VALA2022 Online Session 11 Swan

Decolonising digital collections: a community-led approach


Thursday 16 June 2022, 12:00 – 12:30

Kua Swan
  • Library Officer, Special Collections
  • University of Newcastle
Paige Wright
  • Special Collections Librarian
  • The University of Newcastle
Shellie Smith
  • HDR Candidate, School of Architecture and Built Environment
  • University of Newcastle

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Read the paper here:


This paper will explain the issues inherent in our current digital collections, created and curated from a Eurocentric perspective. We will introduce our pilot program to decolonise digital collections, using multiple strategies including: 1) connecting and engaging with Communities, 2) rethinking language and descriptive metadata around collections, 3) exploring the application of Traditional Knowledge Labels, 4) respectfully building up content from Indigenous perspectives. The primary objective of decolonising our collections is to make resources more culturally appropriate, findable and accessible for First Nations people. This enables a reclaiming of culture and ownership of knowledge essential to cultural identity, and contributing to cultural and spiritual healing, well-being, and self-determination.


Kua Swan is a proud Gomeroi (Moree) & the Wiradjuri (Cowra) man, but was born on Anaiwan land (Armidale). Kua lives and works on Awabakal country. Kua has been fortunate to experience Language from an extensive number of Aboriginal Language groups from across Australia and has been able to identify words from his travels. Kua began his journey at the University of Newcastle working within the Wollotuka Institute as a Project Officer with a focus on the Indigenous Language program, which has since given him an in depth understanding and appreciation of Language history. Kua’s work has allowed him to research into Language with the help from collections, which led him to the university library.

Paige Wright is the Special Collections Librarian at the University of Newcastle Library, where she has worked for eight years. She coordinates the Living Histories repository and is an advocate for equity and diversity within collections. Her topics of interest include rare books, promoting special collections, community engagement, digital humanities, Wikipedia and digital collections. Paige currently volunteers on the committees for ALIA Rare Books and Wikimedia Australia. Twitter: @WrightPaige.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License