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  • TJC

New Indigenous Data Sovereignty for DELWP

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) have developed a first-of-its-kind Indigenous Data Sovereignty Policy for a government department with the help of TJC. The policy includes Guiding Principles for Indigenous Data Sovereignty that consider governance, monitoring, evaluation and reporting of Indigenous data. For over six months, Solicitor Director Dr Terri Janke and solicitors Laura Melrose and Joel Murgha worked with DELWP, collaborating and consulting with Victorian Traditional Owner groups to guide and develop the policy.

The policy is intended to align to DELWP’s Aboriginal Self-Determination Reform Strategy 2020-25: Pupangarli Marnmarnepu ‘Owning our future’, and focuses on the interests and aspirations of Traditional Owners themselves. The goal is to transform the systems and processes of DELWP, based on key principles of self-determination and with contribution from Traditional Owners in Victoria, placing value on their decision making, leadership and self-governance. The policy will be implemented over a period of time to ensure best practice and centring of the voices of Victorian Traditional Owners.

In many cases, existing systems and processes – the very policies which apply and refer to First Nations people – have not included First Nations people’s input or control and therefore, lack the true depth and richness reflective of Indigenous cultures.

This new policy supports reform whereby systems and processes respond to the rights of Victorian Traditional Owners to hold the power of their own data, having control of the collection, creation, access, management, storage and use of their Indigenous data.

DELWP acknowledge their opportunity and the opportunity of the whole of Victorian Government, to identify and address the barriers that prevent Victorian Traditional Owners from holding power over their data. DELWP say: “Proactive reform of systems, processes and policies is key to realising a shift in the power imbalance to genuinely enable Aboriginal self-determination and reflect the true story of Aboriginal Victorians and Traditional Owners using Aboriginal data on their terms.”

DELWP’s new policy is part of a wider context of stronger recognition of Indigenous rights in Victoria. The Victorian Government have been leading in a new direction and working toward treaties with Aboriginal Victorians. It was great to work with DELWP and the Victorian Traditional Owners to progress this movement.

Here's a photo of Laura, Joel and Terri with the DELWP team; Rhianna Kerr and Shannah Devoe during their final (online) meeting.

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