Olivia Bentley

Social Science
Summer 2019


Over the Summer period, I was fortunate to complete a 5-week internship in the Aboriginal History Archive at Moodani Balluk, Victoria University through the Aurora Internship Program.

The Aurora Internship Program places university students and graduates into 4-6 week internships with partners in the Indigenous sector. For Indigenous interns, the Commonwealth's Jobs, Land and Economy Programme (JLEP) provides financial support via Scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interns under the Program. In my experience, Aurora were fantastic to work with. Communication was clear, resources were abundant, and I particularly appreciated being able to preference which organisation I wanted to intern with. 

The Aboriginal History Archive, housed at Victoria University Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit, is Australia’s first and only scholarly digital archive on the Aboriginal Black Power, Land Rights and Self-Determination Movement. Funded through the ARC Linkage, Equipment, Infrastructure and Facilities scheme, the Aboriginal History Archive is addressing the data gaps in Australia’s historical record. The Aboriginal History Archive contains nearly 500,000 items spanning across over a half a century of Aboriginal activism. The material is primarily collected and curated by Gumbaynggirr man and prolific Aboriginal activist, Professor Gary Foley, from his extensive civic participation as a political dissident and in the development of organisations critical to increasing Aboriginal engagement and representation in Australia. Once complete, the Archive will be a resource that will help inform historical research and writing, and to better inform current debate on the nature of Australian racism and Aboriginal Affairs.

Common themes run across the Archives although a single archival box can contain a great variety of material. Material included original photos, news clippings, writings, flyers, journals and miscellaneous items. For example, one box contained a series of books including respected Elder, Bruce McGuiness’, original 1972 personal diary planner. My work at the Archive included cataloguing items into the online system, writing summary reports on different people, events and movements as well as collating resources to be used in documentaries about Gary Foley and the Archive. In 5-weeks I learnt a great deal about a range of Aboriginal affairs, events and organisations including the Black Power Movement, Springbok Rugby Tour, Northland Secondary College, Aboriginal Legal Service and the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody.

This internship has afforded me with a richer understanding of my community’s activist history and as an Australian Indigenous Studies major, has naturally been a fantastic compliment to my studies. A specific skill I’ve been able to work on in the Archive is refining my writing as writing summary reports for the online system challenged me to be more concise and clear in my writing. 

I particularly enjoyed working closely with the Aboriginal History Archive team as well as the Moondani Balluk staff more generally. I felt welcomed at Moondani Balluk and appreciated the strong sense of community present. Being able to yarn with Gary Foley and other Indigenous academics was invaluable. Overall, working in the Archive, learning more and more about Koori activists, history and experiences, and yarning with the mob at Moondani Balluk has empowered me with a strong sense of pride in our community.

I feel privileged to have been able to contribute to the development of the Aboriginal History Archive and am grateful for the connections I have made at Moondani Balluk.