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Cultural integrity, truth-telling to be embedded in Queensland’s public records

Joseph Guenzler -

A First Nations advisory group will be established in Queensland to offer guidance on public records concerning Indigenous people after record keeping reform legislation passed the state's parliament.

Government documentation in Queensland extensively covers the lives of many Indigenous people, frequently without their awareness or consent.

Gangalu man and co-chair of the Interim Truth and Treaty Body, Mick Gooda said sound record keeping about Indigenous peoples has a substantial impact on their lives.

"The Public Records Bill 2023 is a key enabler of truth-telling, with the integrity and accuracy of government records critical to informing and enabling meaningful change for the lives of First Nations people," Mr Gooda said.

"Understanding that to date this history is not complete and has been told from a predominately non-Indigenous colonial worldview.

"Through the inclusion of guiding principles, the Bill recognises the importance of public records to the full documentation and preservation of the history of Queensland."

The Public Records Bill 2023 aims to modernise record keeping legislation in an attempt to enhance transparency and accountability for approximately 500 public authorities across Queensland.

Additionally, the Bill plans to incorporate First Nations viewpoints into the Queensland State Archives.

Proud Butchulla woman and First Nations Archives Advisor, Dr Rose Barrowcliffe said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have long been the subject of the archive but have rarely had a voice in the decisions that affect them and their records.

"We have been able to make significant changes that have supported the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when we have been involved," Ms Barrowcliffe said.

"The Public Records Bill 2023 takes us in that direction by requiring the formation of a First Nations advisory group and creating dedicated seats on the Public Records Review Committee for an Aboriginal and a Torres Strait Islander person."

The process involves the formation of a First Nations Advisory Group, acknowledging the significance of public records for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The current act, which lacks consideration for the interests and perspectives of First Nations people, will be replaced.

Queensland Minister for Treaty and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Leeanne Enoch said the Queensland State Archives offers a historical perspective of the state, providing an understanding of how Queensland has evolved over time.

"The nature, volume and content of public records relating to First Nations people and their knowledge is different to that of other Queenslanders – they may contain content that is sensitive, inaccurate or offensive and may have been used in the past in a way that disrupted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practices and communities," Ms Enoch said.

"The establishment of a First Nations Advisory Group will enshrine Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander decision-making into the management of public records and is a first step towards recognising First Nations data sovereignty within Queensland."

The Queensland State Archives currently holds more than 3.5 million records, sharing history of the state's last 200 years.

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