Loris Williams was friend of mine. She loved the smell of lavender, her family and was a proud Aboriginal woman with Mulinjali (Beaudesert – father Cyril Williams) and Birra Gubba (North Qld – mother Agnes Bell) heritage.
I met her when she started working at the State Library of Queensland in 1994. She was the reason I became an Aboriginal librarian and archivist.
Today I want to pay tribute to her and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have lead the way. Because of her, I could …
She was a unique mentor that put your needs first and took great joy in your success.
She had a lovely writing style and was a passionate advocate for Indigenous people’s right to know their histories held in information institutions, such as libraries, archives, historical societies, museums and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organistations.
Loris wanted to open Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander government records, especially at the Queensland State Archives. To accomplish this task Loris became the first Queensland Aboriginal qualified Archivist in 2004. Unfortunately a short-lived dream as in August 2005 Loris died at the age of 55.
Loris and I created the 1996 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment and Career Development five year plan at the State Library of Queensland. Loris informed me that through gaining professional qualifications and developing information management skills we would be better candidates for career opportunities. We would be able to influence our fellow librarians or archivists to support new and innovative Indigenous initiatives and break down the barriers in accessing Indigenous content.
Loris always spoke of the need to have qualified Indigenous staff in the archives and record keeping sector. In a paper at the Australian Society of Archivists (ASA) 1999 Conference, she commented “The ASA is to be commended for their commitment to encouraging Indigenous employment by aligning with the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) in the Indigenous Recruitment & Career Development Strategy”.
She wanted to lead by example, to show Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that a career in the libraries and archives was a way help Australians understand their history, their family lifestyle in a difficult time, and educate future generations on the struggles accomplished by Indigenous people for equality.
Loris joined the team of Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policies in Community and Personal Histories in 1998 to gain an understanding of records and client service needs and to visit communities, such as Cherbourg (above), to help Aborigines learn their family histories.
As testament to her own personal commitment and lasting legacy, it was due to Loris’s leadership, as Convenor of the Indigenous Issues Special Interest Group (IISIG) of the ASA from September 2003 to 2005, that the group produced the brochure ‘Pathways to your future and our past: careers for Indigenous peoples in archives and records’ to encourage Indigenous people to train as archivists and records managers. This directly paved the way for an ASA scholarship being offered that now deservedly bears Loris’s name.
I was fortunate to be the recipient of this scholarship in 2009.
Loris presence still effects my decisions in my career life even after she has been gone for 13 years.
Loris Williams Meeting room
Loris Williams Memorial Scholarship Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
State Library of Queensland John Oxley Library Blog