Indigenous Data

Data involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has many legal and ethical considerations and needs to be managed and shared with care. 

About Indigenous data

It’s also important to understand the role of self-determination and the need for people to be involved in managing cultural heritage in ways that are meaningful to them. This includes how their cultural, linguistic and medical data is used.

The ARDC is working with the Indigenous Data Network (IDN) so Indigenous communities can grow their technical capability and resources to manage their own data. The IDN leverages developments in the data sciences to maximise the optimal collection, access and use of data resources for community empowerment.

Protocols and research guidelines

Data about First Nations peoples sometimes involves a mediated access level, requiring potential users to meet specific conditions. Researchers, data managers and data custodians need to respect potentially different understandings of the world and to manage information and knowledge in step with these cultural differences. 

Read on to explore resources to help you manage Indigenous data ethically.

General advice for the Australian context

Guidance from individual communities

Traditional Knowledge (TK) Labels

TK Labels is an international metadata label system that can be customised by Indigenous communities and organisations. 

The labels add existing local protocols for access to and reuse of recorded cultural heritage that is digitally circulating outside community contexts and control. They help non-community data users understand these materials’ importance and significance to the communities. 

TK Labels can be used to add information that might be considered ‘missing’, including the name of the community that remains the creator or cultural custodian of the material, and how to contact the relevant family, clan or community to arrange appropriate permissions. 

The labels use icons that are consistent internationally and cannot be changed. But the text can be translated into different languages. 

Indigenous data tools and platforms

There are a growing number of tools and platforms available for Indigenous communities, and those who work with their data, to help store, maintain and organise the data in culturally sensitive ways.

Further resources

Last updated

14 May 2022

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