Internet technologies, in particular social media, have become ubiquitous among Indigenous peoples and communities across Australia over the last two decades. Research shows that these technologies have brought many important benefits, especially in facilitating connections between families and communities across vast distances, sharing and maintaining cultural knowledges, fulfilling cultural protocol such as Sorry Business, and engaging in political activism. It has, however, brought negative consequences too, such as social media facilitating racist abuse against Indigenous peoples, violent conflict between families in communities and widespread cyberbullying.

Key findings:

  • Research for this publication showed that there is a severe lack of existing research in the area of cyberbullying among and directed at Indigenous peoples. The vast majority of available work tends to erase social and cultural difference altogether, instead implicitly assuming a homogeneous white population.
  • Indigenous people have diverse cultures of kinship and communication, which impact significantly the ways in which they engage with digital technologies, such as social media. Further, there are culturally specific understandings of what constitutes conflict itself. Broader political forces, such as racism and disadvantage brought about through colonialism, need to be taken into account.
  • It is important to recognise that Indigenous populations are not homogeneous. Future research could take a more intersectional approach by exploring how Indigenous peoples’ experiences of cyberbullying intersect with other social identities, including sexual and gender minorities, differently abled populations, socio-economic status or geographic variables (including city, suburban, rural and remote locations).

If we are to mitigate the negative consequences of cyberbullying more effectively, or aim to prevent it altogether, we need to understand its causal, preventative and ameliorative factors. Available research suggests that Indigenous groups engage with social media in culturally specific ways; that there exist unique preventative factors in Indigenous communities, such as a strong sense of culture; and that traditional justice pathways (such as gerontocratic authority) can be more appropriate and effective than those most often used among mainstream populations (such as through schools or police). However, these factors are still little understood, and future research should aim to address this important gap.

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