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This submission has been prepared by researchers from the Home Internet for Remote Communities Project (HIP). HIP is a collaborative project between the Centre for Appropriate Technology, Central Land Council and Swinburne University that aims to investigate the feasibility of home-based computing and internet access in three small remote communities in Central Australia.

The nature and prevalence of cyber-bullying and other risks and threats, in particular via social networking sites and mobile phones, amongst Indigenous Australians

  • Based on the limited available evidence, one of the most threatening aspects of the use of mobile phones and social networking platforms for cyber-bullying for community members in remote Central Australian settlements is its potential to cross personal, social, cultural and geographical boundaries rapidly. The misuse of ICT technologies in Indigenous contexts has the capacity to breach cultural protocols between family and intra-familial groups and, in doing so, to inflame existing conflicts.
  • Our experience with the HIP to date suggests that incidents of cyber-bullying are more likely to be reported in relation to larger communities and regional centres with mobile coverage.

Whether and how these risks and threats differ in rural and remote Indigenous communities

  • Many remote Indigenous community members, especially older and middle-aged people, are characterised by low levels of digital literacy and experience of communication technologies. Without further education and skills development in ICT use, they are likely to find dealing with cyber-safety issues particularly distressing and challenging.

The impact and implications of cyber-bullying and other risks and threats on access and use of information and communication technologies by Indigenous Australians

  • Poor understanding of cyber-bullying and lack of mechanisms to address this issue may lead to a reluctance amongst some remote communities to adopt mobile and satellite ICT. This in turn may see some communities denied potential benefits such as connections to e-health, education, training and employment opportunities.

Ways to support indigenous communities, including rural and remote Indigenous communities, to reduce the incidence and harmful effects of cyber-bullying and other risks and threats

  • Education and awareness programs which consider the limited exposure to computers and the internet, and low digital literacy skills of many remote Indigenous people, need to be developed. Ideally, these programs would be delivered in conjunction with the introduction of ICT infrastructure such as mobile coverage into new areas.
  • Community members across all age groups should be engaged in developing approaches to manage any local cyber-safety issues. It is important to involve elders, because they have the authority to provide leadership to younger people about what is culturally appropriate in regard to use of ICTs.
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