An ARDC case study

Improving data and services to empower Indigenous Australians

  • The problem: Finding and accessing Indigenous data
  • The approach: Creating a framework for data collections
  • The outcome: Providing Indigenous Australians with better access to their cultural heritage and improving local community services

The problem: Finding and accessing Indigenous data

A number of organisations, including research groups, galleries, libraries, museums and service providers hold a wealth of data generated by and about Indigenous Australians, their ancestors and the communities.

However, there was no system of knowing how these agencies were collecting, storing and distributing this information.

The approach: Creating a framework for data collections

The Indigenous Data Network (IDN), which works with Indigenous communities to develop technical capability and resources for managing their data, wanted to fix this conundrum.

The group developed a project, which was supported by the ARDC, to discover how existing, widespread data about Indigenous Australians could be linked together. They also wanted to create a national technical and governance framework for data collections, including improvements in data integrity, accuracy and scale.

The project team conducted a national survey to document the extent, substance, integrity and security of this data and identify what was required to turn the isolated collections into FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) data assets.

The outcome: Providing Indigenous Australians with better access to their cultural heritage and improving local community services

Indigenous Data Network logo
Indigenous data network - used with permission. Copyright University of Melbourne

One result of the project, a series of new research database platforms, gives individuals and communities more effective use and oversight of their cultural heritage.

Improved access to local data is helping community services address the real needs of the community, rather than relying on inaccurate and outdated government statistics.

The project also resulted in a nationwide recognition of the importance of Indigenous data collections.

On 23 January 2020, the Prime Minister announced that the IDN, in collaboration with Coalition of Peaks, a consortium of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled peak and member organisations across Australia, would be implementing one of four new priority reforms for the updated National Agreement on Closing the Gap. The fourth reform ensures that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to and capability to use locally relevant data and information.

The IDN is now putting the fourth reform into action.

The federal government provided IDN with $1.5 million to build a pilot program, including a new platform to provide individual portal access to the widespread organisations.

“The ARDC project is testimony to what can be achieved with a small amount of funding,” said Dr James Rose, the project leader and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

Big Data

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