Accessing information

  • University of South Australia

  • 2013


The objectives of this research project are three-fold: (1) to understand the engagement of indigenous people with the Internet to meet everyday information needs; (2) to investigate the barriers that limit them to explore the Internet; and (3) to identify the opportunities available to improve their interactions with Web technologies.

In particular, the project aims to address the following research questions:

  • What experiences do Indigenous Australians have with the Internet?
  • How do Indigenous Australians use the Internet in their daily lives?
  • What is the role of the Internet in supporting Indigenous Australians’ everyday life information needs?
  • What are the barriers facing Indigenous Australians in exploring the Internet?
  • How can Indigenous Australians’ native information skills be integrated into the information age or web-penetrated life?

The Ngarrindjeri community in South Australia accepted an invitation to participate in the project in the end. Questionnaires were used to collect everyday life information needs and the Internet use experiences of the indigenous communities. Interviews were used to gather data about their perceptions of the Internet in support of everyday needs, their own information skills, and the barriers and challenges for the utility of the Internet. Findings
will inform information, social and technology researchers, and indigenous communities about information and Internet use, and help provide indigenous and non-indigenous with equitable access to knowledge.

Results Achieved

Dr Tina Du and research assistants travelled to Camp Coorong Race Relations and Cultural Education Centre and Meningie (a small regional town located on the southeast
side of Lake Albert in South Australia) to undertake the field research with Ngarrindjeri people from January to September 2014 - a total of seven visits with an average of 2-3 days per visit.

Research data were collected with a total of 47 Ngarrindjeri people (26 females and 21 males, age ranged from 11 to 71 years old) living in the lower Murray River Lakes and the Coorong areas in South Australia.

On behalf of the team, Tina presented the work 'Understanding indigenous people’s information practices and Internet use: A Ngarrindjeri perspective' at the 19th Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems (PACIS) conference in Singapore on 5-9 July 2015.

On 13-15 October 2014, a two-day computer/Internet training workshop was organised for the Ngarrindjeri community in Camp Coorong located in the regional town of Meningie; the workshop attracted almost 40 Ngarrindjeri people, including men and women, elders and young ones. The delivery content covered a wide range of the learning needs that were collected from questionnaires, such as Internet banking, e-health, and centrelink online

What worked well and why?

This project has contributed to advancing the understanding of Indigenous South Australians’ utility of the Internet by establishing a knowledge base that will enable government agencies and community groups to make evidence-based decisions.

Specifically, the project outcomes have created awareness among Ngarrindjeri elders and community on the importance of smart use of the Internet for community sustainable development and wellbeing. These endeavours have been well received by aboriginal communities and were reported in the Indigenous Science Network Bulletin.

How were obstacles overcome?

Obtaining the trust of aboriginal communities is a challenge (and a time consuming
task) when researchers work with them. Two aboriginal communities (the Ngarrindjeri community and the Kaurna community) based in the State of South Australia were approached and invited to participate in this one-year project. However, only the Ngarrindjeri community participated in the project in the end. Fortunately, the research team gained the continued support from the Ngarrindjeri Lands and Progress Associations (NLPA) who showed their great interest in our work and encouraged their people to take part in the project.

Community consultations with the NLPA and Ngarrindjeri Elders were continually undertaken before and during the conduction of the project in order to gain better inputs from the community and to ensure research data were collected and shared in accordance with participants’ views and Ngarrindjeri protocols.

Further work beyond the project period

With the successful funding support by the Australian Government APA Scholarship, the Research Assistant Jelina Haines started her PhD study at UniSA under Dr Tina Du’s principal supervision in February 2015. Jelina’s PhD work with Ngarrindjeri people is on Indigenous Elders’ and the younger generation’s knowledge journey practices during knowledge creation, synthesis, translation and ethical dissemination of their knowledge. This PhD project is considered as the continuity of their research collaboration with the NLPA and Camp Coorong. Jelina achieved the milestone of research proposal completion in October 2015.

The research team intends to continue the project with Kaurna people. They have established good relationship with one of the Elders, Mr Rod O'Brien (Senior Aboriginal Project Officer – Team F, Families SA).


There have been six publications from the project work. 

  • Du, J. T., Haines, J., Sun, V., & Partridge, H. (2014). Connecting to knowledge: Accessing information via the Internet by indigenous communities. Paper presented at RAILS 10: 2014 Seminar of Research Applications in Information and Library Studies, July 7-9, Canberra, Australia. (National leading conference)
  • Du, J. T., Haines, J., Sun, Q. L., Partridge, H., & Ma, D. D. (2015). Understanding indigenous people’s information practices and Internet use: A Ngarrindjeri perspective.  In proceedings of the 19th Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems (PACIS 2015). Paper 183,





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