Indigenous Data Governance in Australia

Dr James Rose1, Dr Kalinda  Griffiths2, Mr Darren Clinch3

1Indigenous Studies Unit, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University Of Melbourne, 2Centre for Big Data Research in Health, University of New South Wales,  3System Intelligence and Analytics, Department of Health an Human Services, Victoria



Since launching in February 2019, the Indigenous Data Network (IDN) at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, has implemented a nationwide program to unify the governance of data assets generated by and about Indigenous Australians. Engaging simultaneously with Commonwealth, state, and territory government departments and agencies, Indigenous-controlled research organisations, and the university sector, the IDN has established an integrated set of terms and definitions around which a coherent national approach to Indigenous data governance is being realised.

Australia’s 230-year colonial administrative history has generated an extensive data ecosystem documenting the health, education, employment, policing, environmental management and cultural heritage of Indigenous Australian individuals and communities. Independently, Indigenous-controlled research organisations, including land councils, community health services, native title service providers and think tanks, have emerged as major contributors to this data ecosystem, often with data of a much higher specificity and reliability than that generated by government and universities.

This emerging situation has generated a need to resolve questions around how ownership, custodianship, and stewardship of Indigenous data is defined and regulated. Currently, Australia’s unique lack of formal treaties between Indigenous peoples and colonial authorities means that an approach based on the assertion of data sovereignty is tied to the as-yet unrealised constitutional recognition of Indigenous peoples. In the interim, governance of Indigenous data remains open to negotiation. This paper outlines the IDN’s framework for a national Indigenous Australian data governance strategy, and provides an update on expanding institutional and community partnerships.

Indigenous Data Network:


Dr James Rose

Dr James Rose is Senior Research Fellow with the Indigenous Studies Unit, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, and National Coordinator of the Indigenous Data Network. James specialises in large-scale forensic population modelling, social and kinship network analysis, geographic information systems, and relational database systems design and implementation. He holds degrees in population health and social anthropology, with has over 15 years’ experience working with Indigenous-controlled research organisations across Southeast, Central, and Northern Australia.

Dr Kalinda Griffiths

Kalinda is a Yawuru woman and epidemiologist. She is a Scientia Fellow at the Centre for Big Data Research in Health at the University of New South Wales and a Superstar of STEM with Science and Technology Australia. Kalinda’s work addresses complex health disparities through using existing linked-administrative data. Her research currently addresses issues of quality and the utilisation of Indigenous data with a focus on data governance, measurement, and cancer care and outcomes.

Mr Darren Clinch

Darren Clinch is Senior Analysts with the System Intelligence and Analytics branch of the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, where he provides GIS and data visualisation solutions for program areas requiring dynamic exploration of government datasets. With a background in modelling, analytics and health policy relating to Aboriginal Victorians, Darren has contributed heavily to a range of major Indigenous health policy and service delivery programs, developing approaches to using Indigenous status in linked data across 30+ datasets.


AeRO is the industry association focused on eResearch in Australasia. We play a critical coordination role for our members, who are actively transforming research via Information Technology. Organisations join AeRO to advance their own capabilities and services, to collaborate and to network with peers. AeRO believes researchers and the sector significantly benefit from greater communication, coordination and sharing among the increasingly different and evolving service providers.