First Nations Focus Group Report

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First Nations Peoples' Experiences Using and Editing Wikipedia: Focus Groups Report Released
. Keywords: First Nations Resources

Wikimedia Australia is pleased to present this first-of-its-kind report, providing insights into the interactions between First Nations peoples and the digital encyclopaedia, Wikipedia. This study, undertaken by Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson and Lotus Rana from Macquarie University, provides an evidence-based account of the experiences, challenges, and perspectives of First Nations individuals in navigating and contributing to Wikipedia.

Carlson, B., & Rana, L. (2024). “I really like Wikipedia, but I don’t trust it” Understanding First Nations peoples' experiences using Wikipedia as a reader and/or editors.

Released during Reconciliation Week with the theme 'Now more than ever,' this report underscores the importance of acknowledging and amplifying First Nations voices in all spaces, including digital platforms, and building stronger relationships with First Nations communities.

Previously, Wikimedia Australia only had anecdotal evidence regarding First Nations peoples' experiences on Wikipedia. Professor Carlson used Indigenist research methodology to capture the invaluable perspectives and insights that First Nations people bring from their lived experience in digital landscapes. Central to this report is the recognition of voices often sidelined in mainstream discourse, cultural collections, and knowledge sharing.

Unveiling the findings: First Nations peoples' experiences

The research reveals a nuanced interplay of both positive experiences and significant challenges encountered by First Nations peoples on Wikipedia. Many Indigenous users appreciate Wikipedia as a valuable resource for accessing information about their own and other cultures. Some participants experienced positive outcomes by connecting with their culture or learning about other mobs through a simple online search. The platform’s open and collaborative nature allows for sharing knowledge and highlighting underrepresented histories, viewpoints, and perspectives.

“It’s not been my first source for understanding my Indigenous identity and heritage. I’ve definitely defaulted to AIATSIS and trying to look through source documents to understand family history but the amount that I found [on Wikipedia] was useful to me and was something I appreciate.” Focus Group participant

Moreover, the report highlights instances where First Nations contributors have successfully added content related to Indigenous knowledge, culture, and history. These contributions enrich Wikipedia and empower Indigenous voices in the digital realm, fostering a greater sense of community, representation, and truth-telling.

Addressing the challenges

Despite these positives, the report identifies concerns surrounding racism, accuracy of information, data sovereignty, and cultural gaps within Wikipedia's ecosystem. It stands as an imperative call to action for Wikimedia Australia, the editing community, and broader projects to cultivate an environment of genuine inclusivity and equity.

Many First Nations users encounter a lack of culturally relevant content and often find existing information incomplete or inaccurate. Additionally, the open and collaborative editorial processes and guidelines of Wikipedia can pose barriers to contribution. For example, historically inaccurate information about First Nations people and culture is documented in Western academic sources and used on Wikipedia by non-Indigenous editors who believe it to be true. This perpetuates untruths and marginalises Indigenous oral histories and knowledge systems.

“This platform [Wikipedia] has the potential to disrupt colonial modes of production and it also has the potential to perpetuate them.” Focus Group participant

The research also points to the need for greater support and training for First Nations contributors to navigate Wikipedia’s complex editing environment. Wikimedia Australia understands that ensuring Indigenous editors feel welcomed and supported is crucial for building a more inclusive and diverse community.

Thank you to the researchers and participants

Wikimedia Australia extends its gratitude to the dedicated researchers and participants whose hard work and commitment made this report possible. Your efforts have provided us with a critical understanding of the First Nations experience on Wikipedia, and your insights will be instrumental in shaping our strategies moving forward.

Looking forward

As we move forward, Wikimedia Australia is committed to addressing the challenges identified in this report. We will work with First Nations peoples to enhance the representation of First Nations knowledge on Wikipedia, support Indigenous contributors, and create an environment where all voices are heard and valued.

As Reconciliation Week draws to a close, we reflect on our continuing journey to strengthen relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians. We invite everyone to engage with the full report, participate in ongoing dialogue, and join us in our mission to make Wikipedia a more inclusive and representative platform. Together, we can ensure that Wikipedia and Wiki projects truly reflect the rich diversity of the sum of all human knowledge.

Read the Report

You can access and read the report in PDF format here.

Carlson, B., & Rana, L. (2024). “I really like Wikipedia, but I don’t trust it”: understanding First Nations peoples’ experiences using Wikipedia as readers and/or editors. Macquarie University. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25949/76YK-G627

About the authors

Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson, Head of the Department of Critical Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University.

She is an internationally renowned scholar across Critical Indigenous Studies and is considered the preeminent global researcher in the field of Indigenous digital life. Her academic eminence has been recognised in her election as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities (2020). As Director of Macquarie University’s Centre for Global Indigenous Futures, Professor Carlson leads an international network of scholars, facilitating research opportunities that bring together established and emerging Indigenous academics. https://researchers.mq.edu.au/en/persons/bronwyn-carlson

Lotus Rana Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidate in the Department of Critical Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University

(She/they) is a Norfolk Islander of Pitcairn descent and Indian who is living, working, and studying on unceded Dharug Ngurra (Country). She is a Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidate in the Department of Critical Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University. Their research interests include colonial storytelling, representation of Indigenous peoples in histories, and the ethics around undertaking research within your own community. Lotus holds a Bachelor of Marketing and Media from Macquarie University and a Graduate Certificate of Human and Community Services from the University of Sydney. She currently works as the Education and Training Coordinator for the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for the Elimination of Violence against Women (CEVAW). This role is situated in the Department of Critical Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University. Lotus is passionate about centering Indigenous voices in her research and work and feels very privileged to learn from and draw upon the knowledges shared by Indigenous scholars who have come before them. https://researchers.mq.edu.au/en/persons/lotus-rana

Acknowledgement

Wikimedia Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we live, work, and share knowledge. We pay our respects to Elders past, present, and emerging, and recognize their continuing connection to land, waters, and culture. This report reflects the rich heritage and invaluable contributions of First Nations peoples.

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