In 2016, Nulungu Research Institute on the Broome campus of the University of Notre Dame will be undertaking ethnographic and social history research with Aboriginal people who experienced living on the Reserves of Broome in the 60s, 70s and early 80s. People who can recall what life was like as adults living on these reserve areas are now quite advanced in age. Hence there is a sense of urgency around the recording of people’s recollections from these times.
The Living On The Reserve Project aims to document, via personal accounts, stories, recollections, photographs and with some reference to archival material, what life was like for Aboriginal families living on various reserves around Broome from 1960s until the early 80s. Many of the locations where people continue to gather are a reflection of these past reserves and town camps that people have lived in over the last century. While some of these reserve residents were Yawuru, Broome’s traditional owners, many were from adjacent language groups to the north, south and from language groups further inland.
The timeframe for the inquiry–from 1965 to 1985–is set to coincide with a general shift in approach to relevant Aboriginal Affairs policy frameworks, from exclusion and protection, to assimilation, to self-determination. One of the themes to be explored in discussions with reserve ex-residents is quality of life and sense of wellbeing, and whether these have shifted over the intervening decades. While people’s material wealth has clearly increased over this time, the project will seek to elucidate whether such an improvement has translated into overall wellbeing, or whether this greater material wealth has come at a cost.