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Respect, trust and engagement: creating an Australian indigenous data archive

Gabrielle Gardiner (University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)
Jemima McDonald (University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)
Alex Byrne (University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)
Kirsten Thorpe (University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)

Collection Building

ISSN: 0160-4953

Article publication date: 11 October 2011




This paper aims to demonstrate the work being done to develop a trusted digital archive for social sciences data relating to the indigenous peoples of Australia. It explores the issues that arise through respectful engagement with both indigenous communities and research communities as well as the development of pragmatic and effective data management planning strategies for higher education researchers.


As a conceptual paper, the approach consists of a review of the current situation, a discussion of the work already undertaken by the project team, and an analysis of the challenges being faced and plans for ongoing development of the project.


There are major challenges in tackling a project with issues of such complexity but the project has great significance because its success could contribute enormously to the indigenous communities to which the research relates while building the capacity of researchers to design respectful and effective data management strategies.

Practical implications

This project is rapidly evolving and the strategies for managing it are dynamic as the layers of complexity are unfolded and the project team addresses issues arising from the materials and groups with which it is working.

Social implications

The impact of this project has already reaped dividends for the communities involved. Indigenous communities whose intellectual property or knowledge has seeded the research are having material returned to them in digital formats that are useful to them and which provide accurate portrayals of their knowledge, communities and culture. Researchers using the service provided by ATSIDA are confident that their material is being curated and reused appropriately. The work done by the ATSIDA team in building protocols and guidelines around research data will influence public policy, particularly in the work of collecting agencies and in their application to situations other than indigenous.


ATSIDA fills a gap in informed research management. There is no other project like it anywhere in the world. This paper is valuable to anyone working in or considering higher education research in an indigenous area and is applicable to other research dealing with identifiable and vulnerable communities.



Gardiner, G., McDonald, J., Byrne, A. and Thorpe, K. (2011), "Respect, trust and engagement: creating an Australian indigenous data archive", Collection Building, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 148-152.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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