(Indigenous) data sovereignty is sovereignty (settlers make and keep the data): Julie Andrews, ‘Blaks and stats in Aboriginal Victoria: Census resistance and participation’, Australian Aboriginal Studies, 1, 2018, pp. 43-56.


Abstract: Calls are growing within the social sciences for Indigenous peoples to assume sovereignty over data that are about them and for analysis of these data to be led by, or be inclusive of, an Indigenous perspective (Kukutai and Taylor 2016; Walter 2016; Walter and Andersen 2013). This paper presents data based on interviews with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Melbourne and Victoria that provide an Aboriginal voice to show the degrees of both constraint and choice in the formulation of Indigenous data. The results show that the census as a social instrument needs to be viewed as a dynamic interplay between the state and Indigenous people, and that Indigenous community awareness of their role in this process needs to be further explored. Although volatility of Aboriginal census data is a key focus of this paper, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has attempted to investigate from time to time why the census counts should be so volatile, yet its investigations have been undertaken as an outsider on what makes people (as it puts it) ‘change their identity’. In this paper I examine the issue of census volatility from within the Indigenous community and get people to openly provide their perspectives on census engagement and census utility as an expression of Indigenous data sovereignty. This approach has not been adopted before in relation to the issue of census volatility but the views of Indigenous people on such matters are likely to become more prevalent as the issue of Indigenous data sovereignty gains ground.

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