Improving Indigenous Research Capabilities

An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Data Commons.
HASS RDC yellow scaled

The Challenge

Data is relevant to self-determination and self-governance. It’s important that Indigenous data ecosystems remain accountable to Indigenous Australians.

The Indigenous Data Network (IDN) was established to:

  • empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to decide their own local data priorities, including how their data is used
  • ensure those decisions are supported and reinforced by our national legal and policy frameworks, as well as the FAIR and CARE data principles and principles of Indigenous data democracy, stewardship, analysis, dissemination and infrastructure.

The Response

Representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers, organisations and communities across Australia, this project will review and refine national and international frameworks of Indigenous Data Governance (IDG) and Indigenous Data Sovereignty (IDS) to collectively strengthen the foundations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data governance principles, which will be translated and applied to Indigenous research data tools and infrastructure. The Indigenous Data Network (IDN) will deliver an Indigenous research capability program that celebrates, supports and enhances the capabilities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and researchers at the interface of research data science and Indigenous knowledge systems.

The Improving Indigenous Research Capability project will be delivered through 3 streams of development activities:

  • social architecture: empowering Indigenous data governance and sovereignty
  • technical architecture: building the foundations for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Data Commons
  • core national Indigenous data assets: building an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander spatio-temporal framework.

Who Will Benefit

Improving Indigenous Research Capabilities supports HASS and Indigenous research communities, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The Partners

This project is a collaboration between the ARDC and the Indigenous Data Network at the University of Melbourne.

Dr Kristen Smith, Research Director, Indigenous Studies Unit and Indigenous Data Network, The University of Melbourne, said, “Our partnership with ARDC in the HASS and Indigenous RDC has facilitated the development of foundational Indigenous social and technical research data architecture and core national Indigenous data assets at a critical juncture in our nation’s history.” 

“The partnership has initiated the first steps of building a bridge between international best practice data science and data governance, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges and worldviews by fostering a national collaborative network of partners, spanning universities the GLAM sector, government, and the Aboriginal community-controlled sector, that have assembled to undertake this vital work.”


This project is supporting the creation of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Data Commons.

Collectively, the 3 streams of activities lay the foundation to build national Indigenous research capabilities, framed by a set of agreed Indigenous Data Governance principles that can leverage existing data assets, linking them with new and existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data assets.

This project is also generating a detailed account of research data ecosystems, including how research data is distributed and used for the benefit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To date, the project has: 

  • digitised initial legacy assets
  • translated interoperability between data infrastructures and platforms
  • translated traditional indexing methods to machine-readable metadata
  • developed schema, which translates existing metadata to a consistent basis. 

Improving Indigenous Research Capabilities has also developed a tool to calculate FAIR and CARE, and other scores for a test set of catalogued Indigenous datasets. 

The wider Indigenous research data community has actively engaged with the project across multiple seminars, workshops, forums and intensive use cases with Indigenous communities, government agency partners and universities. 

Highlights include: 

More Information