Working PaperPDF Available

Indigenous Data Governance, Submission by the AIGI to the Australian Productivity Commission, 2016



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Mr Peter Harris and Ms Melinda Cilento
Chairman and Commissioner
Data Availability and Use Inquiry
Productivity Commission
Via website:
29 July 2016
Dear Chairman and Commissioner
Data Availability and Use - Productivity Commission Issues Paper
The Australian Indigenous Governance Institute (AIGI) welcomes the
opportunity to provide comments on the Productivity Commission's Data
Availability and Use Issues Paper. AIGI promotes a future Australia where
Indigenous nations can pursue and exercise their right to self-determination
and economic development through strong selfgovernance.
The purpose of our submission is to draw attention to the fact that there are
specific Indigenous dimensions to all of the matters raised in the Issues
Paper. If left unaddressed, these will result in a lost opportunity for Indigenous
Australians, their representative organisations, and business enterprises to
gain access to data that will assist in their pursuit of self-determined
socioeconomic development. More pointedly, it is most likely to mean that
Indigenous people in Australia will further lose even the limited access and
governance control they currently have over data that are ‘about them’.
We trust you find this information useful, and would be pleased to provide
further input during the course of the Commission's Inquiry.
If your Office requires further information, please contact us at or on 0498 880 025.
Yours sincerely
Jason Glanville
Australian Indigenous Governance Institute
P 0498 880 025
T @AIGInstitute
Level 2, 27-31 Cope Street
Sydney NSW 2016 Australia
ABN 87 158 627 386
1. Purpose!
1.1 The Australian Indigenous Governance Institute (AIGI) was established in 2008 and
formally incorporated in 2012 as an independent, non-government, not-for-profit organisation
that is a centre of knowledge and excellence in governance ( AIGI promotes a
future Australia where Indigenous nations can pursue and exercise their right to self-
determination and economic development through strong selfgovernance. We know that
practical, effective and culturally-legitimate governance is the fundamental building block for
delivering real change. AIGI seeks to realise this change by actively assisting Indigenous
nationswhether their members live in remote, rural or urban settingsin their efforts to
determine and strengthen their own sustainable systems of self-governance.
1.2 The purpose of this submission by the AIGI to the Productivity Commission’s (PC)
Inquiry into Data Availability and Use is to draw attention to the fact that there are specific
Indigenous dimensions to a majority of the matters raised by the PC Issues Paper that require
recognition and further consideration. These derive from the:
particular data needs, rights and interests of Indigenous Australians and their
governance entities that are created by Australian law;
culturally-based Indigenous jurisdiction over a range of knowledges and related
contemporary data sets;
broader practical implications of giving effect to Australian Government commitments
under international law, most notably in regard to its endorsement of the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2009.
1.3 The current international context in Canada is particularly relevant for Australia. For
example, the Canadian Government is currently working directly with First Nation Data
organisations in the collaborative collection of data about First Nations (see:; It is also actively partnering with First Nations and their National Assembly to co-
produce an extensive array of policies and legislative initiatives in order to find workable and
practical ways to give effect to the intent of UNDRIP (see:
1.4 The central point we make is that nowhere in the Issues Paper is there any suggestion
that Indigenous peoples have specific and general rights and interests in what happens to 'their'
data. The fact is, there are Indigenous dimensions to all of the matters raised in the Issues Paper
which, left unaddressed, will result in a lost opportunity for Indigenous Australians, their
representative organisations, and business enterprises to gain access to data that will assist in
their pursuit of self-determined socioeconomic development. More pointedly, it is most likely to
mean that Indigenous people in Australia will further lose even the limited access and control
they currently have over data that are ‘about them’.
2. Emerging Trends!
2.1 As essential background to the inquiry, we draw your attention to a fast emerging trend
among Indigenous peoples around the world, including in Australia, towards the assertion and
exercise of Indigenous data sovereignty. As the global data revolution unfolds, indeed
accelerates, notions of data sovereignty have emerged as a 21st Century imperative prompted
by the effect of information technologies in weakening impediments to data access and linkage
that were previously imposed by international boundaries and extant limitations in computing
2.2 In this context, ‘sovereignty’ reflects the desire and ability of all nation-states, including
Indigenous nations, to govern and manage the collection, ownership, and application of their
own data in ways that are consistent with their laws, practices and customs. This extends to the
capacity of Indigenous people to gather data for their own purposes and use. This is particularly
important, as Indigenous peoples are commonly under-represented or excluded from large-scale
national surveys. And even when Indigenous people are consulted, some of the information
obtained may not be useful or applicable to their social, political and cultural organisation and
decision-making needs.
2.3 An overarching conclusion of a recent (2015) Academy of the Social Sciences in
Australia (ASSA) international workshop was to re-affirm the assertion of the UNDRIP that
Indigenous peoples have a right to self-determination emanating from their inalienable
relationships to lands, waters, and the natural world, and that to give practical effect to this right
requires a relocation of authority over the collection and ownership of relevant data from nation-
states back to Indigenous peoples (Kukutai & Taylor, in press). The workshop framed the
concept of data sovereignty as referring to the proper locus of Indigenous authority over the
management of information that are about Indigenous peoples, their territories and ways of life,
in a way that is consistent with the laws, practices and customs of those peoples (Snipp, in
press). Such sovereignty includes being able to design the rules governing access and use.
2.3 Significantly, discussions of data sovereignty are occurring precisely at a time when data
are becoming more open and accessible than before:
Open data in the context of Indigenous peoples and communities can be understood as
a double-edged sword. On the one hand, open data can help Indigenous communities,
both internally and externally. Internally, it can be used to inform policy, allocate
resources, and set a vision for Indigenous communities and spaces; externally, it can
be used to influence public opinion, change perceptions of Indigenous people, and help
them work towards obtaining available resources. On the other hand, the concept of
opening up data is accompanied by numerous challenges and concerns pertaining to
privacy and Indigenous information rights (IODC 2015: 25)
2.4 Indigenous perspectives on this issue from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the
USA are presented in a forthcoming publication of the proceedings of the 2015 ASSA workshop
(Kukutai & Taylor, in press).
2.5 Particularly noteworthy is that Indigenous peoples are increasingly taking action to
establish their own data strategies and institutions. Significant examples include:
The formation of a Māori Data Sovereignty Network in New Zealand (Te Mana
Raraunga) that is currently active in representing Māori interests in reform of the New
Zealand Statistics Act 1975 and the Privacy Act 1995 (
In Canada, the work of the First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC)
has provided a forceful statement of Indigenous data sovereignty based on First Nations’
ownership, control, access and possession of data (OCAP®) (
In Nunavut, northern Canada, the Naasautit, Inuit Health Statistics collates and
organises Inuit-specific statistics to make a range of socioeconomic data readily
available to regional Inuit organisations and communities
The formation of the US Indigenous Data Sovereignty Network hosted by the Native
Nations Institute at the University of Arizona (
Also in south western USA, the establishment of the Peublo ‘Tiguanomics’ Unit within
the Pueblo government derived from their efforts to transform into a data-driven nation
through the enhancement of data collection and statistical analysis to promote informed
decision making and improve tribal governance, programs and services
In British Columbia (BC), the First Nations’ Data Governance Initiative established
under leadership of the Ktunaxa Nation to inform decision-making and guide planning
and investment strategies. The Initiative is one of a number of agreements with the BC
and Canadian Governments that describe a comprehensive and ambitious provincial
mandate and agenda in First Nations’ health, social determinants, health information
governance, and health data information sharing and system transformation
And, most recently, in Australia, a group of Indigenous social scientists, currently
coordinated from the University of Tasmania, has formed the Maiam nayri Wingara
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data sovereignty group.
A sign of the current high level of importance that data sovereignty issues are afforded by
Indigenous peoples worldwide is the fact that the 4th IODC International Open Data Summit to
be held in Madrid in October 2016 will convene the first Indigenous Open Data Summit’ as
part of its proceedings, with many of the above groups represented.!
2.6 While the precise scope of Indigenous data sovereignty is still being formulated, debates
about ‘big data, ‘open data’ and ‘metadata’ have been dominated by national governments and
multinational corporations and have focused on issues of commercialisation, data linkage, legal
jurisdictional control, and individual privacy in an increasingly connected world. !
2.7 Missing from these conversations has been consideration of the inherent and inalienable
collective rights and interests of Indigenous peoples related to the collection, ownership and
application of data about their people, lifeways, territories and development needs (Fourmile
1989; Janke 1999; Kukutai & Taylor, in press). These rights are asserted in the UNDRIP,
wherein Articles 3, 4, 5, 15(i), 18, 19, 20(i), 23, 31, 32, 33, 38 and 42 all raise urgent questions
about the manner in which nation-states gather, use and make available, data on their
Indigenous citizens. To date, a lack of consideration of Indigenous rights and interests has been
part of what has been called a practical ‘implementation gap’ surrounding Articles 38 and 42 of
UNDRIP whereby even good intentions by nation-states in the form of legislative and
administrative changes might substantially fail to deliver the benefits and governing authority
over data that Indigenous peoples seek (Malezer 2009).!
3. Substantive Points!
As a contribution to more informed consideration of Indigenous perspectives and rights in this
arena, AIGI offers the following information, and observations on relevant sections of the Issues
3.1 The concept of ‘data’!
We concur with the Commission’s distinction between ‘data’ and ‘information’, with the latter
enabling raw data to be put into context and given meaning and value. We also see ‘big data’ as
including structured, semi-structured and unstructured data with public, private and personal
dimensions. However, we would add to that definitional scope, the dimensions of social
(collective) and cultural data, including cultural intellectual property (IP) over various
knowledge systems.!
If we think of data about Indigenous Australians as being a continuum, for much of the past 200
years we have moved from a situation where Indigenous peoples had full sovereignty over their
data, to a situation of colonial suzerainty over their data, to the contemporary period where
Indigenous rights to sovereignty over data are being re-asserted. It is ironic, then, that just at the
point when Indigenous rights to self-determination have been formally recognised by the
Australian government via their endorsement of the UNDRIP (Article 3), the global data
revolution threatens a form of neoliberal data suzerainty unless provisions are made to
safeguard Indigenous rights and interests (see Pool, in press).!
3.2 Indigenous governance of data for self-determined development outcomes!
The AIGI takes ‘governance’ to mean how a group of people choose to share power, authority
and accountability in order to make and implement informed decisions and design rules to
achieve their collective goals and future vision. That includes the governance of data.!
AIGI endorses research by the United Nations Development Program, the World Bank, the
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, and the Australian Indigenous
Community Governance (ICG) Project which all conclude that a critical factor in achieving
sustained development is having recognised governing authority combined with practical
capacity (see for example, Dodson & Smith 2003; Jones 2002; Smith, in press; UNDP, n.d.;
World Bank 1994). !
Such governance is a prerequisite for innovative responses to Indigenous poverty, livelihood,
environmental, family and gender concerns. It is a powerful predictor of success in economic
development; it delivers a tangible return and is an investment in the future. !
In AIGI’s forthcoming (2016) report Voices of Our Success: Sharing the Stories and Analysis
from the 2014 Indigenous Governance Awards, we set out research conclusions based on our
analysis of applications submitted by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations across
Australia to the Indigenous Governance Awards. We found that applicant organisations:!
are putting considerable creative thought into how new media and technology can
support their governance and operations. These include website content (blog, events
calendar, annual and financial reports, policies, photos, interviews, videos), email,
electronic newsletters, media releases and social media such as Twitter, Facebook and
LinkedIn. For many organisations, the electronic age helps to enhance their
governance strategies. The low cost, convenience and adaptability of electronic
communication tools are particularly crucial to the functioning of non-incorporated
These media platforms facilitate effective communication with residentially dispersed members,
support staff operating across varied service areas, and assist greatly board members in
dispersed communities to access data and information in order to make informed decisions.
More and more organisations also present their cultural vision and governance charters on their
websites, as a way of telling the culture story for their governance.!
eGovernance of these kinds enhances Indigenous organisational capacity to communicate with
members, clients and stakeholders, and facilitates internal relations and future planning. Our
analysis indicates that 73% of incorporated and 63% of non-incorporated applicants utilise
electronic mediums.!
The National Indigenous Digital Excellence Strategy (2014) produced by the National Centre for
Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) has strongly reinforced the fact that with the continuing shift
towards a knowledge economy, Indigenous digital excellence is: !
crucial in enabling participation in the social and economic activities that are essential
to achieving wellbeingbe it physical health, economic prosperity, social and emotional
health, the resilience of a community, or the health of an environment (NCIE 2014: 14).!
NCIE accordingly proposes that strengthening Indigenous participation, practice and
entrepreneurship in the digital economy, within a framework of self-determination, is critical for
the expression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander excellence, in all its forms, into the future. !
It is recommended that:!
A strategic approach is developed to promoting the low cost, convenience and
adaptability of electronic communication tools for Indigenous Australians, and a
coordinated funding base be made available for building Indigenous data and related
digital management capabilities. There be greater streamlined access by Indigenous
governance entities to relevant government and private-sector data, and that those data
are customised to meet Indigenous. !
Such initiatives are particularly crucial to the effective functioning and governance of Indigenous
groups and their organisations, and to their future engagement in the growing knowledge
3.3 Indigenous collective data ownership and subsidiarity!
Following Article 3 of UNDRIP, we emphasise the need to recognise and address the collective
rights of Indigenous peoples in data, in contrast to the substantive focus on the individual that
appears in much of the PC Issues Paper. !
In Indigenous Australia not all information is freely available to everyone within the same group,
let alone external parties. There are influential gender and age dimensions to access to
knowledge, and rules around certain restricted forms of information, about who owns, can
reproduce and authorise information, and for what purposes. !
As a consequence, governing authority over particular sets of Indigenous information is
characterised by subsidiarity; that is, ownership rights and responsibilities over knowledge are
distributed across multiple interconnected social layers and polities. Such Indigenous subsidiarity
establishes thick culturally-based networks of information. !
There are also hierarchies of value assigned to different sets of knowledge and information.
Some highly treasured knowledges are regarded as ‘inalienable possessions’ which are passed
on by senior knowledge holders from one generation to the next. These constitute what Radin
(1982) and Moustakas (1989: 1185) refer to as rights in cultural ‘property for grouphood’. In other
words, the ownership and transmission of some kinds of knowledge are fundamental to the
ongoing collective cultural identity of Indigenous groups over time. This complex Indigenous
knowledge economy has direct implications for the collection, digitisation and dissemination of
Indigenous information and its transformation into data (see Nakata & Langton 2005; Ormond-
Parker & Sloggett 2012). !
We strongly encourage the Inquiry to consider the implications of individual versus
collective rights and the subsidiarity of ownership, for data governance, access and use. !
Similarly, the Inquiry should give due consideration to the threats and opportunities for
Indigenous peoples presented by census transformation programs, data linkage, and the
advent of ‘big data’ and ‘open data’.!
Regarding the treatment of data ownership and privacy in the Issues Paper we further note the
Australian Law Reform Commission’s 2008 discussion of the extension of privacy laws beyond
the individual (Commonwealth of Australia 2008: 338-51) and the Law Reform Commission’s
observation that protections for group rights do exist in international law. It cites the UNDRIP in
this regard but, significantly, adds the caveat that Australia, in 2008, was not a signatory. !
Now that Australia has endorsed the UNDRIP, we argue that the implications of this
endorsement of collective Indigenous rights for the matters raised by the current Inquiry,
should be given full consideration. !
Because Indigenous knowledge is often defined as being holistic and collectively owned,
appropriate protections must allow for maintaining the cultural authority and physical
environment that has generated it (Marinova & Raven 2006). The 2003 UNESCO Convention for
the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage specifies that communities must be full
partners in efforts to safeguard their intangible cultural heritage (Hennessy 2012). Despite such
recommendations, the notion of safeguarding and governing stewardship of knowledge
continues to be complicated by the national politics and global economic mechanisms that
promote open data and digital circulation.
In accord with UNDRIP, protections for cultural heritage should include recognition of the
self-determined Indigenous governance that protects such knowledge. In particular,
UNDRIP Article 31 goes to the matter of Intellectual Property. We further encourage the
Commission to give consideration to the implications of Article 31 for all the matters it is
assessing in the Inquiry.
3.4 Data quality, technical and relevance issues
Leaving aside the potential benefits of ‘open data’ and big data’ as canvassed in the Issues
Paper, a significant irony is emerging in regard to the collection of social statistics on Indigenous
peoples in Australia; namely, at no time has there been such a volume and range of data
potentially available on something called ‘the Indigenous population’. Most commonly this is as a
consequence of efforts by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS 2007) but also by some
government departments operating in particular industry areas (such as health, education, labour
force status, law and justice etc.).
At the same time, it is well-documented that there are ongoing shortcomings in Indigenous data
quality and ease of access (see for example:
quality-availability/;; On the public-sector side,
shortcomings include: the erratic implementation of Indigenous identifiers, federal fragmentation
of departmental data, state jurisdictional frameworks with convoluted approvals and access
processes, low levels of funding for education and resourcing of the the Indigenous public about
ways to access and analyse public-sector data. On the Indigenous demand side, challenges
include low levels of access to and skills in ever-changing digital technology and data expertise,
a digital technological shortfall in many of the locations where Indigenous people reside, erratic
funding for data collection and use, and significant differences in cross-cultural data concepts
and priorities.
Despite the ever-increasing growth in ‘big data’, there remains a dearth of information on the
various sociocultural entities (‘peoples’) that make up the Indigenous Australian population, and
on their aspirations for development. As a consequence, in matters that are crucial to the
interests of numerous Indigenous polities that are constituted under various land rights and
native title legislation, we are increasingly information rich but invariably knowledge and
infrastructure poor. So much so, in fact, that one prominent Aboriginal leader was compelled to
observe in regard to the specially-designed National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social
Survey of 2008:
The view I have about data is a long way from the current paradigm where data is
collected on Indigenous society by governments for their purposes, not to support the
objectives that Indigenous people want to determine. I share a pervasive Indigenous
aversion to the way data is collected by governments, academics or professional
researchers on or about Aboriginal people. despite the wealth of empirical data
dished up by countless inquiries, Royal Commissions and research projects over many
decades about the social and economic condition of Aboriginal society, little practical
benefit seems to come from all this data. Th[e] categories are constructed in the
imagination of the Australian nation state. They are not geographic, social or cultural
spaces that have relevance to Aboriginal people (Yu 2012).
Much of the data that are referred to in the PC Issues Paper are constructed (and made
available) according to categories of the ABS Australian Statistical Geography Standard
(ASGS). For just over a century, such classifications have serviced the data needs of federal,
state and territory tiers of government. In recent decades, they have also provided for a third
tierlocal government. !
The question now arises as to what responsibilities governments need to assume under Articles
38 and 42 of UNDRIP in order to meet the data needs of the emerging fourth tierIndigenous
governance? While various forms of Indigenous organisational incorporation have been
established or are required under Australian law (such as community welfare organisations and
businesses, Prescribed Bodies Corporate and Native Title Representative Bodies), the culturally-
based populations, polities and cultural geographies that they govern and represent are
invariably not addressed by current statistical frameworks. For example, to take just a few
random examples, data at the level of the Yolngu, Yorta Yorta, Nyoongar, Wiradjuri, Yawuru or
Wik peoples do not exist. Nor are public and private sector data available for Indigenous
Protected Areas, Land Trusts or Native Title holders consent-determination geographies.
In order to facilitate greater access to, and use of, public and private sector data by these
legitimately recognised Indigenous governing interests, we argue that a relevant
government agency, such as the ABS, should follow the example of New Zealand and
establish a mechanism to determine what the customised data needs of Indigenous
nations and communities might be. !
A related technical matter is the scale at which Indigenous polities operate in many cases this
is small, dispersed and based on relatively few numbers, often in the low thousands and even
less. This poses challenges for balancing the need to access categorical public data (for
example by age breakdown) against the fact that small numbers are often confidentialised to
such an extent that the data made available invariably provide no useful information. There is
also the issue of the relevance of data for small polities that may arise from any future survey-
based estimation of Indigenous peoples’ needs and circumstances. Such data are envisaged, for
example, under proposals for a rolling Australian Population Survey that the ABS might deploy to
supersede the quinquennial census. The limitations of such population-level approximations for
the governance needs of place-based groups are substantial, a fact that is already apparent in
the ABS’ flagship National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) as this
enables only limited spatial disaggregation and is little used for community-level governance and
With regard to the Issue Paper’s discussion of the Geocoded National Address File (G-NAF), it is
instructive that a comprehensive survey of all Indigenous households in Broome and surrounding
region conducted by the Kimberley Institute on behalf of Yawuru Native Title holders in 2011
found that a total of 59 such dwellings (6.5% of the total) were missing from the G-NAF (Taylor et
al. 2012). It is significant that the vast majority of these dwellings were located in Aboriginal Land
Trust (ALT) areas and in well-known Aboriginal camping sites around the urban area. In this
instance local-level knowledge and data collection proved more accurate. This raises the
prospect that similar omissions from the G-NAF may apply across the country in
locations where Indigenous land tenure and living areas prevail. !
Establishing the precise national picture here has been made all the more difficult since the
demise of the Community Housing and Infrastructure Survey (CHINS) that was administered by
the ABS in 1999 and then again prior to the 2001 and 2006 censuses. Comprehensive
knowledge of remote area, and especially small settlement infrastructure, would be
enhanced by the reinstatement of a routine exercise such as the CHINS along with
enhanced data linkage and open access between relevant government departments. !
We also recommend that local Indigenous expertise and knowledge should be prioritised
as the basis for all local-level data collection by public and private sector agencies.
3.5 Free prior informed consent!
With the above considerations in mind, we acknowledge the potential of big data and open data
for contributing to Indigenous development initiatives, and the great value of increased
Indigenous access to government and private sector data. Such initiatives promise to:!
enhance the goals of self-determination and self-government of Indigenous peoples
(Articles 3 and 4 of UNDRIP);
strengthen their ability to participate in the making of decisions that affect them (Article
improve their capacity for free, prior and informed consent (Articles 19 and 32); and
define, pursue and assess development in a manner of their own choosing (Article 23).
For these recognised areas of self-determination to be progressed, Articles 19 and 32 of the
UNDRIP lay out requirements for enabling free, prior and informed consent to be obtained from
Indigenous peoples prior to adopting any legislative and administrative measures that may affect
them, and prior to the approval of any project that may affect Indigenous lands and other
resources. !
The need for free and open access to relevant data by Indigenous representative groups
should form an essential part of the Commission’s proposals for future opening of
government and other data sets. !
The implications of free prior informed consent provisions for the gathering of data from
Indigenous peoples by public and private sector interests should also be given
consideration by the Inquiry!
3.6 Holding governments accountable!
Over twenty-five years ago in Australia, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
(1991) in Australia recommended that:!
When social indicators are to be used to monitor and/or evaluate policies and programs
concerning Aboriginal people, their informed views should be incorporated into the
development, interpretation and use of the indicators, to ensure that they adequately
reflect Aboriginal perceptions and aspirations (RCIADIC 1991, Recommendation 2:53).!
In the development of future national censuses and other data collection activity covering
Aboriginal people, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and other agencies ensure that
full account is taken of the Aboriginal perspective.!
Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments provide access to all government
archival records pertaining to the family and community histories of Aboriginal people
(RCIADIC 1991, Recommendations 2:63).!
Arguably, there has been poor progress in implementing these recommendations. As a
consequence, it continues to be difficult for Indigenous people to obtain accurate robust data by
which they can evaluate government accountability for its own decision-making, expenditures,
procedures and outcomes in Indigenous Affairs. !
In the past, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission provided some formal
Indigenous check and balance on government activity in the area of Indigenous data collection
under s.7 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act (1989). Amendment to
that Act to abolish ATSIC in 2005 therefore extinguished an important Indigenous representative
validating environment for statistical data collection and dissemination. With this now gone, the
question remains as to who governments should/could legitimately and formally engage with in
order to ensure Indigenous input and imprimatur for its activities in this area. !
Another issue raised recurrently as impeding Indigenous access to government data about them,
has been that of the poor ‘governance of governments’ and their low capacity for inter-
departmental and cross-jurisdictional cooperation in this area. In this context, much has been
said about the Indigenous Community Coordination Pilot (COAG) Trials conducted between
2002 and 2006, and much of it negative (e.g. see Gray 2006). However, a basic aim of those
trials was to examine how to ‘improve the way governments interact with each other and with
(Indigenous) communities to deliver more effective responses to the needs of Indigenous
Australians’. !
One element of this cooperation where at least one trial site (Wadeye) demonstrated a positive
outcome, was to do with a coordinated response by governments to enable Indigenous access
to departmental program data. At the commencement of the trial, traditional owners of the
Wadeye region proclaimed no factual knowledge of their social and economic circumstances and
had no locally-relevant data available to them with which to enter into discussions or planning
about their future. Following a whole-of-government release of customised social and program
expenditure data mandated by the COAG process, this ‘information deficit’ was overcome with
positive results for community development, planning and participation (Taylor 2004; Taylor and
Stanley 2005). !
It would be worth revisiting such positive lessons in data sharing that arose from these expensive
trials as this particular aspect appears to have been overlooked in their evaluation. Support for
such a consideration appears in the recent Empowered Communities: Empowered Peoples
Design Report (Wunan Foundation Inc. 2015) which argues convincingly that governments
should support Indigenous communities to regain responsibility for, and control over, decision
making and general planning. It further argues that governments and their representatives (with
their data) need to come to the table to act as enablers and facilitators in a place-based
Indigenous-led process that is backed up by a data-informed monitoring and evaluation process
(Wunan Foundation Inc. 2015: 41, 90-94). As the Wadeye COAG trial demonstrated, this cannot
be achieved without open access to relevant public sector data. !
Accordingly, we suggest that the Commission’s inquiry develop practical
recommendations about how such enabling and facilitation can be practically achieved. !
3.7 Data capacity!
To govern well for the future, Indigenous people are looking for what could be called ‘culture-
smart’ data; that is, data which can be produced locally, captures local social units, conditions,
priorities and concerns, and is culturally-informed and meaningful. These kinds of data build on
existing Indigenous capabilities and knowledge, have direct practical application, and represent
collective identities, rights and priorities (AIGI 2016; Smith, in press). For that to occur, resources
and support need to be dedicated to further building Indigenous data capacities and digital
expertise (NCIE 2014).!
This is an urgent need given the fast-changing global and national environment in which the
evolution of data technology is occurring. Over a decade ago, Daly (2001) considered the
implications of changes in the technological and regulatory environment in the
telecommunications industry for Indigenous Australians living in remote and rural areas. She
noted that this group is particularly vulnerable to falling on the wrong side of the ‘digital divide’
because of their geographical location and their low socioeconomic status. Key issues here
include availability of skills and resources required for data collection and management. A more
recent analysis of digital and internet access in remote Indigenous outstations in the Northern
Territory found the continuing same low levels of necessary infrastructure, funding and
education/training (Rennie et al. 2016). !
Access to the skills and technologies required to obtain and utilise public and private sector data
is an increasingly critical issue for Indigenous community governance and development
outcomes. Any development of future data policy frameworks, regulations and related
technology infrastructure for Australia must include an assessment of required training,
equipment and resource needs of Indigenous people.!
The statistical capacity needs of Indigenous Australians have recently been examined by Lovett
(in press) on the premise that statistics developed from an Indigenous ‘frame of view’ and with
greater engagement by Indigenous people in data conceptualisation, design, collection, analysis
and reporting would greatly enhance the utility of information for Indigenous Australian nations.
However, to achieve this requires a quantum increase in professionally-trained Indigenous
statisticians and digital experts in a professional field that has struggled with student enrolments
generally in recent years. One solution, for Indigenous data training, is to make coursework more
relevant to Indigenous worldviews and priorities. There is also a pressing need for official
statistical agencies to make more meaningful use of existing statistical skills among Indigenous
professionals (Lovett, in press).!
More broadly, Snipp (in press) advanced three preconditions for data decolonisation to meet
Indigenous needs: !
i) that indigenous peoples have power to determine who should be counted among them; !
ii) that data must reflect the interests and priorities of indigenous peoples; and !
iii) that Indigenous communities must not only dictate the content of data collected about
them, they must also have the power to determine who has access to these data. !
In other words, data governance is a foundation stone. It requires the building of Indigenous
expertise in the production and management of data, and the formation of Indigenous self-
determined governance arrangements that allow for their own institutional oversight of research
and data collection in their communities.!
3.8 An Indigenous Forum/Inquiry
Data collection for exercising effective Indigenous governance, and the effective governance of
data, are emerging as twin capabilities that are fundamental to underwriting the daily exercise of
Indigenous self-determination and sovereignty for the social good. These matters are of such
import for the future of Indigenous Australians that they must be fully considered and
strategies/recommendations should be developed by Indigenous peoples themselves.
As noted in this submission, there are now numerous Indigenous self-governing entities all of
which have unique public and private sector data needs and, no doubt, many that overlap. In line
with principles of Indigenous data sovereignty, we strongly urge the Productivity Commission
to recommend a separate Indigenous Data Forum/Inquiry to identify and consider the
wide range of data needs and the issues that are relevant to Indigenous data governance,
access, ownership and use. Such a Forum/Inquiry should be tasked with providing
recommendations to the Australian Government for its consideration. !
3.9 Implications of trade globalisation!
Australian Governments have generally been in favour of Free Trade Agreements, however the
implications of these international arrangements have rarely been considered for Indigenous
peoples. One such assessment followed the release of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the
USA on 8 February 2004 where it became evident that Indigenous Australians were not
consulted throughout the negotiation phase (see Behrendt & Davis 2016; Davis 2004).
This general lack of understanding of the content and implications of FTAs is a concern as there
are potentially many areas in which the rights and interests of Indigenous Australians could be
significantly impacted upon by such Agreements; including in respect of data control, access and
use. !
This is not to deny that FTAs can be sensitive to Indigenous needs. The USFTA, for example,
contains an exemption that allows for ‘the right to adopt or maintain any measure with respect to
investment that accords preferences to any indigenous person or organisation or provides for the
favourable treatment of any indigenous person or organisation’. This exemption relates to goods
and services and is, in turn, relevant to the Australian Government’s implementation of its
Indigenous procurement policy; for example, this will encompass services and contracts dealing
with data. It should be noted, however, that the exemption does not ensure the protection of
cultural, intellectual property and other rights, including over related data (Behrendt & Davis
Given the increasing number of Trade Agreements entered into by the Australian
government we urge the Inquiry to examine the implications for Indigenous data
sovereignty of the terms and conditions of existing and proposed FTAs.!
4. Final Remarks!
Sovereignty includes being able to design rules for the restriction and opening of data. The
UNDRIP, which has been signed by the Australian Government, asserts the self-determined
right and interests of Indigenous people in this arena. !
Open data in the context of Indigenous peoples is a double-edged sword. On the one hand,
open data could be used to inform development, allocate resources, and help set a future vision;
and to influence wider public opinion and debates. On the other hand, opening up data may be
accompanied by concern about protecting Indigenous collective cultural information rights and
intellectual property and further remove the subjects of data and information from the locus of its
control and ownership. !
Importantly data sovereignty means taking on a significant responsibility to collect and maintain
data that reinforce particular collective identities and assist in delivering real improvements in
people’s circumstances. From this perspective, Indigenous governance of data assets is about
stewardship for both present and future generations.!
The Australian Indigenous Governance Institute proposes that strengthening Indigenous self-
determination, participation, practice and entrepreneurship in the data and digital economy is
critical for the expression of Indigenous development, in all its forms, into the future.!
Indigenous data governance and digital tools provide new institutional platforms and
opportunities through which to deliver programs, spark ideas and realise individual and
community goals. They enable new models for engagement and effective delivery of services.!
We believe that Indigenous data governance and enhanced skills in digital technology can
bolster the many existing community developed and controlled programs, initiatives and
solutions that already create positive wellbeing and economic outcomes. We see tremendous
opportunity for a mix of Indigenous data, governance and digital expertise to inspire new, as yet
unimagined, solutions.
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Full-text available
Introduction Former Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Andrew Stoler has described the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) as a “third wave’ free trade agreement (FTA) that goes “beyond the envelope of the WTO’, in the sense that it ventures into areas barely covered in the WTO agreements, like competition, and expands on WTO disciplines in other areas, like services and intellectual property. Going beyond the existing WTO rules does not, of course, necessarily constitute progress, or even greater trade liberalization. In this chapter, we consider the extent to which the AUSFTA represents an improvement on the WTO bargain from the perspective of the two parties as well as the broader WTO membership. Before considering how the AUSFTA came about, we now provide an introductory snapshot of the trading and broader relationship between these two countries. United States (US) trade data indicate that the value of US exports of goods to Australia in 2006 totalled around US$17.8 billion and the value of US imports of goods from Australia amounted to US$8.2 billion. This put Australia within the top 15 countries for US exports in 2006. Services trade appears more balanced, with the Australian government reporting exports to the US at approximately AU$5.4 billion for 2005–6 and imports from the US at around AU$7.1 billion for the same period.
Internet on the Outstation provides a new take on the digital divide. Why do whole communities choose to go without the internet when the infrastructure for access is in place? Through an in-depth exploration of the digital practices occurring in Aboriginal households in remote central Australia, the authors address both the dynamics of internet adoption and the benefits that flow from its use. The book challenges us to think beyond the standard explanations for the digital divide, arguing that digital exclusion is not just another symptom of social exclusion. At its heart, Internet on the Outstation is a compelling examination of equality and difference in the digital age, asking: Can internet access help resolve the disadvantages associated with remote living? Internet on the Outstation is the result of a multi-year research collaboration, which included a trial of internet infrastructure, training and maintenance in three small Aboriginal communities (known as outstations). During the research phase, Ellie Rennie, Eleanor Hogan and Julian Thomas were based at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research in Melbourne. Robin Gregory and Andrew Crouch worked at the Centre for Appropriate Technology, an Indigenous-owned research and training organization in Alice Springs. Alyson Wright worked for the Central Land Council, the representative body for traditional owners of the central Australia region. Free download:
The 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage specifies that communities are to be full partners in efforts to safeguard their intangible cultural heritage. Yet the notion of safeguarding has been complicated by the politics and mechanisms of digital circulation. Based on fieldwork in British Columbia and Thailand, I show that community-based productions of multimedia aimed at documenting, transmitting, and revitalizing intangible heritage are productive spaces in which local cultural property rights discourses are initiated and articulated. I argue that digital heritage initiatives can support decision making about the circulation—or restriction—of digital cultural heritage while drawing attention to the complexities of safeguarding heritage in the digital age.