Family history

We can help you with your Aboriginal family history. Our record collections may hold information about you or your direct ancestors.

Records and archives

The Aboriginal History Research Services (AHRS) can help you to access a variety of records that relate to your family history, including government records as well as other non-governmental material.

Most of the record collections are state administrative records, including mission, station and personal files created by various government departments responsible for Aboriginal affairs from 1886 to 1972. The AHRS also holds copies of the genealogical recordings and photographs recorded by the anthropologists Norman Tindale and Adolphus Peter Elkin in Western Australia between the 1920s and 1960s.

What can I apply for?

When you apply for your family history, you will be provided with copies of all relevant records that relate to you and/or your ancestors. Where possible a detailed, annotated genealogy of direct ancestors is also provided.

Alternatively, some people may apply with a specific purpose, such as:

  • dates and places of birth;
  • information relating to a specific ancestor;
  • photographic records; and
  • personal information relating to your time on a mission.


For confidentiality reasons applicants must be the oldest living generation to apply. Third party consent can be given by the eldest relative and submitted with the application using the Third Party Consent Form

Applying for information

To apply for a copy of all records relating to your family, fill in the Family History Application Form and return it to the department with a photocopy of identification.

Frequently asked questions

Do I need to be the oldest person in my family to apply?

To apply for access to your records you must be of the oldest generation in your family or have the consent of the oldest living member. This means that if you have a living parent or grandparent, they will need to sign a consent form. The policy does not discriminate between siblings, therefore brothers and sisters have equal right and access to the records. If you require the consent from a family member please arrange for them to sign the Third Party Consent Form and provide a photocopy of their identification.

What sort of identification is acceptable?

We accept any form of official identification, however the common ones provided are listed below:

  • Drivers license
  • Passport
  • Medicare card
  • Centrelink card
  • Health Care Card
  • A letter confirming their identification from a Justice of the Peace (JP).

What happens if the AHRS does not hold any records relating to my family?

Our collections are not exhaustive so we also encourage you to access other collections and link-up organisations for information about your family history. For a list of key organisations that hold or can help you to find Aboriginal family history records and information, please see our Further Research Assistance page. Also see the AIATSIS Family History Kit for a complete guide on how to research your family history.

How can I apply for The National Redress Scheme?

People who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse are eligible to apply for the National Redress Scheme, which has been set up by the Commonwealth Government. The Scheme started on 1 July 2018 and will run up to June 2027.

If you are thinking of applying for Redress, please see the National Redress Scheme website for information on how to apply. There are also a number of Redress Support Services in Western Australia that can provide free and confidential help with your application.

How do I obtain proof of my Aboriginal Heritage?

Your Aboriginal heritage is something that is personal to you. You do not need a letter of confirmation to identify as an Aboriginal person. However, you may be asked to provide proof or confirmation of Aboriginal heritage when applying for Indigenous-specific services or programs.

Government agencies and community organisations usually accept three ‘working criteria’ as confirmation of Aboriginal heritage:

  • being of Aboriginal descent
  • identifying as an Aboriginal person
  • being accepted as such by the community in which you live, or formerly lived.

Doing your family history may help you obtain proof of your heritage. However, in order to meet the full criteria, you will need to contact your relevant Recognised Aboriginal Representative Body, which may be one of the organisations listed below. Who you contact will depend on where you family is from. An Aboriginal organisation in the area where you currently live may also be able to provide you with this confirmation.

Application forms

Contact Aboriginal History Research Services

Telephone 1800 161 301
Address Level 2, State Library of WA, 25 Francis Street, Perth
Post PO Box 8349, Perth Business Centre WA 6849
Twitter @The_ACHWA

Page reviewed 15 May 2019