ALIA Leadership and Innovation Forum Event Wrap Up

The ALIA Leadership and Innovation Forum 2018 was held at the University of Technology Sydney on Thursday 13th September.

L&I Forums 2018 promo slide

The event took place as a panel discussion with Kirsten Thorpe, Michael Gonzalez and Shannon Foster.


The evening was an amazing experience and the audience were privileged to hear the collective wisdom of these amazing people.  Key take-aways from the event were:

  • Create meaningful roles for Aboriginal people, don’t have them opening boxes. When you do create roles for them, don’t have them photocopying any information about Aboriginal people you might need – they have a job they have been employed to do.
  • Engage with your local community.  It takes time.  We need to listen.  Do members of your Aboriginal community even have library cards?  Do they know they are welcome in the library? More importantly, do they feel welcome in the library?
  • Aboriginal people should be consulted on how libraries are designed, how they function and the structure and content of library degrees.
  • We need to move away from a deficit perspective of Aboriginal people.  Our institutions should feel privileged to have an Aboriginal person with their unique skill set and specialised knowledge. Rather than thinking the Aboriginal person should feel privileged to have a job.
  • We need to think about cultural safety for Aboriginal people in the library – both staff and library members.  Do the books on our shelves say that Aboriginal people are extinct?  Are 90% of books on your shelves about Aboriginal people written by non-Aboriginal people?  Does your library have any of the many up to date books being published by Aboriginal people about Aboriginal people?
  • Are Aboriginal books on display every day, not just for NAIDOC Day and Reconciliation Week?
  • Every single Australian should have to complete cultural competency training. There are some free options available, although these are generally restricted to staff (and sometimes students) of specific organisations.  University of Sydney students can complete the program through their online platform (instructions here) and CSU students should be able to access the staff program here.  UTS also offers an 8 credit point course called Aboriginal Sydney Now.  The State Library of NSW is offering a Cultural Competency Program for public library staff, with new places offered in October 2018, however costs and restrictions may apply.
  • Can our metadata capture the necessary contextual information around Aboriginal objects, artwork, archival materials?  Is there a way we can warn readers and viewers about documents which may contain sacred knowledge specifically for only men or women?
  • “Colonisation robs everybody.  We all suffer.  It’s a loss we must stop.” Shannon Foster
  • “We can make it better but we have to work together.” Michael Gonzalez
  • Aboriginal community leaders have told Kirsten Thorpe “It’s your turn to change this.”

Finally, every single library professional should take the time to read Indigenous Spaces in Library Places.


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