How to Find Out if You Are of Aboriginal Descent

Being Aboriginal is personal to you – you don’t need a confirmation letter to prove you’re of Aboriginal descent. However, you might be asked for proof or a letter of confirmation of Indigenous heritage when applying for indigenous-specific programs or services, including:

  • Grants, including study and research grants and indigenous housing loans
  • University courses that are specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
  • Housing assistance and Centrelink that are Indigenous-specific
  • School programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students

Universities, schools, and other government agencies may often give you certain guidelines and ask you to complete specific forms or provide a letter of confirmation or proof of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage. To read more about key aspects of Aboriginal diversity, check out our latest article.

How Do You Get Proof of Your Aboriginal Descent?

Your family history can help determine if you’re of Aboriginal descent. For example, you may find a birth, marriage, or death record that connects your family to a specific Aboriginal reserve or station, or you might have oral narration and stories that connect you to a particular person, area, or photographs related to Aboriginal people.

You should collect as much information about your heritage or family history as possible; further, when you apply for proof of Indigenous heritage via an Indigenous organisation, you’ll need to describe your heritage to a committee. Therefore, it’s crucial to gather as much information as possible about your family history and heritage before contacting an Indigenous organisation. This is vital–especially if you and your family were displaced from your heritage. You can get a letter of confirmation from an Indigenous organisation, which must be stamped with a common seal. 

Who Should You Contact to Find Out if You’re of Aboriginal Descent?

You’ll need to contact an incorporated Indigenous organisation where your relatives are from–someone in the community may remember or know your family. An incorporated Indigenous organisation where you live might also give you a letter of confirmation.

For instance, if you live in Gungahlin and your family is from Gungahlin, you should contact the Ngunnawal Land Council. If you live in Gungahlin but your family is from another district, you’ll need to contact the land council in the district where your family may have come from or is best known.

To find contact information of an Indigenous community organisation or land council, you can:

  • Conduct a Google search for the term “Aboriginal” and the name of the place you live
  • Visit the website
  • Search the Yellow pages and type in “Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander” in the ‘Business name’ box as well as the name of a place, or if you have a print version of Yellow Pages, look under ‘Indigenous Associations and Organisations’

What’s the Criteria for an Official Confirmation of Aboriginal Heritage?

According to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act, the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage is either: an Aboriginal person from the Aboriginal race of Australia, or an Indigenous inhabitant of the Torres Strait Islands.

In addition, there are three criteria that you must satisfy before an Indigenous organisation can provide you with a confirmation of Aboriginal descent. These criteria are often known as a “working definition” of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage. According to these three criteria, you must:

  • Be of Aboriginal heritage
  • Identify as an Indigenous person
  • Be identified as such by the community where you live or where your ancestors formerly lived

Final Thoughts

An Aboriginal person is a person of Aboriginal descent who identifies as an Aboriginal, and whose community accepts them as such. Gathering as much information about your family history as possible can help determine if you’re of Aboriginal descent, and an incorporated Indigenous organisation can help you determine if you are indeed of Aboriginal descent.

If you’re interested in diving further into the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and the impact of colonisation on Indigenous Australians, take a look at some of our recent pieces.

Curious to learn more?

Previous Post
Diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Culture
Next Post
Impact of Colonisation on Indigenous Australians

16 Comments. Leave new

  • Matthew Deed
    May 2, 2024 3:37 am

    Reading the comments above, I’m keen on completing a DNA test as I believe my maternal great grandmother was of indigenous heritage and I’d like to solve the family mystery – does anyone have a specific brand or supplier that would be recommended for the DNA test?

  • My grandparents were members of the Yugarapul tribe in the Fassifern region of South East Queensland. I have researched my family tree but am not sure which forms to use to submit that information to obtain the Certificate to claim my heritage.

  • My partners grandmother was part of the stolen generation from Newcastle. That also led to her daughter ending up in state care. Her mother was adopted from Parramatta foster home. Trying to trace these records is difficult. Any advice would be appreciated

  • Can you please confirm. I have been told a DNA test is not conclusive if you don’t find aboriginal heritage. Apparently there is not sufficient DNA data to be sure?
    My Psternsl grand mother was adopted. How can I trace further?

  • what DNA test do i need to find out if i’m aboriginal?
    my family has a bunch of signs that we’re aboriginal, but my great aunty had told us all that my great great grandmother changed her nationality or something to white as she was light skinned, but at the same time that great aunty lied a lot before she died, but we’re all interested in it now.

  • Hi all. My grandfather was born on Rawbelle Station in Qld (Wakka Wakka). His photo as a teenager was definitely indigenous, however there is no one to ask who is left in my family except dad & he has no idea. I know DNA testing is inconclusive. I’ve contacted Rawbelle Station (in the hope there were documents available) but they won’t respond. Also, my grandfather had 2 x birth certs which appears odd (different years & different spelling of his name). Regardless, he was definitely not the product of 2 white parents. Any help before my dad passes (he’s 86 & not in the best health) so he can get some closure would be gratefully accepted.

    • Hi Sue

      Have you considered getting ancestry dna tests done? I have connection to Rawbelle also, but can’t find much information as well.

  • Hi. I have alway had a suspicion that my maternal grandmother has some aboriginal heritage. I believe that my mother has some physical features that are aboriginal and I would dearly love to confirm this. My grandmother is long gone (although I know she was born in Cue). Is there ANY way to find out?

  • Hi i am trying to find out if we are part Aboriginal. My uncles were very dark skinned. I don’t know how to find out.
    My grandfather surname was Dodd.
    Can someone please help me. Thank you

  • Hi there’s talk my late father was indigenous? How can I find out ? Someone said DNA test, but from where

  • Claire Taylor
    July 17, 2023 6:43 am

    There is a family story that my father’s mother’s mother was born to an aboriginal woman who was working in the hotel in Melbourne from which the Burke and Wills expedition set off in 1860. The story is that Robert O’Hara Burke was the father of the baby but it could have been anyone in the expedition, or anyone else. I live in NZ. I am fascinated to learn more but has not shown anything in the test I had done. They have said I would need one of my father’s sisters’ daughters to have the test to show it. Can anyone help with how to move on from here? I suppose I would need to learn more about my great grandmother, and try to find her name. I believe she was brought up in Ireland, there is no sign of her being brought up in an aboriginal community. I have no idea what happened to her mother. Any help would be greatly appreciated, thank you.

  • Terry Lavelle (nee Ashman)
    July 15, 2023 5:32 am

    Hello. I would love to know if perhaps my Paternal grandmother may have been of Aboriginal descent. I was very young (10 years old) when my parents separated so it was never discussed prior to this and as I have gotten older and more aware, it has been on my mind more and more. I have done an Ancestry DNA test but it didn’t give me what I was looking for. Both my parents have now passed on as have my Grandparents and I do not have contact as such with my fathers side of the family. I am hoping that maybe someone there may be able to advise me further as to how I may get some idea of where I may be able to find out. If so,I would be very much appreciative of this. Thank you for reading this thus far. Kind regards, Terry..

  • I need help, I’ve just been told that my great great grandmother was apart of the stolen generation, I don’t have her birth certificate and I don’t have her marriage certificate we don’t know where they are. I also don’t know her maiden name so this makes everything extremely difficult. What can I do to find out what my heritage is?

    • Maria, Evolve Communities
      July 13, 2023 6:50 am

      Hi Amber – Aunty Munya encourages people in your situation to consider a DNA test. It may connect you with a member of your family and then you would know who your mob was. Aunty has been able to reconnect with a lost member of her Aboriginal family through

    • You can apply to Births Deaths & Marriages to get her Birth Certificate or their Marriage certificate which would have her maiden name on it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.