What is it about?

Message sticks are a traditional communication device innovated by Indigenous Australians. The database allows users to find message sticks that belong to their communities, to learn more about their meanings and to analyze them at scale.

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Why is it important?

Knowledge about message sticks has often been suppressed or dispossessed and has been fragmented across collecting institutions and archives around the world. This resource allows individuals to connect relevant information and build a picture of this unique communication system.


This article was written with collaborators across the world, including Dr Lorina Barker, an oral historian and senior Muruwari and Wangkumara woman. We believe strongly in restoring traditional knowledge to communities that have been dispossessed by colonialism. With the best of intentions, collecting institutions suppress information in order to maintain cultural safety, respect the specialist authority of senior Indigenous knowledge holders and to demonstrate a commitment to maintaining Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property. However, these policies when misapplied can undermine Indigenous communities' 'Right to Know' and damage the integrity of the archive. This digital meta-repository aims to overcome these problems by aggregating and decentralising multiple sources, while respecting the rights of knowledge holders.

Dr Piers Kelly

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: AMSD: The Australian Message Stick Database, PLoS ONE, April 2024, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0299712.
You can read the full text:

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