• An aboriginal design mosaic in front of Parliament House Canberra, Australia, designed by a renowned indigenous artist Michael Nelson Jagamarra in 1988.
structure of the Aboriginal community itself.
Once one person from one family has control
over the database and access to the data, the
most common issue that occurs is that thosein
the community, who do not associate with that
family, are excluded. These disputes are quite
normal in Aboriginal communities. With information technology solutions, there must be a
single keeper of the “god” password, which can
exclude all other families from being able to
access the data stored. This in effect denies many
from accessing their own cultural material.
As I have stated previously, the reason for
elders councils is to distribute the governance
power across a community rather than in one
leader. The example above is a demonstration of
what happens when there is an interruption to
the traditional Aboriginal governance. This abuse
of power is not uncommon in Aboriginal communities, as well-respected Aboriginal Elder Uncle
Chicka Dixon articulated in a public lecture about
Aboriginal community leadership and the struggle for social justice in the 1960s: “I didn’t want
power; power corrupts.” [ 3]
We are now in the position where technology
is imposed upon a culture “where little is held in
common” with the imposing culture, combined
with a notion of projects proceeding in a way
that “connect[s] well enough” to both cultures.
We have a society that is governed by a council
of elders and a well-respected Aboriginal elder
articulating that “power corrupts.” And we have a
keeper of the “god” password.
Ideally, information technology design should
change to reflect the Aboriginal communities
upon which it is being imposed, to ensure that
the culture they so want to preserve is not being
altered by the technology being used to preserve it.
The future signs, however, are encouraging,
with more and more work taking place in the
field of HCI for development, as this column
attests. It is our belief that as new technology is
created for different indigenous communities, ICT
as a whole will benefit from new design solutions
[ 3] Uncle Chicka Dixon.
A History of the Political
Struggle: A Personal
Point of View by Dr.
Chicka Dixon, Directed
by Jason De Santolo. 36
min. Jumbunna Annual
Lecture 2005, University
of Technology, Sydney,
Australia, 2006. DVD.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Peter Radoll is the direc-
tor of Jabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre at
the Australian National University. He holds two
degrees in information technology and worked as a
systems administrator and systems developer for
more than seven years before returning to universi-
ty to undertake a Ph.D. in information systems examining the
uptake of information technology in Australian Aboriginal homes.
May + June 2009
© 2009 ACM 1072-5220/09/0500 $5.00