, 74:403 | Cite as

Youth empowerment and information and communication technologies: a case study of a remote Australian Aboriginal community

  • Guy Singleton
  • Maria Fay Rola-Rubzen
  • Kado Muir
  • Deeva Muir
  • Murray McGregor


In spite of a ‘digital divide’, Aboriginal groups in Australia, as internationally, are increasingly using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to maintain their cultures, communicate, archive knowledge, empower their communities, develop skills and generate income. Each community uses the technologies differently in accordance with their particular needs and the opportunities available. The use of ICTs in Aboriginal youth empowerment is illustrated through a case study of an initiative undertaken by the Walkatjurra Cultural Centre in Leonora, remote Western Australia. A participatory process was used to engage the Centre’s young people and they were given individual assistance to develop their ICT related capacity. The community conceives this youth empowerment to be part of a broader youth participation process that will contribute to the Centre’s overall objectives.


Aboriginal ICT Information and communication technologies Participatory research Traditional knowledge Youth empowerment 



The authors would like to acknowledge the following individuals and organisations for their assistance in this research project: The Walkatjurra Cultural Centre and its members, in particular the Walkatjurra Junior Rangers, for sharing their time and providing funding and support; Assistant Professor Dr. Jon Corbett, Dr. Mary Stockdale and Dr. Louis Evans for their time spent working with the Walkatjurra Cultural Centre during the initial project stages; Delgermaa Altangerel for her research assistance; the special editors of this themed issue for their insights, suggestions and considerable inputs in tightening the manuscript; and the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre Desert BizTM and Plants for People projects. The work reported in this publication is supported by funding from the Australian Government Cooperative Research Centres Programme through the Desert Knowledge CRC; the views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Desert Knowledge CRC or its participants.


  1. ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics). (2006). 2006 Census community profile series: Leonora. Catalogue no. CCS 54551. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics. Accessed February 16, 2009.
  2. ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics). (2007a). Population characteristics, Abroriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2006 catalogue no 4713.0. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics. Accessed February 20, 2009.
  3. ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics). (2007b). Housing and infrastructure in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities: Australia, 2006 (Reissue) catalogue no 4710.0. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics. Accessed April 17, 2007.
  4. Agrawal, A. (2002). Indigenous knowledge and the politics of classification. International Social Science Journal, 54(173), 287–297. doi: 10.1111/1468-2451.00382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alsop, R., & Heinsohn, N. (2005). Measuring empowerment in practice: Structuring analysis and framing indicators. World Bank Policy Research working paper 3510. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  6. Appadurai, A. (2004). The capacity to aspire: Culture and the terms of recognition. In V. Rao & M. Walton (Eds.), Culture and public action (pp. 59–84). Washington: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Buchtmann, L. (2000). Digital songlines: The use of modern communication technology by an Aboriginal community in remote Australia. Prometheus, 18(1), 59–74. doi: 10.1080/08109020050000663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chikonzo, A. (2006). The potential of information and communication technologies in collecting, preserving and disseminating indigenous knowledge in Africa. The International Information & Library Review, 38(3), 132–138. doi: 10.1016/j.iilr.2006.06.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Christie, M. (2006). Boundaries and accountabilities in computer assisted ethnobotany. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning, 1(3), 285–296. doi: 10.1142/S1793206806000214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Christie, M., & Verran, H. (2006). Using digital technologies in doing indigenous places in Australia. Paper presented at the conference ICTs, Development and Indigenous Knowledge, European Association for the Studies of Science and Technology, Lausanne. Accessed February 5, 2009.
  11. Conger, J. A., & Kanungo, R. N. (1988). The empowerment process: Integrating theory and practice. Academy of Management Review, 13(3), 471–482. doi: 10.2307/258093.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Corbett, J. (2003). Empowering technologies? Introducing participatory geographic information and multimedia systems in two Indonesian communities. Dissertation, University of Victoria, Canada.Google Scholar
  13. Corbett, J., & Keller, P. (2005). An analytical framework to examine empowerment associated with participatory geographic information systems (PGIS). Cartographica, 40(4), 91–102.Google Scholar
  14. Deger, J. (2006). Shimmering screens: Making media in an Aboriginal community. USA: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  15. Department of Communication, Information Technology and the Arts (DoCITA). (2005). Networking the nation: Evaluation of outcomes and impacts. Canberra: Australian Government, DoCITA. Accessed June 1, 2007.
  16. Dyson, L. E., Hendriks, M., & Grant, S. (2007). Information technology and indigenous people. London: Information Science Publishing.Google Scholar
  17. Ergeneli, A., An, S. G., & Metin, S. (2007). Psychological empowerment and its relationship to trust in immediate managers. Journal of Business Research, 60, 41–49. doi: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2006.09.012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fink, C., & Kenny, C. (2003). W(h)ither the digital divide? Info—The Journal of Policy. Regulation and Strategy for Telecommunications, 5(6), 15–24. doi: 10.1108/14636690310507180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gaidan, B. (2007). My life with computers on a remote island. In L. Dyson, M. Hendriks, & S. Grant (Eds.), Information communication technology and indigenous people (pp. 58–63). London: Information Science Publishing.Google Scholar
  20. Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  21. Ginsburg, F. (1994). Embedded aesthetics: Creating a discursive space for indigenous media. Cultural Anthropology, 9(3), 365–382. doi: 10.1525/can.1994.9.3.02a00080.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Godoy, R. A., Patel, A., Reyes-Garcia, V., Seyfried, C. F., Jr., Leonard, W. R., McDade, T., et al. (2006). Nutritional status and spousal empowerment among native Amazonians. Social Science & Medicine, 63, 1517–1530. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.03.048.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gomez, R. (2003). Magic roots: Children explore participatory video. In S. White (Ed.), Participatory video: Images that transform and empower (pp. 215–231). London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  24. Gregory, S., Caldwell, G., Avini, R., & Harding, T. (2005). Video for change: A guide for advocacy and activism. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hardy, C., & O’Sullivan, L. (1998). The power behind empowerment: Implications for research and practice. Human Relations, 51(5), 451–483.Google Scholar
  26. Hinkson, M. (2005). New media projects at Yuendumu: Towards a history and analysis of intercultural engagement. In L. Taylor, G. Ward, G. Henderson, R. Davis, & L. Wallis (Eds.), The power of knowledge, the resonance of tradition (pp. 157–168). Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press.Google Scholar
  27. Holte-McKenzie, M., & Forde, S. (2006). Development of a participatory monitoring and evaluation strategy. Evaluation and Program Planning, 29(1), 365–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Johansson, L. (1999). Participatory video and PRA: Acknowledging the politics of empowerment. Forests Trees and People Newsletter, 40/41, 21–23.Google Scholar
  29. Kelly, K. (2005). We are the web. Wired, 1, 1–5.Google Scholar
  30. Langton, M., Mazel, O., Palmer, L., Shain, K., & Tehan, M. (2006). Settling with Indigenous peoples: Modern treaty and agreement making. Annandale. NSW: Federation Press.Google Scholar
  31. Leaning, M. (2005). The modal nature promise of ICT: Challenging historical interpretation of the social understanding and appropriation of ICT. Journal of Community Informatics, 2(1), 35–42.Google Scholar
  32. Lunch, N., & Lunch, C. (2006). Insights into participatory video: A handbook for the field. Oxford: Insight.Google Scholar
  33. Mathur, A., & Ambani, D. (2005). ICT and rural societies: Opportunities for growth. The International Information & Library Review, 37, 345–351. doi: 10.1016/j.iilr.2005.09.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McKenzie, D. J. (2007). Youth ICTs and development. Development Research Group working paper. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  35. Michael, K., & Dunn, L. (2006). The use of information and communication technologies for the preservation of Aboriginal culture. The Badimaya people of Western Australia. In L. Dyson, M. Hendriks, & S. Grant (Eds.), Information technology and indigenous people (pp. 170–174). London: Information Science Publishing.Google Scholar
  36. Michaels, E. (1986). The Aboriginal invention of television in central Australia 1982–1986. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.Google Scholar
  37. Michaels, E. (1994). Bad Aboriginal art: Tradition, media, and technological horizons. USA: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  38. Michaels, E., & Japanangka, G. L. (1984). The cost of video at Yuendumu. Media Information Australia, 32, 17–25.Google Scholar
  39. Michaels, E., & Kelly, F. (1984). The social organisation of an Aboriginal video workplace. Australian Aboriginal Studies, 1, 26–43.Google Scholar
  40. Molony, T. (2006). ICT in developing countries. Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology Briefing Paper. London: Parliament of UK.Google Scholar
  41. Muir, K. (1998). This earth has an Aboriginal culture inside: Recognising the cultural value of country, land, rights, laws: Issues of Native Title Issues paper no. 23. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Native Title Unit.Google Scholar
  42. Narayan, D. (2002). Empowerment and poverty reduction: A sourcebook. Washington, DC: The World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Neto, I., Kenny, C., Janakiram, S., & Watt, C. (2005). Look before you leap: The bumpy road to e-development. In R. Schware (Ed.), E-Development: from excitement to effectiveness. Washington, DC: World Bank. Accessed January 24, 2009.
  44. Pamatatau, R. (2007). The promise of information technology. Aotearoa Ethnic Network Journal, 2(1), 34–37.Google Scholar
  45. Pettersen, L. T., & Solbakken, H. (1998). Empowerment as a strategy for change for farm women in western industrialized countries. Sociologia Ruralis, 38(3), 318–330. doi: 10.1111/1467-9523.00081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rao, V., & Walton, M. (2004). Culture and public action. Washington: Stanford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Satheesh, P. V. (1999). Video by women—an alternative to literacy. Hyderabad, India: Deccan Development Society.Google Scholar
  48. Sen, B. (2005). Indigenous knowledge for development: Bringing research and practice together. The International Information & Library Review, 37(1), 375–382. doi: 10.1016/j.iilr.2005.10.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Smith, L. T. (2008). On tricky ground: Researching the native in the age of uncertainty. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The landscape of qualitative research (pp. 113–144). London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  50. Turk, A., & Trees, K. (1999). Culturally appropriate computer-mediated communications: An Australian indigenous information system case study. AI & Society, 13, 377–388. doi: 10.1007/BF01205984.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. UN. (2005). World Youth Report 2005: Young people today, and in 2015. New York: United Nations Publications. Accessed December 15, 2008.
  52. Underwood, C., & Jabre, B. (2003). Arab women speak out: Self-empowerment via video. In S. White (Ed.), Participatory video: Images that transform and empower (pp. 235–251). London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  53. Verran, H., Christie, M., Anbins-King, B., Van Weeren, T., & Yunupingu, W. (2007). Designing digital knowledge management tools with Aboriginal Australians. Digital Creativity, 18(3), 129–142. doi: 10.1080/14626260701531944.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Weiler, R., Khan, A., Burger, R. A., & Schauer, T. (2005). Executive summary. In R. Weiler, A. Khan, R. A. Burger, & T. Schauer (Eds.), Information and communication technologies for capacity building: Critical success factor. (pp. 15–16). Paper presented at world conference on harnessing the potential of ICT for Capacity Building, UNESCO and the Club of Rome, Paris. 11–13 May 2005. Accessed February 19, 2009.
  55. White, S. (2003). Participatory video: Images that transform and empower. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  56. World Bank. (2000). World development report 2000/2001: Attacking poverty. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  57. Yin, R. K. (2002). Case study research and design methods. California: Sage Publications.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guy Singleton
    • 1
  • Maria Fay Rola-Rubzen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kado Muir
    • 1
    • 3
  • Deeva Muir
    • 3
  • Murray McGregor
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Curtin University of TechnologyPerthAustralia
  2. 2.Desert Knowledge CRCAlice SpringsAustralia
  3. 3.Walkatjurra Cultural CentreLeonoraAustralia

Personalised recommendations