Indigenous Knowledge Centres: Queensland Public Libraries finding a niche

There are stories from all around the world about how wonderful libraries are.  This story caught my eye from Australia, where public libraries have realised they have a place in supporting indigenous communities. Read, be inspired and let me know your story (ianlibrarian@live.co.uk).

In the Field

In the Field

“Lesley Ahwang Acres Lesley is a Field Officer with Indigenous Library Services at the State Library of Queensland. The State Library supports 332 public libraries branches including 25 Indigenous Knowledge Centres (IKCs) which are community institutions led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and function as a library, art space, community meeting point, and a keeping place or museum – or what Lesley calls “a whole cultural precinct wrapped up in one small building.”

 “IKCs can also be in shared spaces, and they give Indigenous communities 100% ownership of their library needs. IKCs are a neutral, safe space that is welcoming and culturally appropriate.”

IKCs loan books, e-books, and DVDs much like a traditional library, and they can also buy other materials for loan – depending on the community’s needs, such as sporting equipment like cricket bats and basketballs, or a currently there is a pilot project which loans Apple Health Kits.

Working at the intersection of technology and health is especially important to IKCs. “On one hand, we can end up like the tech support desk for the community – there’s no phone or IT shops anywhere around. But we’re also a more comfortable trusted place for Aboriginal people to ask about health, wellbeing, and how they live their daily lives – this can be less intimidating than the health service.”

“we’re also a more comfortable trusted place for Aboriginal people to ask about health, wellbeing, and how they live their daily lives – this can be less intimidating than the health service”

“Queensland Health has used IKCs to develop and deliver culturally appropriate health messages like the Deadly Ears program, but there’s a lot more at stake than just daily wellbeing.”

Napranum IKC Launch

Napranum IKC Launch

“A large element of our cultures is preserved by oral transmission. Knowledge lies with the elders, so their mortality is also a huge cultural issue. Averting preventable deaths from diabetes, heart disease, and cancer is also about preserving a culture which has already had to survive displacement, massacre, the Stolen Generation, and edicts to speak English instead of our own language.”

IKCs also work with Queensland Museum and other organisations to develop and conserve new cultural collections. Palm Island’s IKC Coordinator goes fossicking for artefacts on nearby Fantome Island, the site of a historic leper colony. Lesley also works with the Ideas Box,Bibliothèques Sans Frontiers project to provide isolated populations with access to information. Projects in the Queensland Aboriginal Communities of Mapoon and Kowanyama are the first Ideas Boxes in the southern hemisphere. To find out more you can contact her at the State Library.

Lesley Ahwang Acres has worked in Indigenous Affairs across different levels of the Australian Government for over 26 years, in business, training, women’s issues, and housing. An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman, she is a descendent of the Bidjara and Kairi tribes and can also trace her family back to Erub Island in the Torres Strait Islands.”

My thanks to Dr Matt Finch for facilitating this story.

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