Indigenous Health and technology

Weblog #5

As part of my assignment I plan to look at patient education delivered by technology for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. To date I have found many websites but the vast majority are directed at health professionals and not the patients themselves. Also many initiatives do not use technology, but rather focus on visiting communities in buses, or creating festival days, Men’s sheds etc.

Beyondblue is a website that focuses on mental health disorders and provides information for patients and health professionals. It has an Indigenous section, but the use of technology for health is limited to the depression Yarns DVD – The Depression Yarns: Tackling Depression, Anxiety and Related Disorders in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities.

The DVD was developed for use by Indigenous Mental Health Workers and service providers working with Aboriginal people. The DVD focuses on postnatal depression and depression in men. It includes two mini-dramas on the topics, as well as interviews with:

  • Project Leader Mibbinbah Men’s Spaces, Jack Bulman
  • Indigenous ex-Rugby League player Nathan Blacklock who has experienced depression
  • Darwin (NT) based social worker, Josephine Battaglini.
  • beyondblue Board Director and Clinical Advisor, Associate Professor Michael Baigent

October 14, 2012   No Comments

Indigenous health and technology – early childhood

Weblog #4

Waabiny Time is a television series on pay TV (and also on DVD) that is based on the learning approaches of Sesame Street and Play School.

Waabiny Time is the first indigenous language program made for an early childhood audience from ages 3 to 6 and focuses on Noongar language acquisition. The Noongar people’s land includes Perth, an area to the north, and the whole south west corner of Western Australia.

Waabiny Time also aims to encourage pride and participation in Noongar culture, merging traditional and contemporary Noongar culture. It also integrates other messages including health messages.

As described by Smith, Burke and Ward 200, the mix of contemporary and traditional demonstrates the dynamic and flexible nature of Aboriginal people and challenges the stereotype that Indigenous people “live in the past”. It also parallels Zimmerman, Zimmerman and Bruguier’s 2000 use of technology to restore language but within a different context.

Both presenters of the show are Noongar, but the script, directing and production has been undertaken by non-Indigenous people.

One unintended outcome of the production of Waabiny Time is that non Indigenous children at an early are also engaged by the program. They learn Noongar language and about Noongar culture from Noongar people.

Link to Waabinny Time website

Short clips from Waabinny Time


As an aside – an interesting review on Using television to improve learning opportunities for Indigenous children. Australian Council for Educational Research 2010



Smith C, Burke H and Ward GK. Chapter 1 in Indigenous Cultures in an INterconnected World. “Globalisation and Indigenous Cultures: Threat or Empowerment.”

Zimmerman KJ,  Zimmerman KP and Bruguier LR Chapter 4 in Indigenous Cultures in an Interconnected World, “Cyberspace Smoke Signals: New Technologies and Native American Ethnicity.”

October 14, 2012   No Comments


Weblog #3

The discussions on stereotypes and maintaining cultural identities has led into discussion about ‘melting pot’ versus ‘mosaic’. This lead me to explore multiculturalism.

The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosphy has an excellent section on multiculturalism.

It provides justifications for multiculturalism and critiques. The justifications include:

  • Communitarian  –  individuals should be free to choose and pursue their own conceptions of the good life.
  • Liberal egalitarian – based on the liberal values of autonomy and equality
  • Postcolonial  –   based on premises about the value of tribal culture and membership, but also on what is owed to Native peoples for the historical injustices perpetrated against them.

The article outlines some of the critiques of multiculturalism but argues that the greatest challenge for multiculturalism is not from philosophical views but rather from political ones, and that the focus and debate currently is not on Indigenous people but rather immigants.

“There is little retreat from recognizing the rights of minority nations and indigenous peoples; the retreat is restricted to immigrant multiculturalism. Part of the backlash against immigrant multiculturalism is based on fear and anxiety about foreign “others” and nostalgia for an imagined past when everyone shared thick bonds of identity and solidarity.”

In Australia we lived through a period where the Prime Minister tried to cease the policy of multiculturalism. We have emerged from this period and reaffirmed multiculturalism in 2011.

In 2011, Bloemraad wrote The Debate Over Multiculturalism: Philosophy, Politics, and Policy.

In it she identified that multiculturalism has a number of meanings, as a:

  • demographic multiculturalism
  • political philosophy
  • public policy

She describes how Canadian researchers have identified a multiculturalism policy index (MCP Index) that measures the extent to which eight types of policies appear in 21 Western nations. Australia, Canada and Sweden have scores over 7 in 2010, whilst the US has a score of 3 and France and Germany both fall between 2-3. The graph of the scores is interesting reading.

Bloemraad’s discussion mirrors that of Heath 2012 who describes three multicultural issues/myths:

  1. multiculturalism has encouraged exclusion rather than inclusion, by siphoning minority communities away from the mainstream, and condemning them to live parallel lives.
  2. that by living parallel lives minorities preserve their ethnic behaviours and values that run counter to broader society.
  3. these separate communities provide fertile soil for radicalisation.

Bloemaard adds the impact of multiculturalism on the members of the majority group, suggests that some people are very alarmed about diversity, probably due to fear related to issues 2 & 3.

Bloemaard identifies that there are seven of nine studies tracking anti-immigrant attitudes over time, where  researchers have found stable or increasingly negative attitudes toward immigrants, especially in Western Europe, while only two studies reported more positive trends. This is interesting and seems to confirm the Western European research data.

In contradistinction Heath writes about the recent British report that clearly identified that the three main issues/myths identified above were indeed myths.

Heath A 2012. Has multiculturalism failed in the UK? Not really

October 14, 2012   No Comments

Doctrine of Discovery

The Australian Broadcasting Council (ABC) was in the last two weeks, discussing the concept of the Doctrine of Discovery and its impact on Indigenous people. This was not a concept that I was aware of and so explored this further.

Weblog #1

The UN Permanent Forum this year focuses on the Doctrine of Discovery.

This is a fifteenth century Christian dogma from the Catholic church Papal Bulls eg. Dum Diversas (1452) and Romanus Pontifex (1455). These allowed for non-Christian peoples to be invaded, captured, vanquished, subdued, and to have their possessions and property seized by Christian monarchs.

In the 19 century was used by the US to declare the right of territorial domination and has become embedded in international law and policy.

In Australia its impact was in the term ‘terra nullius” or wasted land. This allowed the colonisers to take over the land from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders because they did not ‘use’ the land.

In May the UN Forum debate continued, and argued for the doctrine to be repudiated by the UN. In response to calls on the Church for rapid action, a representative from the observer delegation of the Holy See, reiterated that Papal bulls were an “historic remnant with no juridical or spiritual value”.

UN Economic and Social Council 2012 ‘Doctrine of Discovery’, Used for Centuries to Justify Seizure of Indigenous Land, Subjugate Peoples, Must Be Repudiated by United Nations, Permanent Forum Told . 8 May.

UN Economic and Social Council 2012 Forum Speakers Say ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ Shameful Root of Today’s Indigenous Oppression, Remnants Still Evident in Many Constitutions Must Be Removed. 9 May.


Weblog #2 Religious responses

The World Council of Churches (WCC) met in February 2012 and developed the Statement on the doctrine of discovery and its enduring impact on Indigenous Peoples. It provides a good overview of the history as well as the WCC response to the Doctrine. Since 2007 many Christian churches that have studied the  Doctrine and  have repudiated it, and are working to ameliorate the legal, economic and social effects of this international framework. The WCC Statement denounced the doctrine, urged countries to dismantle the legal structures and policies based on this Doctrine and dominance, encourage churches to support Indigenous poples in their ongoing efforts to exercise their inherent sovereignty and fundamental human rights, to continue to raise awareness about the issues facing Indigenous Peoples and to develop advocacy campaigns to support the rights, aspirations and needs of Indigenous Peoples; and to continue development of theological reflections by Indigenous peoples.
WCC statement


From an Australian perspective Brett writes  a theological critique of sovereignity with a focus on some Australian aspects that I was unaware of.  He describes a theological concept of complex and storied space – which contrasts the concept of terra nullius. The ‘Clapham Sect’ who were involved in abolition of slavery, turned the eyes onto Aboriginal peoples and provided a base for a number of writers to ascert natural Indigenous rights. They had significant influence on the establishment of the colony of South Australia and the development of the New Zealand Treaty of Waitangi. He writes “as so often has been the case in asutralian hisotry, matters of principle were overwhelmed by ecomonic interest.” He calls for faith communities to go on to post colonial engagement with Aboriginal and torres Strait Islanders and not trust the “tides of Australian parliaments”.

Brett M. 2012. Making Space for justice after Mabo: Theological critiques of sovereignty


October 14, 2012   No Comments

Technology, indigenous communities and health

As an Australian I would like to focus my research on Australian Aborigines and Torres Straits Islanders. As a medical educator I have been thinking across both education and medical topics. My final decision was to focus on technologies, indigenous communities and health. This might still be too broad, but I plan to try and focus on three aspects that I have started to research:

  • technology and health service delivery in indigenous communities (ehealth)
  • technology for indigenous health promotion and patient education
  • technology and traditional medicine

Mignone 2008 used the concept of social capital to explore ICT in Aboriginal Communities in Canada. Health is one of the areas he focused on. He describes three impacts of ICT on social capital in indigenous communities –transforming, diminishing and/or supplementing. His study and these concepts have provided a useful place to start, along with the WSIS position paper I posted as a module 1 weblog and other articles I have started to collect (as identified below).

Indigenous Position Paper for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)

Lori A. Colomeda & Eberhard R. Wenzel (2000): Medicine keepers: Issues in indigenous health, Critical Public Health, 10:2, 243-256.  Downloaded 23/09/12 from

Mignone J, Henley H, Brown J, O’Neil J, Ross W. (2008) Information and Communication Technology in Aboriginal Communities in Canada: Increasing Aboriginal Social Capital. A Discussion Paper.

Molyneaux, H, O’Donnell, S. (2009) ICT and Health and Wellness in Remote and Rural First Nations Communities: A Social Determinants of Health. Perspective Paper presented at the Canadian Society of Telehealth Conference (CST 2009),Vancouver, October 3-6 2009

September 23, 2012   No Comments

Cultural Issues in Adoption of ICT by Indigenous Australians

I explored some of my own country’s literature on cultural issues, ICT and Indigenous Australians. I have combined these three weblogs because of their similarity.

Dyson (2004) focused on the reasons for low adoption of ICT with Indigenous Australians and concluded that access was the major issue and that ICT was embraced by indigenous Australians and able to be adaptable to other cultures provided people from that culture have input into ICT design and management.

Samaras (2005) identified similar access issues to Dyson (2004) and argues that the digital divide for indigenous Australians stems from socioeconomic inequalities. She concludes that more needs to be done by government and the information profession to ensure a more socially inclusive information society for all, but especially for indigenous Australians.

Now over 5 years later this concern about the digital divide here in Australia was again  identified by the University of Adelaide Dean of Aboriginal Education Professor Lester-Irabinna Rigney speaking at the Australian Council for Educational Research national conference on indigenous education in very strong terms:

“Most Indigenous communities have had a decade of lag time in accessing and effectively using online services. ………. Policymakers need to act now or risk condemning indigenous Australians to digital ghettos.”

It would appear that we may still have a long way to go……


 Dyson L,E. (2004) Cultural issues in the adoption of information and communication technologies by indigenous Australians. Sudweeks F., Ess C. (eds). Proceedings cultural attitudes towards communication and technology. Murdoch University, Australia. 58-71.

Samara K. (2005) Indigenous Australians and the “digital divide”. Libri 55: 84-95.

Indigenous digital divide widening due to wrong education. Sourced from on 23/09/12



September 23, 2012   No Comments

ICTs and Indigenous People

UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education developed a policy brief in 2011 ICTs and Indigenous People.

It outlines the importance of Indigenous knowledge, and acknowledges that ICTs can be viewed as a “double-edged sword” with the potential to accelerate erosion of indigenous culture and knowledge but also the ability to empower and support resources and environments for indigenous children.

The paper describes some examples of how ICTs can be used positively by indigenous people to strengthen and reinforce indigenous cultures and knowledge. Here are three of these:

The Four Directions Project (USA) which includes:

  • Restructure of curriculum in schools – art, mathematics, science, fine arts etc
  • School-home and school-community focus
  • Networked virtual communities of indigenous teachers and students
  • Network database of culturally appropriate teaching resources

Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA)
The aim of this project is to research and development network is to improve the quality of, and extend access to, teacher education in Sub-Saharan Africa. It has an open education resources to support culturally-based teacher education adn training. 120 African countries are involved, 700 teachers have participated and the resources are available in 4 languages on the TESSA website.

Honey Bee Network – India
This project has multi media/multi lingual database of primary educational resources in native languages and supports exchange of ideas and innovations around horticulture, biodiversity and herbal medicine. They have public access “kiosks” in remote villages so that geographically disadvantaged people can share across the country and also globally.


The document outlines a number of policy recommendations which include:

  • Provide a policy framework that enables indigenous communities to have control of their schools
  • Encourage and fund research in use of ICTs to support culturally based education Develop educator professional development programmes designed to help non-indigenous educators to understand and support the culture of the indigenous community and the ways that ICTs may support access to indigenous content, expertise, and cultural resources
  • Develop online educator development programmes to prepare indigenous peoples to become teachers
  • Develop policies to use ICTs to provide continuous and adult education, retraining, life-long learning, and distance learning

September 22, 2012   No Comments

Indigenous Position Paper for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)

The Indigenous Position Paper for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was the draft version submitted for the World Summit on the information Society (WSIS). This was a two summit UN conference and the WSIS is now in its implementation phase. It has now been followed up by the Internet Governance Forum.

The Indigenous position paper is interesting to read and consists of a number of statements and recommendations about being part of the global Information Society that focus on Indigenous Rights in the Information Society in the specific fields of:

  • Traditional Knowledge
  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT) applications
  • Education and Language
  • Health
  • Youth
  • Environment
  • E-business
  • Media

I have copied the general principles here as I think they underline the importance of technology for indigenous people as we have begun to read in module 1.

  1. We, the Indigenous Peoples, affirm our right to be part of the global Information Society on our own terms.
  2. We note that the Information Society, as it is currently evolving, has become another instrument for colonizing, assimilating and marginalizing Indigenous Peoples in a new and subtle way.
  3. We therefore emphasize that our participation in building and implementing the Information Society must be based on our right to self-determination and the recognition of our cultural diversity and distinctiveness as Indigenous Peoples.
  4. Moreover, our full and effective participation in the evolution of the Information Society must take place in equal partnership with its non-Indigenous actors.
  5. We therefore demand to be represented with our own visions, philosophies and concepts in the conceptual framework of the Information Society and its action plan for implementation.
  6. Furthermore, we strongly request the worth of our cultures and the value of our traditional knowledge to be fully acknowledged for past, present and future positive contributions to global human progress and sustainable development.  We particularly call for recognition of our historic contributions to human development.
  7. We stress that the Information Society and its core elements – knowledge, information, communication and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) – are cultural concepts and expressions. We therefore demand that our own culturally defined approaches, protocols, proceedings and obligations are respected by non-Indigenous actors when implementing the Information Society.
  8. We recall that our peoples, no matter where they live, are affected by the digital divide. We assert our right of access to ICT applications and strongly call for recognition of our right to bridge the digital divide on our own terms.

September 22, 2012   No Comments