ATSILIRN Protocol 7: Offensive

ATSILIRN Protocol 7 directs libraries to deal appropriately with offensive collection materials as part of our responsibility to preserve the documentary record of Australia and make it accessible.

Offensive materials include those that contain content or portrayals of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that are racist, sexist, derogatory, abusive or offensively wrong. Many of these are historical in nature and contain viewpoints or language that may not have been considered offensive at the time but are now, such as references to Aboriginal people as ‘full-blood’, ‘darkies’ or ‘gins’; cartoons and caricatures; and staged photographs.

Appropriate handling doesn’t mean censoring this material or pretending it doesn’t exist in our collections. It involves being aware of its existence in our holdings and treating it with a measure of sensitivity. This may involve making users aware of potentially offensive content before they view or read an item, such as warning text on a catalogue record or a sign at the entrance of an exhibition.

As with all ATSILIRN protocols, Protocol 7 emphasises the importance of consulting effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to seek advice about offensive materials and to develop strategies to deal with them effectively.

In some cases, we have the opportunity to address offensive materials in our collections when we become aware of them. In the video below, Ronald Briggs gives some examples of offensive materials, and how libraries might deal with them.