First Nations Sovereignty: Indigenous Data Sovereignty and Living Archives

Indigenous Archives Collective: Right of Reply Symposium, National Centre of Indigenous Excellence, 2019
Members of Indigenous Archives Collective

Two PhD scholarships

Location On campus: Monash University Clayton
Off campus
Duration Three years and three months
Fixed-term, full-time candidature
Remuneration The successful applicants will receive a Faculty of IT Research Living Allowance, at current value of $29,500 per annum 2021 full-time rate (tax-free stipend), indexed plus allowances as per RTP stipend scholarship conditions

About the project

Two PhD scholarships are being offered as part of an exciting research partnership between the Digital Equity and Digital Transformation group in the Faculty of IT and the Indigenous Archive Collective:

Kirsten Thorpe and Dr Shannon Faulkhead at the 2013 ATALM (Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries & Museums) Conference, New Mexico.

Indigenous Data Sovereignty

The 2017 ULURU Statement from the Heart enshrined a First Nations Voice in the Constitution, establishing a Makarrata Commission to supervise treaty making processes and embracing truth-telling about First Nations history.

The worldwide Indigenous Data Sovereignty movement recognises the importance of data sovereignty as a key enabler of First Nations sovereignty.

Data is defined broadly to include all information, records and archives created by or about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The weaponisation of such data has been a devastating component of the colonial project in Australia.

The Indigenous Data Sovereignty Communique Maiam nayri Wingara 2018 addressed all individuals and entities involved in the creation, collection, access, analysis, interpretation, management, dissemination and reuse of data and its infrastructure in Australia.

It defines Indigenous data, data sovereignty and data governance broadly as:

  • Indigenous Data: Information or knowledge, in any format or medium, which is about and may affect Indigenous peoples both collectively and individually.
  • Indigenous Data Sovereignty: The right of Indigenous peoples to exercise ownership over Indigenous Data.
  • Indigenous Data Governance: The right of Indigenous peoples to autonomously decide what, how and why Indigenous Data are collected, accessed and used.

This PhD project will:

  • explore the interrelationship between First Nations sovereignty and data sovereignty, and the creation of synthesised and unifying approaches to data, information, records and archives
  • develop foundational understandings of Indigenous data sovereignty
  • Working with Indigenous partners and communities, research and co-design data, information and recordkeeping governance structures, rights charters, policy frameworks, protocols and models for transformative participatory practice in government and non-Indigenous organisations.

Living Archives of People and Place

This PhD project will explore a radical and new technology-enabled form of community-centred, participatory archive.

Either virtually or through repatriation it will embed or re-embed dispersed data, information, records and archives in Country – reconnecting them with the tangible and intangible records of place and people that continue to exist there.

It will also:

  1. Develop the functional requirements for an online Registry of Living Archives of People and Place
    • To identify, contextualise and connect digital, physical, tangible and intangible records and archives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, communities and individuals.
    • These include records created on, or embedded, in Country and people, with records and archives held by government agencies and non-Indigenous organisations developed by, or about, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  2. Undertake innovative ‘proof of concept’ prototyping of a Registry of Living Archives of People and Place
    • To test the capacity of existing software (eg. Mukurtu) to provide registry functionality and support a network of Living Archives of People and Place.

The broader research program

As a successful applicant, you will join the research team for the Voice, Treaty and Truth Telling: Recordkeeping Frameworks, Protocols and Models for Transformative Participatory Practice project but also undertake your own distinct PhD initiative. The benefits of this are that you will be:

  • integrated into a successful research agenda that has been funded by the Whyte Memorial Fund
  • supervised by research leaders, including Indigenous supervisors
  • undertake a PhD with a pre-existing structure.
  • part of the research outcomes, which may include co-authored publications (where your contributions will be recognised through co-authorship) and future grant applications.

Support for Indigenous PhD students

When you undertake an IT PhD with Monash, you’ll automatically be put forward for any applicable scholarships and have access to other additional support resources:

  • a tax-free stipend of $29,500 per annum for 3.5 years
  • the opportunity to apply for the Monash Indigenous Research Award funded by MGRO. This is a $5,000 tax-free annual top-up
  • $4,000 of research support over the duration of your candidature
  • a laptop or desktop provided by the Faculty.

Why Monash?

Monash University is the largest university in Australia.

We rank in the world’s top 100 for Computing and Information Sciences (QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2021) and are the country’s most innovative university (Reuters Top 75: Asia’s Most Innovative Universities, 2017-2019).

For this PhD, you will be based at our Clayton campus as part of our Digital Equity and Digital Transformation group in the Department of Human-Centred Computing – one of the largest multidisciplinary collectives of researchers, practitioners and scholars who are exploring how digital technologies can create a more equitable future.

Candidate requirements

Ideal applicants will have:

  • an excellent academic track record
  • lived experience in recordkeeping, library or archival field
  • knowledge and skills relating to Indigenous Data Sovereignty, recordkeeping, library and archival studies, and/or data science
  • met the criteria required for PhD admission at Monash University.

Cultural knowledge and experience in Indigenous and qualitative research methods, Indigenous community-led research and working with Indigenous communities and organisations are desirable.

The successful applicant will be expected to enrol by February 2022, however there may be flexibility around the commencement date.

Scholarship holders must be enrolled full-time. Applicants who already hold a PhD will not be considered.

Supervisory team

Dr Shannon Faulkhead

Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Information Technology and Head, First Peoples Department, Museums Victoria

Dr Faulkhead is the first Indigenous person in Australia to achieve a PhD in archival studies and Indigenous knowledge management – and one of only a handful internationally.

Before Museums Victoria, Dr Faulkhead directed the Monash Country Lines Archive. And prior to Monash, she was CEO of the Koorie Heritage Trust Inc.

Dr Faulkhead’s unique research contributions relate to the positioning of Indigenous Australian peoples and their knowledge within Australian society and collective knowledge. She’s passionate about working with communities, particularly where academia and community collaborate to produce research that meets the goals of all partners equally.

The innovative aspects of this research format lie in the creation of a shared research space by developing a relationship where differing knowledge, experiences and world views are respected, and the ability to create shared concepts and terminology. Every research project Dr Faulhead has undertaken has been in partnership with community members and groups, and academics.

Emerita Professor Sue McKemmish

Champion of Indigenous Advancement, Faculty of Information Technology

Emerita Professor McKemmish is Australia’s leading recordkeeping and archival educator and researcher, and an internationally-recognised expert in the field.

Her initial research centred on Records Continuum theory and conceptual modelling, and recordkeeping metadata, which has continued throughout her career. More recently, she is focused on community-centred, participatory recordkeeping and archiving, and rights in record in social justice and human rights contexts.

Emerita Professor McKemmish is currently partnering with those with lived experience of Out of Home Care on a Charter of Lifelong Rights in Childhood Recordkeeping and with the Indigenous Archives Collective on Indigenous Data Sovereignty and Living Archives.

Developing inclusive, reflexive research design and practice in collaboration with communities has been a critical part of her research.

Dr Greg Rolan

Research fellow, Faculty of Information Technology

Dr Greg Rolan is a post-doc research fellow in the AiLECS Lab – an Australian-first research lab focused on the ethical use of artificial intelligence in law enforcement and community safety. Previously he worked on the Rights in Records by Design project in partnership with care leavers in the out-of-home care sector.

After a 30-year career in IT, Dr Rolan returned to study and obtained his PhD in recordkeeping informatics.

Today his research comprises conceptual modelling in recordkeeping informatics and participatory recordkeeping systems design and implementation. More recently, he began investigating the application of data-science techniques to recordkeeping informatics.

Dr Rolan has been widely featured in publications such as Archival Science, the Records Management Journal and Archives and Manuscripts. He has also received many writing awards.