State Library Indigenous Resources

The Library online catalogue will locate items in the  collection by using keyword search. Using the keyword "Aborigin*" brings up records with a range of subject headings, including for instance:

Aboriginal Australians - Western Australia - Biography

Aboriginal Australians - Land Tenure - Western Australia

Artists - Western Australia - Biography

Women - Aboriginal Australian, Education

National parks and reserves - Western Australia - management

Aboriginal Languages Collection

This new collection is available for loan, supports Aboriginal language learning and encourages the speaking of traditional languages.

The collection was developed and made available to clients in the United Nations 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.  It is housed in the languages and literacy hub on the 1st floor.

Features of the collection include:

• Collection is discrete and shelved separately from the other language and literacy collections in a separate mobile bay.

• Unique spine labels indicate, where possible, the language of the resource.

• Enhanced cataloguing includes specific language codes and uniform spelling.

• Four main language regions in the collection are South West, Goldfields, Western Desert and Pilbara.

• Eight languages, with Noongar dialects making up the majority.

• Print resources are supplemented by posters, audio CD, DVD and maps – posters and maps will be available from January 2020.

• Works are mono-lingual or bi-lingual.

Indigenous Publications - Books

The State Library has a large collection of published books about Indigenous people, culture, social issues and concerns. Publications are available through searching the online Catalogue.  Examples of some of the subject headings for Indigenous issues and how they build from the general subject area into the specific are:

Aboriginal Australians - Education - Western Australia

Aboriginal Australians - Kinship - Western Australia

Aboriginal Australians - Western Australia - Civil Rights

Aboriginal Australians - Western Australia - Social Life & Customs

Aboriginal Australians - Folklore - Juvenile

Aboriginal Australians - Languages - Western Australia - Pilbara

The general to more specific categories are sometimes first based on geographical areas and sometimes on a subtopic.  The subject heading "Indigenous peoples" is generally used to describe materials about first peoples from nations outside Australia.

In some cases the subject headings are specific to a topic or subject area - this is particularly true for place names or language names and so can be important when searching for Indigenous records specific to a community.

For instance there are subject headings for:

Nyungar languages - readers

Wajarri Language

Kimberley (WA) - Languages

Customary Law - Western Australia

When searching for Government publications start by a keyword search or by the name of the Government department.  Government department names can change over time. Checking with the State Records Office catalogue for department name changes may help.

Indigenous Publications - Magazines

The State Library has a number of periodicals, magazines and newspapers that are specifically about or for Aboriginal Australians.  Magazines and periodicals  can be searched in the Catalogue using a keyword search or subject heading search. For example:

Aboriginal Australian Periodicals

Aboriginal Australian Periodicals - Western Australia

Aboriginal Australian Newspapers

Aboriginal Australians - Social Conditions - Periodicals

Aboriginal Australians - Government Relations - Periodicals

Aboriginal Australians

Private Archives

Archives are often described in the Catalogue according to the name of the person who donated the items. The key to finding archives that relate to Aboriginal people is to get a bit of background about the people who had early contact with Aboriginal people or the places that Aboriginal people lived or were sent to live.

The records of early anthropologists and explorers represent some of the earliest archives and help to depict traditional life of the Aboriginal people of the time. Examples of these resources are:

  • The Denison Planes Company journal of their 1866 exploration of the Roebourne area;

  • Daisy Bates 1907 to 1940 papers from 30 years of research notes and draft of her book The Native Tribes of Western Australia;

The archives of early pioneer families and settlers record some of the impacts of early contact between the first peoples of Western Australia and first arrivals to the colony. For example:

  • The Muir Family, 1844 to 1960 who settled in the Albany, Mt. Barker and Manjimup and Eucla areas of the South West

  • The Reynolds Family, 1789 to 1961, pioneers in the Nannup, Wonnerup and later Margaret River regions of the South West

The archives of churches who ran missions also represent an important source of information about Aboriginal West Australians as do the research papers of early historians.

  • Mogumber Methodist Mission archives for information about the Moore River Aboriginal Settlement;

  • For the Anglican Forrest River mission archives refer to the archives of the mission priests.

A keyword search in the Catalogue under the place name of a mission or mission area can be a good starting place for finding these archives.

A catalogue record describing an archive can be referring to one item or to hundreds - a clue is given at the description and note fields. An entire listing can be viewed via the manuscript notes available on Level 3 at the State Library,


An ephemera catalogue record can refer to more than one item, sometimes even hundreds of items.  It may be necessary to consult the physical Ephemera Index listing at the State Library.  The Ephemera Index listing provides the PR number related to the collection of ephemera.  Listings of the types of items held within each PR are held in numerical order in files at the same location as the general index. The ephemera collection categories index at the State Library is organised as an alphabetical listing within these broad areas:

Organisation Names - for example Wangaka Maya Aboriginal Corporation (PR14819).

Subject Area - for example the "farms, stations, missions and Aboriginal communities" subject category (PR14529) and

Locality Areas or local government areas with sub-categories for business, community, culture, education, history and tourism

Ephemera Formats such as stickers, matchboxes, licenses, tickets, complimentary slips

The State Library is committed to increasing the number of archives collected from Indigenous Western Australians to make sure these perspectives are preserved and made available.

If you are interested in finding out more about how you can contribute to our archives call 9427 3111 or email:

Last updated on: 14 January 2020