Fierce Compassion and Reflexivity

Transforming Practice at the University of Melbourne Archives


  • Rachel Tropea RMIT University Archives
  • Georgina Ward University of Melbourne Archives



In 2016, the University of Melbourne Archives (UMA) commenced a program of change with regard to its records about child welfare in Victoria. This was driven by a social justice imperative to repair past harms done to Care Leavers (people who grew up in orphanages, children's homes, or foster care) while in out-of-home care, and for whom records play an integral role. UMA worked with Care Leavers, advocacy groups and support services to review their policies, procedures and practices around archival documentation and access arrangements. In this article, the authors explore those efforts through the prism of radical empathy (or rather a compassionate response to empathy) and analyze what was achieved and the challenges that remain. 

Pre-print first published online 10/22/2021

Author Biographies

Rachel Tropea, RMIT University Archives

Rachel Tropea is the Archivist and Senior Coordinator at RMIT University Archives. Prior to this, she was a research archivist at the University of Melbourne. Most of Rachel's experience has been in the “action research” space, working on nationwide projects involving community, practitioners and researchers. This includes the Who Am I? and Find & Connect projects with people who grew up in out-of-home care in their quest to find out about their childhood, and, on another project with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to repatriate ancestral remains from museums, collecting institutions (including at Universities) and private collections, back to their community of origin.

Georgina Ward, University of Melbourne Archives

Georgina Ward is an Archivist at the University of Melbourne Archives where she supports archival services and works on a range of activities and projects which traverse the key areas of collection development, collection management and access and outreach. She is responsible for the release of records to Care Leavers. Georgina has a Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) and a Graduate Diploma in Information Management.