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 indigenous.gov.au 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
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?