Presented by

About the collection

Reflection: experiences of First Nations people with social security and services from 1947 to 1997 is presented by Services Australia.

Reflection is a collection of primary artefacts that show how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gained access to social security and welfare. The artefacts show government decisions and the advocacy necessary to affect these decisions. They show the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander activists and government staff to incite change.

Reflection is the marquee activity under Services Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan. Historical acceptance is a key theme of reconciliation efforts between all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. The intention for Reflection is to contribute to historical acceptance through increased awareness and transparency of the lived experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and a deeper understanding of the impacts of social security legislation and policy.

Reflection is supported by Reconciliation Australia, the lead body for reconciliation in Australia. Learn more about Reconciliation Australia on their website.

Scope of the collection

The earliest artefacts are from the lead up to the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947. This brought most social service payments under one piece of Australian Government legislation. 

From 1939 to 1972, the Department of Social Services delivered government payments and services. This became the Department of Social Security in 1972 and then the Department of Human Services in 2004. In 1997, Centrelink was formed to take over the delivery of payments and services. Centrelink is one of the programs that Services Australia delivers today.

The collection ends with the formation of Centrelink in 1997.

About the artefacts

The collection consists of primary sources that have been digitised. Originals of these artefacts are held by various cultural institutions or by individuals who have given us permission to use them.

Sources include written documents, such as letters, official government records, and legislation and correspondence, as well as audio-visual records, such as photographs, videos and oral histories.

These records reflect the significant contributions made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They demonstrate how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have consistently advocated for themselves, their families and their communities.

We recognise that the collection is not a complete history and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples share culture and history in ways that aren’t captured in these artefacts.

Permission for use of artefacts

As well as seeking permissions from repositories, we have consulted with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who participated in the resources represented on this website, or their families and communities. We have sought permission to display their Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP).

Read more about our processes for permissions and ICIP

About the artworks

The artwork elements featured on this site were created for Services Australia by Kamilaroi and Dunghatti artist Jasmine Bennett, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artist Glen Mackie, from Iama and Old Mapoon. The elements are part of complete works that represent reconciliation.

The feature of Jasmine’s artwork (left) represents Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians moving forward to a place of respect, trust and understanding.

The feature of Glen’s artwork (right) depicts a circular water ripple, representing unity.  

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artwork
Bennett and Mackie artworks2.png

Historical language and views

Some artefacts on the site use harmful language and express offensive views. The information provided about each artefact is intended to explain these sources in their historical context. The language used and views expressed by people in positions of authority influenced their treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We are conscious that material from the past can continue to be harmful in the present and ask viewers of this site to proceed with caution.

If this content is distressing, 13YARN provides a culturally safe space to yarn about your needs, worries or concerns. They are a national crisis support line for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people available 24/7. Read more on the 13YARN website or call 13 92 76.

The artefacts and other content on this site do not reflect the views of Services Australia. Read about who we are today and about our commitment to reconciliation.