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Indigenous Data Sovereignty Principles

Indigenous Data Sovereignty Principles

Data is a cultural, strategic, and economic asset for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. However, recently Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been isolated from the language, control and production of data. This has resulted in data that are overly focused on Indigenous peoples as the problem. Existing data and data infrastructure do not recognise or privilege Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges and world views nor meet their current and future needs. Despite this, Indigenous groups across the world have increasingly become engaged with data to guide good practice going forward.

Indigenous Data Sovereignty is a global movement concerned with the right of Indigenous peoples to govern the creation, collection, ownership and application of their data. Indigenous Data Sovereignty is outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Australia has declared its support of the UNDRIP.

Indigenous Data Sovereignty in Australia refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ inherent right to govern their communities, resources, and Country (including lands, waters and sky). It is the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to exercise ownership over Indigenous data. Ownership of data can be expressed through the creation, collection, access, analysis, interpretation, management, dissemination and reuse of Indigenous data.

The Maiam nayri Wingara Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Sovereignty Collective was formed in early 2017. In the languages of the Mer, Palawi Kani and Darug peoples, Maiam nayri Wingara means to welcome good knowledge. Its goal was to develop Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data sovereignty principles, identify Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander strategic data assets, and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to engage in Indigenous Data Sovereignty.

To do this, the Maiam nayri Wingara Indigenous Data Sovereignty Collective developed an Australian set of Indigenous Data Governance protocols and principles at the inaugural “Indigenous Data Sovereignty Summit” in 2018. These are the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to:

1. Exercise control of the data ecosystem including creation, development, stewardship, analysis, dissemination and infrastructure.

2. Data that is contextual and disaggregated.

3. Data that is relevant and empowers sustainable self-determination and effective self-governance.

4. Data structures that are accountable to Indigenous peoples and First Nations.

5. Data that is protective and respects our individual and collective interests.

Exercising Indigenous Data Governance enables Indigenous peoples and their representative or governing bodies to accurately reflect their stories. It provides the necessary tools to identify what works, what doesn’t work, and why. Effective Indigenous Data Governance empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to make the best decisions to support their communities and people in the ways that meet their developmental needs and aspirations.