GIS Technology In Indigenous Communities

What is GIS?

GIS stands for geographic information system. By inputting raw data into the system, fundamental information about geography can be explored. GIS allows easier viewing and understanding of any specific area, which can translate to a better understanding of it. Having a better understanding of any area is beneficial as it allows us to question, interpret the data and perhaps lets us visualise patterns and relationships. From this, solutions can be prepared before a problem has even occurred. For example, a city planner can choose the most ideal spot for a new hospital or police station from the number of emergencies that happen wherever within the city, or a park if there are a lot of residents within the area. GIS is essential to know what has happened, what is happening and what will happen. It allows us to be wiser on the decisions made that will affect the geographic space, and furthermore the future.

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Cultural beliefs of the land

In aboriginal society land and territory are very important aspects of their cultural beliefs. According to Palyku woman Ambelin Kwaymullina, aboriginals are more spiritually connected to their land. They believe that everything was made from the land and that everything returns to the land once its time has passed. Hence why when non-indigenous people disturb the land by constructing, altering or destroying cultural landmarks the indigenous people become upset. A prime example of this are the tourist that visit Uluru in order to climb it. Uluru is an important sacred landmark to the indigenous people hence, when tourists visit Uluru they sometimes have no regard for the importance of the site. Often, they break the rock down and take a part of it with them. At times they may even urinate on the historical landmark. Indigenous people have been protesting to close Uluru off to the public however, these efforts have not been met.

Describe how indigenous landmarks are significant the culture

For Indigenous Australians, their relationship to the land and the landmarks is central to their belief system and shapes all aspects of their lifestyle. The landmarks are known as sacred sites and are the main ground for where certain ceremonies take place. These sites encompass the history and heritage of the culture through its natural environment. Depending on the territory and regions, the types of ceremonies differ from one to another.

Why has technology become an important part of the culture?

Technology has become an important part of the aboriginal culture due to its flexibility and versatility in being able to conserve and preserve aboriginal identity and culture in an easy to access environment. Furthermore, being able to easily access such information allows for a more diverse audience, allowing people from numerous backgrounds to be able to access the information even if they are not of aboriginal descent or background. A massive positive positive aspect for the use of technology regarding aboriginal culture is that most dreamtime and recordings are digitalised greatly extending their lifetime and resulting in elongated preservation in comparison to when information is passed down through generations. Materials often held by private individuals are often at risk of being lost or damaged. Due to past events, numerous traditions of multiple tribes are forever lost and with the help of modern technology we can preserve what is left of the aboriginal traditions and stop further damages or loss of tradition.

Currently in indigenous communities, this technology has generally been useful in helping to preserve significant indigenous Australian locations. By mapping such locations remnants of the associated indigenous groups’ heritage and culture can, for the time being sustained for the benefit of future generations of their respective group. Some companies have developed services that utilises such technology as a means for educations. One example is Muru View, an easily accessible service offered through the State Library of New South Wales, which combines location mapping, with historical information to convey locations of interest regarding indigenous Australians.

This is particularly useful for educational purposes, which has utilised historical information regarding such locations to suggest their geographical location. One last example is be the controversial, which geometrically pin points locations relating to the countries colonial period in addition to displaying the number of indigenous Australian casualties as well as the likely date in which the event occurred. The accessible nature of this information can be concerning based on the historical occurrences relating to those pieces of land. Yet, at the same time such information serves as a historical reminder and lessons learned relating to such incidents and deserve to be at the very least recorded.

When utilising this technology within indigenous communities the associated it is essential to accurately and respectfully map out such relevant locations, especially by taking into consideration how important indigenous Australians may view them with respect to their culture and adhering to their respective values. Utilising technology appropriately is a computer scientists’ responsibility, and in this case improving or encouraging additional implementations of this technology would be beneficial for preserving remnants of various indigenous Australian cultures.

Hypothetically, a service that mapped out such relevant locations to recreate indigenous locations throughout the country’s history would require seeking the permission of the authoritative figures responsible For example, imagery relating to the colonial periods would be a sensitive issue. Therefore, creating a more graphical representation of this would be a case, where permission is necessary. In a more general case, the google car faces Additionally, the ramifications regarding, in which some people fear an invasion in their privacy. This is also something important to consider when implementing this technology.

Therefore, those implementing such technology would need to primarily take into considering the value certain communities have for specific pieces of land. This differs in ethical severity depending on how the information relating to and featuring an indigenous mapped location is used. However, it is important that the locations, their meaning to their respective cultures as well as any potential social-cultural impacts related to said locations are preserved, whether it be for benefit of the respective indigenous groups or educating anyone else interested in the information.

Is this information allowed to be accessed by everyone?

Information that is obtained regarding the Aboriginal community is often very sensitive topic of the aboriginal communities. Usually most websites or information storage website, database and libraries must ask permission from the aboriginal community whether or not they are allowed to public show certain parts of their culture. Some information obtained are restricted knowledge and sacred items, which can only be accessed by appropriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Another aspect which is taken into consideration regarding granting the audience to view the content is that a warning would be accompanied when loading sensitive information. The warning tells the audience that the information/media can contain names, information and images of deceased persons of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. This is a very sensitive topic regarding aboriginal culture and is always required when creating such websites. Therefore, regarding the topic, we have chosen it is obvious that when a user is trying to load information regarding Aboriginal tradition in relation to the tribe at that area, a warning sign saying that the information can contain names, information and images of a deceased persons of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The information can then only be accessed once the user has accepted to the terms and conditions of the website and fully understands the warning provided. Another aspect is that regarding restricted knowledge and sacred items a username and password can be put in place so that only appropriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are able to access that certain information.


Cultural beliefs of the land is very important part for the indigenous people. They believe that everything was made from the land and thus everything will return to the land. Technology has also become an important part of the culture as it allows the public to know more about the indigenous culture. It allows the knowledge to spread to a more diverse audience, an example of this can be seen through the education system, where students use technology to study historical locations. However, some information cannot be accessed by the public as it contains sensitive knowledge or sacred items.

15 July 2020

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