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Aboriginality Statement

We are constantly asked and constantly hear about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people having trouble, or not understanding the process of obtaining an Aboriginality Statement. Additionally, why this is neccesary and the general rules about who can ask for one.

Firstly lets clarify a few things:

  1. For people of Torres Strait Islander only descent it is called a Statement of Heritage or a Statement of Torres Strait Islander Descent;
  2. For people of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent it is enough to only prove one for most Indigenous applications however, you may be required in an extreme case to obtain both; and
  3. These statements can only be generated by an Indigenous organisation and can only be challenged by members of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community.

There are two parts to identifying and obtaining your "Aboriginality Statement" or "Statement of Heritage".

The first part being a written statement from you, in the form of a statutory declaration, stating that you identify as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent. This must be witnessed by either a JP or other official figure as listed here. There is no charge for the services of the official figure and a blank statutory declaration form can be obtained by clicking here (pdf) or here (doc).

The second part of the statement is a letter from ANY Indigenous Organisation stating that they "recognize the applicant as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Descent" or that "the community recognises them as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent".

The rules and strictness of application of this vary but as a guiding principle the Indigenous Business Australia site clarifies the statement and provides a form for their loan applications which can be seen here.

The general reason for asking for this statement is not really to get Indigenous Australians to identify their descent but to stop others who are NOT Indigenous from obtaining services and/or funds that are secured only for Indigenous Australians. As such, although it may feel discriminatory it is not intended to be so. However, I would point out as it was to me by Centrelink Abstudy Office that "only members of the Indigenous community and/or Indigenous organisations can challenge the validity of an Aboriginality Statement Centrelink can not by themselves". This is not to say that you will not be asked to produce one if required. Our general experience is that this is a tricky and frustrating process for many Indigenous Australians particularly those who have only lived in community as a young child then moved away to another State in later life or those who's families have been removed. Remember this is not an issue - the Indigenous Organisations or community groups in the region you reside can also write and state that they identify you as being of Indigenous descent.

However, we have also experienced situations where Indigenous organisations state that they can't do this simply because they are not aware that they can or that they don't know you well enough or your family to do so. Persist and if possible talk to the board members of the organisation (president/CEO, vice president, secretary or treasurer) they should be able to assist you further.

In NSW the Aboriginal Land Council can assist you - visit here for their website or here for a list of their council offices. Link Up NSW may also be able to assist in finding families visit their website here.

IN Queensland LINK-UP may also be able to assist you finding families here but they also recommend contacting your Indigenous Organisation or the Qld Government Community and Personal Histories team here as they can not provide statements.

The Torres Strait Regional Authority can assist Torres Strait Islanders seeking their "Statement of Heritage" or provide details of the Island council who can. You can contact them here. Additionally, the Torres Strait Islander Organisations in each State will also be able to assist.

Again, there should be no enforced charges for this service of identification.

Simon Charles Dorante-Day BA, BEng, MRGC.

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