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Rights, Sovereignty and Governance in Official Reporting: Considerations in the Use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data

YOW! Data 2021

The realisation for Indigenous people in Australia to be counted in official statistics occurred in 1967.
The identification of Indigenous people in Australia in national data highlights a range of historical
and contemporary issues that require our attention. This includes how Indigenous people have been
defined and by whom, as well as how identification is operationalised in official data collections.
Furthermore, the completeness and accuracy of Indigenous people identified in the data and the
impact this has on the measurement of health and wellbeing must also be taken into account. Official
national reporting of Indigenous people is calculated using data from censuses, vital statistics, and
existing administrative data collections and/or surveys. In alignment with human rights standards,
individuals in Australia can opt to self-identify as ‘Indigenous’ in the data. Australia’s colonial
context in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data is derived results in considerations about
the sovereign rights of Indigenous people globally in the use of data and how this can be actioned
through data governance processes.

Kalinda Griffiths

Scientia Lecturer



Kalinda is a Yawuru woman of Broome, born and living in Darwin, Australia. She is an early career
Scientia Lecturer at the Centre for Big Data Research in Health at UNSW. Kalinda is an epidemiologist
who has worked in the research sector for over 20 years. Her interest is in empirically addressing
complex health disparities in populations through existing data. Her research addresses the quality
and governance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data. Her areas of focus include Indigenous
data governance, the measurement of health disparities, cancer and building health research
capabilities in regional and remote Australia. She is on the steering committee for the Indigenous
Data Network in Australia and holds a number of national and international committee roles,
including in the International Group for Indigenous Health Measurement.
Kalinda holds a Certificate III in Laboratory Techniques, Bachelor of Biomedical Science, Master of
Public Health and a PhD in Cancer Epidemiology. She holds honorary positions at the University of
Melbourne and Menzies School of Health Research and is deputy editor of the Health Promotion
Journal of Australia.
Kalinda is the recipient of a number of awards. Notably, she was awarded the Northern Territory
Young Australian of the Year in 2011 and more recently, the 2019 Lowitja Institutes Emerging
Researcher Award. She was also a 2019-2021 Science and Technology Australia Superstar of STEM
and is currently the Health Promotion of Australia’s Thinker in Residence.