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Australian Indigenous Education

Research protocols

Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies.

Published by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, last reviewed: 29 May 2018

Information about search terms

To retrieve materials from our collections you may need to search using terms that are now considered culturally inappropriate, such as the term Aborigine as discussed below. Keep in mind that when using older material you should critically analyse the content, which might present culturally dominant perspectives that include distortions and stereotypes about Indigenous Australian cultures.

The term Aborigine is considered outdated and Aboriginal peoples is the preferred term.

Indigenous Australian is a broader term for both Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders, however it can be considered to have colonial overtones.

Searching using the terms Aboriginal or Aborigine will also return results for Indigenous groups outside Australia e.g. the First Nation people of Canada are sometimes referred to as Aboriginal Canadians.

The term Indigenous Melanesian is a broader term for Torres Strait Islanders and also refers to cultures form the Pacific region, e.g. Papua New Guinea.

To improve search results you can try using quotation marks to find titles containing an exact name or phrase, e.g "Torres Strait Islander".

Key words

Key word searching using Traditional Owner Names

The following terminology outlines culturally relevant search terms.  

The term Traditional Owner Group can refer to:

  • Clans
  • Tribes
  • Nations or country

When using Traditional Owner Group names within a search keep in mind that there can be more than one spelling for the same group, e.g. Kooma or Koamu.

Some Traditional Owner names that will retrive results from the catalogue are:

  • Anmatyerre (Australian people)
  • Aranda (Australian people)
  • Pitjantjatjara (Australian people)
  • Kaurareg (Torres Strait Islands people)

Some Indigenous words or phrasing can also have different spellings, for example the terms Koorie or Koori have the same meaning and are commonly used in New South Wales and Victoria.

To improve search results you can try combining these terms with the Boolean operator 'or' , e.g. Koorie or Koori.

To retrieve results you can also combine a geographic region with the term Aboriginal Australian or Indigenous Australian using the 'AND' operator, e.g. Aboriginal Australian AND Australia, Northern or Aboriginal Australians AND Queensland AND Cape York Peninsula.

Try using these search examples in the catalogue:

Aboriginal or Indigenous - Finds resources relating to Aboriginal or Indigenous people

(Aboriginal or Indigenous) and education - Finds resources relating to Aboriginal or Indigenous people, and education

(Aboriginal or Indigenous) and education and equity - Finds resources relating to Aboriginal or Indigenous people, and education and equity

Aboriginal or Indigenous and juvenile literature - Finds resources located in the education textbook collection.

Aboriginal Australian and juvenile fiction - Finds resources located in the junior fiction and picture book collections

Aboriginal Australian and kit* - Finds resources located in the kit collection

Stone Axes carved representing the Aboriginal Stone Axe and the european axe technology created by Ken Hutchinson

Yuundu Yuundu - Axe by Vivian Evans used under CC By 2.0

Criteria for Evaluating Resources

Be aware that attitudes expressed in books or journals are a reflection of the viewpoints and attitudes toward Indigenous Australian's during the period in which they were written and the writer's political agenda.

When using information found in older texts keep in mind that the language used and both the opinions and theories expressed may no longer be considered appropriate or have been proved to be incorrect.

The following criteria can be applied to all types of information sources.


  •     Scan the contents of the document or read the abstract.
  •     You can also check the subject terms for the document in the library catalogue or database.
  •     Are the subjects covered central or peripheral to your topic?


  •     Consider whether you are looking for recent resources or historical information.
  •     Check the date the resource was published, as the resource might be out-of-date.
  •     Check if it has been updated (in the form of a new edition or update) to deal with changes in knowledge.

Authority and Reliability

  •     Who is the author and what qualifications do they have for writing the document?
  •     Are they backed by a reputable or traceable organisation?
  •     Who is the publisher?

Audience - who is it intended for?

  •     Information that is directed at high school students may not be appropriate for a university essay.
  •     Equally, some academic work may be too advanced, specific or specialised for your needs.

Information that does not conform to these criteria is not necessarily flawed or unreliable, but you should use it with caution.

Finding Books and resources

As well as searching the library catalogue, you might like to browse the library shelves of the general book collection at the Giblin Eunson Library.

Try exploring at the following Dewey ranges:

305 Social groups

306  Culture

371 Education

994 Australian history

Try a search using Subject Headings

Click on any of these examples to complete a Subject Heading search in the library catalogue

Finding resources

Strategies for locating more resources

Try browsing Kanopy Streamed Media - Category - Australian & Indigenous Studies

Do a keyword search in the library catalogue and refine your search by adding the term DVD eg indigenous culture land DVD