition of languages has put a lot more pressure on our resources and our capacity to make records available to communities, and to individuals within those communities.

But I'm pleased to say it's a pressure that we enjoy and that it's really what AIATSIS is all about. It's about accepting the custodial responsibilities that we have in terms of the archives generally, but specifically the language records.
We do our utmost to make sure that people who want to have access to those records do so, and of course we also go to whatever lengths we can within limited resources to repatriate those records back to communities.

VOTL:We carried a report in The Voice of the Land on the return of language material to communities. That news was obviously very well received as the issue has been a big one for so long, but how do the resources at AIATSIS cope with the extra demand?
RT:We are very appreciative of the funding that we have received recently from ATSIC to help us address our responsibilities in terms of the return of language records, but I have to say that the job is an immense one.The demands and expectations of the community are rising and they will continue to rise, and we have to do our best to ensure that we are able to meet those expectations.That of course means at the end of the day, more dollars, more resources, more people who are available to actually facilitate that access to our archival records. One of the challenges that our Council and our staff and management really — I guess — relish, is we are going to do our utmost to make sure that we can at least keep pace with those community expectations.

VOTL: How do you see the working relationship between AIATSIS and FATSIL?
RT: I see the potential for co operative liaison between FATSIL and AIATSIS as being limitless.The relationship between the two organisations has been a very healthy one and I think it will continue to be.

We see FATSIL as the main adviser to ATSIC and representative of the community based language programs, and AIATSIS is certainly willing and able to do whatever we can to assist the nurturing and implementation of language programs all over the country.

Up until recently our role was seen simply as one of custodianship, where we've actually held the records and facilitated wherever possible people having access to those records. But I have to say that we're ready, willing and able to play a much more supportive role to communities and to governments, both local, state and federal, to ensure that effective, sustainable language programs are implemented, and have the sort of culturally beneficial results that we know they will have. I believe that we have the expertise and capabilities that readily identify us as the appropriate body to provide that support.

VOTL: Finally, what has the move to the new premises meant for AIATSIS?
RT: Specifically in terms of language it means that we have much more appropriate resources to maintain and look after our records, and to facilitate access for everyone who has an interest in those records.The new building will allow us to do our work more professionally and in a more culturally appropriate than we have been able in the past.