Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Genealogies

There is a wide range of approaches to producing genealogies available including many software packages, mostly commercial for the mainstream market, and some specialist and research-oriented. A number of these approaches and programs are being used by researchers and organisations in Australia, for instance in Native Title and Family and Community History. There is also a widespread feeling that the products of such software are not meeting the needs of researchers and communities. Some fall down in one or more areas of technical performance. Some are culturally inappropriate, either because they do not recognise the different ways kinship and marriage work in Indigenous societies, or because they do not cater for the ways that Indigenous groups prefer to use genealogies and handle information. Some available products are also very expensive, and developing more customised programs can be even more expensive, beyond the means of most organisations, let alone individuals and families.

There is an urgent need for an evaluation of different methods available by those involved in the use of genealogies, and a charting of ways forward to better practical solutions, including cooperation between different people with an interest in this to provide better solutions at lower cost. In addition to, and intertwined with, the computational questions, are questions of the embedding of 'the genealogical method' in anthropology and other disciplines, the reasons behind the way genealogies are constructed and used, and a host of related ethical and legal questions such as how rights to view genealogies can be managed. These are problems encountered on an almost daily basis by Indigenous communities and applied researchers in Australia. The original workshop and this website were designed to facilitate the sharing of experience to explore such questions.

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