Community-based, community controlled archival systems and services based on a holistic, approach to Indigenous archiving - bringing together, integrating, preserving and making accessible to the community, physically or virtually, all archives of value regardless of their source, form or medium - will best meet the needs of Indigenous communities.
Principle 4 recognises that the dispersal of archival sources of Indigenous knowledge in a sense mirrors the dispossession, dislocation and disempowerment which has marked the Indigenous colonial experience. Bringing together disparate knowledge sources redresses the ongoing impact of the fragmentation of Indigenous knowledge.
Archival sources of Indigenous knowledge are fragmented and scattered between the State and Commonwealth government archives and other government agencies, churches and other institutional archives. Many Indigenous communities lack frameworks and systems to build and manage a sustainable community archive that integrates, preserves and makes accessible to the community all records relating to the community. Records created for and by Indigenous communities hold vital narratives of the community, but in the absence of community archival programs, many of these records are inaccessible and at risk. Audio-recorded oral memory and multi-media records are also dispersed. Over the last fifty years there have been many endeavours to audio-record the stories of Indigenous people and more recently there have been various web-based multi-media projects with a similar purpose. Some of these have been initiated by Indigenous communities and others by a variety of non-Indigenous researchers. In some instances knowledge of these oral history/recording exercises - whether recordings still exist, where they now are and what knowledge they contain - is already lost to the communities or individuals involved. Adequate strategies for the long-term preservation of these resources are often not in place.
Australian archival endeavours have traditionally been institutionally and jurisdictionally based. The Australian archives community is by and large yet to address the challenge of developing programs which recognise the interconnectedness of archives of various provenances. To compound this, other cultural collections such as libraries and museums often also operate on relatively specific jurisdictional, geographical or theme-based rationales. While the experience of Indigenous communities is just one manifestation of a wider problem, there is a strong case for addressing their particular needs given the complexities of the relationship between Indigenous people and the Australian collective archive - the pervasiveness of recordkeeping in their lives, the resultant variety of records, and the relevance of multiple records traditions.