Where are all the
Aboriginal Home Pages?

The Current Indigenous Australian Presence
on the WWW

Paper presented at the Fifth International Literacy and Education Research Network Conference, 1-4 October 1997, Alice Springs.

John Hobson
Koori Centre
Old Teachers College (A22)
University of Sydney, NSW, 2006.


There has been a lot of talk recently about the rapid growth of 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sites' on the World Wide Web. Indeed, the number of sites with a predominant focus on Indigenous Australian topics has grown from a handful to around 150 over the last two years. Where are these sites and what sort of resources do they offer? More importantly, how many are actually by or for Indigenous Australians, or only about them?

This paper reports on a thumbnail survey of WWW sites conducted in July, 1997 in an attempt to begin answering some of these questions. It characterises participating sites in terms of the level of consultation undertaken with Indigenous Australians in their development, and the degree of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in various aspects of their construction.

As a final note, some consideration is given to the current dearth of Indigenous Australian personal home pages and its possible explanation in terms of a mismatch between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander preferred styles of communication and the nature of the medium.

1. Introduction:

The idea to conduct this survey originated from the KooriNet Project: a community development strategy designed to increase Indigenous Australian participation in the Internet, currently being conducted by the Koori Centre at the University of Sydney. The project aims to foster Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander access to networked services by providing the following facilities through the Centre's Internet server, KooriNet:

The project has been progressing at a steady pace on several fronts and is documented further in Hobson (1997). However, it is principally in the area of website development and publication that the project is of interest here.

There are currently three websites which have been developed and are hosted at KooriNet:

Discussions are also underway for the development and addition of others.

Each of the KooriNet sites has been produced on a cooperative basis between the relevant organisation and Koori Centre staff, normally with the organisation providing all content and specifying any design requirements, and the Koori Centre contributing HTML markup, page and site design advice. And, although the participation of each of the parties concerned has always involved the combined activity of non-Aboriginal as well as Aboriginal personnel, all three sites are clearly considered by their owners; autonomous Aboriginal bodies, to be 'Aboriginal' websites.

However, the circumstances under which the KooriNet sites were developed raised a number of questions for me; a non-Aboriginal employee of an Aboriginal community-controlled body who has acted as the technical 'expert' in this process, working in collaboration with Aboriginal client groups, but who often had their own 'white advisers' liaise with me on their behalf.

How typical was this history of the development of other 'Aboriginal' websites? Have all 'Aboriginal' sites developed on a similar basis? Are there any which are wholly the product of Aboriginal people's efforts? Conversely, are there 'Aboriginal' sites which are wholly the product of non-Aboriginal activity? Indeed, what is it that makes a website 'Aboriginal' as such? These and other questions suggested the need to do some basic research to develop a snapshot of the current level and form of Indigenous Australian participation in the WWW at this early stage in its development.

Another important question, not conceived of at the outset, but which quickly became apparent was; just how many 'Aboriginal' websites are there, and what are they there for? The then largest listing of sites of relevance to Indigenous Australians; the Aboriginal Studies World Wide Web Virtual Library offered what seemed an enormous 90 or so links. But, there were many others known that weren't listed there and, indeed, the Virtual Library itself acknowledges that it is selectively compiled. It seemed that noone had attempted to systematically find and document them all. So this became a further ambition of the survey, as well as being the best way to obtain the largest possible sample.

In order for the survey to be able to proceed, it was still necessary that some form of working definition for 'Aboriginal' websites be developed which would allow for the systematic exclusion or inclusion of sites in the sampling process. Thus the survey targeted sites which are "by, for or about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people and contain some meaningful cultural, social or political material, or act as an information or research resource specific to Indigenous Australians". On this basis commercial sites simply engaged in the display of items for sale were not included, but galleries which incorporate changing displays of artists' works or include artists' biographies were. 'World' indigenous resources were not surveyed.

2. The Survey:

The survey was conducted by direct e-mail to sites. A database of URLs was compiled, based on both published lists and links found on individual pages. The Aboriginal Studies World Wide Web Virtual Library and the Vicnet Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Page were the principal starting points for collection and also provided the bulk of sites included in the survey. Additional URLs were located by conducting searches on a range of relevant terms through each of the major search engines.

As a result of this process a total of 174 sites were entered into the database to provide the survey population (subsequently published as the ATSI WWW Resource Directory). Each was then visited and wherever possible a copy of the survey instrument and accompanying explanation was e-mailed to the given contact address.

Of the 174 websites listed, eight URLs were found to be no longer valid and could not be located elsewhere on the relevant server. A further 16 did not provide an e-mail contact at their site, and another five provided e-mail addresses which were no longer valid. Of the 145 which were ultimately able to be contacted, two formally declined to participate and a total of 49 responded (approximately 34%). Most did not seek further clarification of the survey and its purpose prior to responding, although a few did take this step. The participating sites are listed below.

3. Results:

The results of the survey are given below under headings relating to each question. A summary of all responses to the majority of questions is given in Table 1 sorted by Respondent ("ATSI") and Content.

Because of the guarantee of anonymity provided to respondents, no identifying information has been given. Also, because responses to the open-ended questions were often extensive and highly variable, they have not been included in the summary. However, a number of quotes in response to these questions are given in the text of the report.

3.1 Respondents:

In an effort to gain some insight into who were the 'faces behind' the sites, respondents were asked to indicate whether or not they were an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person. The responses are listed under the heading "ATSI" in Table 1.

An affirmative response was received from only seven of the total 49 sites (14%), all of whom identified themselves as Aboriginal. In three of these cases, the respondent also indicated in their answers to this or other questions that they were the site owner.

In most of the other cases those respondents who identified themselves further variously indicated that they were the webmaster for the organisation/site, either on a formal or informal basis; a design consultant, or; the private owner of the site. A few of the latter also specified that they were 'hobbyists'. As this additional information was neither requested nor forthcoming for all respondents, it has not been quantified here.

3.2 Date:

The responses for the publication dates of the websites are summarised below in Table 2. For ease of presentation these have been grouped into six month periods retrospective from July of this year (97/07). Those sites which indicated publication prior to January 1995, or originated in that year but were not specified by month (or provided no answer) have been grouped together as 93/01-95/01 which is therefore somewhat artificially inflated.

Table 2 - Sites by Date














Notwithstanding some slight irregularity, the data show an overall increasing trend over time in terms of the number of sites being published. Thus 29% of all sites surveyed were published in the six months prior to the conduct of the survey in July 1997; 45% in the year from July 1996, and 67% since January 1996.

The earliest recorded publication date for a surveyed site was a startling June 1993 from a government authority which also boasted an even earlier date for its first appearance on the Internet in a different form (S15). The youngest sites to be surveyed (S11 and S48) were first published during the conduct of the survey itself. There have, of course, also been a number published since.

Some correlation was evidenced between the Aboriginality of respondents and the date of a site's publication in that for six of the seven cases for which the response was given by an Aboriginal person the publication date was in the year prior to the survey; three of these within 1997. The exceptional case was one instance of a site's publication date not being supplied.

3.3 Type:

The characterisation of sites by "Type" represents a collapse of the responses from the two survey questions relating to the sort of organisation and site content into a single category. This was done because of the strong similarity between the responses given to these two questions by each respondent, as well as the similarity of content between all sites at a general level. Thus sites published by art galleries tended to describe their content as "art", music sites; "music", and health sites; "health", etc. Similarly almost all sites contained a description of the relevant organisation or person, their interests, aims, activities and current projects, contact details and the ubiquitous list of links.

Responses were classified by Type according to the system developed for the ATSI WWW Resource Directory:

Art (Art, Artefacts and Culture):
Sites relating to the material culture of Aboriginal societies, including art galleries, artists cooperatives, and displays of artefacts. Museums, which often provide broader information than simply material culture, are listed separately.

Indigenous organisations which are general in their purpose and not specific to one issue, such as health, education or the law, etc. Land Councils are included in this category because they are often the principal representative organisation of communities and frequently pursue a much broader charter than only land-based issues.

All sites relating specifically to education and/or training for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at all levels.

Sites which provide generalised information about Indigenous Australian peoples, span a number of other categories or do not readily fit it into any other category. There is potential for some sites in this category to be reclassified into new categories, such as: Religion; Heritage, History and Family, etc.

Sites published by government departments and other bodies which largely provide information about their own activities and services and do not fit into other, more specific, categories.

Sites with a particular focus on Indigenous Australian health issues.

Justice (Justice and the Law):
Legal services and sites with a focus on Land Rights, Native Title, Mabo, Wik, Deaths in Custody, Stolen Generations, Reconciliation, etc.

Library (Libraries and Museums):
Sites published by libraries and museums which document their collections, displays and current activities or provide a networking service for similar institutions on Indigenous Australian issues.

Sites which only provide linked lists to other sites. Some government department and library sites are included in this category.

Media (Media and Multimedia):
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander newspapers, broadcasters, multimedia enterprises and media organisations.

Music (Music, Dance and Literature):
Sites relating to the performance aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, including bands, music associations, dance troupes and writers.

Personal (Personal Pages):
Sites which are principally about an individual themselves, rather than any enterprise they are engaged in such as performing or the sale of products.

Sites with a primary emphasis on research into Indigenous Australian topics in general or which do not fit readily into other categories, such as health.

While such a system may, at first, seem relatively neat, the actual classification of sites was not always a simple matter and probably rather idiosyncratic at times. In part this was due to the variable nature of individual sites and the tendency for more than one issue to be addressed simultaneously. The data for this variable should therefore be treated with somewhat more caution than some other aspects of the survey.

Table 3 - Sites by Type




























Notwithstanding reservations about the classification system employed, there were some features of note in the data. Of the specific categories, Education, Justice and Art together accounted for 43% of the total sites responding. The General category was the single largest with 20%, reflecting the number of sites with either general or diverse content, as well as reinforcing the likely need for further refinement of the system. Significantly, no responses were received from Personal sites.

The rate of response by Type in the survey generally related closely to the proportions found in the ATSI WWW Resource Directory. Some slight over-representation occurred in the General and Education categories which formed 20% and 18% of the survey sample, but only 12% and 14% of the Directory population. Similarly, Research and Media were slightly under-represented; at 6% and 4% in the survey, but 10% and 9% in the Directory. While these particular variations may be indicative of some differences in willingness to participate in research of this nature by different Types of sites, it is far more noteworthy that the comparison generally suggests the survey presents a reasonably representative sample.

Comparing Type with Date did not reveal any information of great interest. The general trend towards increasing numbers of sites over time was reflected consistently across most categories, but with Justice and Art sites being amongst the more recent to appear in the survey sample; since January and July 1996 respectively.

Sites with non-Aborignal Respondents were represented across all categories roughly proportional to their overall presence in the sample. The seven Aboriginal Respondents, however, were restricted to five categories: Education and Art with two each; and single responses for Media, Lists and General sites.

3.4 Purpose:

The responses received in relation to the intended purpose of sites were strongly similar across the entire sample. The following are some of the expressions used by respondents in their replies:

"education, information distribution, provide information, inform the public, source of information, let people know, tell people, reach, persuade, communication, worldwide communication, receive feedback, contact, develop networks, lift the profile, promotion, wider exposure, display, publicity, advertise, marketing, sales"

While there was an evident interest in commercial considerations from those sites operating on a commercial basis, there was nonetheless an emphasis throughout the sample on ideas of reaching out to a wider audience to acquaint them with pertinent issues and relevant information and, where possible, engage them in dialogue. Such is, of course, the nature of the medium. However, there was also a strong tendency for respondents to express quite high ideals and clearly defined ambitions:

"Promotion of Indigenous Australian issues and values."

"All content work, written or contributed has solely been by ATSI people. That has been the main focus behind the web page & setting it up - by Indigenous people for Indigenous people."

"The purpose of this website to provide educational information to parents, students, education providers and the community. Its objective is to maximise educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students."

"To provide a demonstration Indigenous Internet site for families and community services and also to provide a secure and private site for Aboriginal family history information."

"To provide a confident platform for staff to further devlop their Internet skills for the future."

"Quality information resources for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people about Australian Indigenous peoples. We aim to generate and provide information, not to index other people's contributions or serve as a communication hub."

"This website is there to help the people in the community, particularly to improve education outcomes in Indigenous students."

"To educate; to provide access to information; to provide an avenue for non-Indigenous Australians to do something about the inequities that still exist."

"To further the reconciliation process and pressure a Federal Government to make that apology. One day a government will apologise to the Stolen Generation. It might not be this government; it might not be the next, but there will be one."

And, in some instances, this was achieved with a surprisingly simple elegance:

"Just to be there."

"Raise knowledge base of whitefellas."

3.5 Consultation:

Of the 49 sites responding to the survey only five indicated that there had not been any consultation undertaken with Indigenous Australians in the process of their development. In two cases where further clarification was provided the reason given was that the information on the site was derived from previously published sources which had simply been re-issued in a new format. In another it was clearly felt that publication itself was a form of consultation:

"Students at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at [university], and others visit and use the links and pages, and thus keep me honest."

These five sites did not display any correlation with any of the variables examined thus far except that, predictably, all Respondents were non-Indigenous.

In this context it should also be noted that while all sites for which the Respondent was Aboriginal either indicated or were assessed as having involved Indigenous participation, it was not necessarily the case that the 'consultation' extended beyond the respondent(s) themselves:

"Other Indigenous people were not consulted. The issues and values content are the issues and values of concern to me."
"Website was created by myself and a professional web person."
"The Koorie staff developed the site."
"Two Aboriginal people are employed at the Unit. One Aboriginal person created the page, with training being provided from the internet division of the [organisation]."

From the remaining 44 sites a wide array of responses were given indicating variable levels and methods of consultation, and often relating more to levels of active participation as a measure, than actual consultation as such. In a few instances this involved the ennumeration of people consulted; in others, the names:

"10 staff, 14 community executives."
Sometimes an extensive historical narrative was supplied. And, while the nature of most responses did not readily lend themselves to quantification, there were some aspects of the consultative methods used which were common to a number of sites.

In some cases either an employee, member of an organisation or consultant working under instruction to an Aboriginal client 'brief' had been responsible for the publication of the website:

"Material was supplied by the Director of the Centre."
"They supplied copy and graphics."

In others, Indigenous employees or group members were reported as having worked cooperatively with their non-Indigenous colleagues in aspects of the site's production:

"Some of the text was written by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people who work in the unit and all the text was read by a number of staff who are Aborigines and/or Torres Strait Islanders."

"All our staff (of who about 30% are Indigenous) were consulted."

A few respondents made mention of a process of drafting and seeking comment, sometimes using previously published material as a basis for the site:

"Used existing brochures and flyers, presented final site for approval to co-ordinator.",

while others employed quite formal methods of soliciting Indigenous input:

"We sent out proformas to the various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services and organisations throughout [the state] who then sent back the filled in proforma which we entered onto the website."
"A national workshop involving 6 key Aboriginal people was held and an Aboriginal trainee was involved in the 2 month development of the site."
Finally, in at least two cases, there was a clearly stated desire for more:
"We have had some contact with Aboriginal writers, but not as much as we would like unfortunately."

"It's not all for lack of trying. For example, we have asked an Indigenous artist staff member to join our team to redo several designs. We run workshops... on general web issues and markup, etc and usually have a reasonable turnup of Indigenous staff. Most Indigenous staff are pretty busy and are not necessarily able to take on even more duties. I anticipate that there will be much more Indigenous involvement in our website in 12 months."

3.6 Content, Design, HTML & Maintenance:

The responses for these four variables provided the major quantifiable measures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in the publication of websites from the survey, and are of special interest for that reason. However, the data supplied were not without their particular problems, especially in terms of the accuracy of respondents' estimations; a fact which several explicitly acknowledged.

How, for example, does one accurately estimate the volumes of contribution of several individuals or groups working collectively on a project over an extended period? While this may be a somewhat less complex matter in areas like the writing of HTML code or the Maintenance of a site where few people are likely to be involved, for aspects such as the Design of a site, the contribution of ideas and participation in decision-making are quite intangible variables to attempt to measure. And, in the case of Content, how does one compare the volume of one person's text with another's graphics? For these reasons several respondents gave purposefully broad answers ("most", "less than half"), numeric ranges ("50-60%"), or component estimates ("50% text, 90% graphics").

These circumstances created significant difficulty in reducing all the data to a comparable form and, in the best scientific tradition, resulted in more than a few 'square pegs' being pushed firmly into 'round holes'. As a consequence all data for these four variables must be regarded with a very healthy suspicion, particularly when they vary from the extremes of 0% and 100%. Fortunately, if only for the purposes of the survey, most do not.

Table 4 - Sites by Content, Design, HTML & Maintenance



































Considering, firstly, the Content of sites; the survey sample shows a balanced distribution of responses between the two extremes of 0% and 100% originating from Indigenous participants. Scores at either end of the scale were closely comparable with 25% of responses indicating all content was supplied by Aboriginal people while 27% contained none from Indigenous sources. Similarly, 47% of the sample was assessed as consisting of more than half Indigenous-supplied Content and 53%; half or less. Interestingly, scores were lowest around the middle of the scale, suggesting a strong tendency towards Content being an 'all or nothing' matter in the sample.

Over the remaining three variables, however, results were not so balanced. For Design, there was a heavy concentration of responses towards 0%. A total of 61% of sites indicated no participation by Aboriginal people in their Design while 81% were assessed as having 50% or less. Only three sites were able to claim to be totally the product of Indigenous design.

This pattern was strongest of all for HTML; the encoding necessary to produce WWW page images. An overwhelming 84% of the sample recorded no participation by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people in this process with 90% indicating half or less. Again, for this variable, only three sites were able to claim solely Indigenous effort.

The results for Maintenance of sites were minimally differentiated from those for HTML. No Indigenous participation was recorded by 80% of respondents and 90% claimed half or less. Four sites only were maintained solely by Aboriginal people.

Looking for correlations across these four variables revealed some limited, but very strong trends. All of the eight sites with positive scores for HTML, except one, also recorded positively for Maintenance, Design and Content. Simlarly, all sites with positive scores for Maintenance also had positive scores for Design and Content. And, positive scores for Design were likewise predictive for Content. Such a pattern can probably be taken to indicate that where Indigenous participants have been equipped with the skills necessary to write the HTML for their sites, the performance of Maintenance and Design tasks and the authoring of Content were been even less challenging tasks for them.

Three sites returned scores of 100% for all four variables. Thirteen responses were zero across the range.

No meaningful relationships could be discerned for the Date of a site's publication and any of the latter variables. However, there were some noteworthy patterns between Content and the Type of site. All six Art sites contained some Aboriginal-supplied Content as did all three Health. All but one of the nine Education sites scored similarly, but only two out of the six Justice sites had any Indigenous Content, and then only to a maximum level of 25%.

In the case of the 12 sites reporting 100% of Content deriving from Aboriginal people, both Art and Education were the only Types strongly represented with three sites each. And, amongst the 13 sites with zero scores for Content, Design, HTML and Maintenance, Justice was the most common Type accounting for 31% of cases.

But, it is the comparison of Respondent to the four structural variables that the most interesting correlations are evidenced, particularly for the intended purposes of the survey. All of the sites for which the Respondent identified as Aboriginal, except one, recorded positive scores for Content, Design, HTML and Maintenance. Four of the seven scored 100% for Content, and three of these were the ones which indicated 100% for all four variables.

Of the 42 sites for which the Respondent was non-Aboriginal, only two recorded positive scores for HTML; three for Maintenance; 12 (29%) for Design, and; 29 (69%) for Content. The responses for all of the 13 sites with zero scores for all four structural variables came from non-Aboriginal people.

4. Discussion:

While this survey should not be considered more than a very quick and rough attempt to obtain a cursory overview of the current status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation on the WWW, it has brought to light some very interesting and useful information. If nothing else, it has facilitated the publication of the ATSI WWW Resource Directory; a document which affirms the extent and variety of the Indigenous 'presence', and which has been subject to heavy daily access since it appeared. But, it has also raised a number of issues amongst the surveyed population, begun to provide answers to some questions, and probably generated a few more in the process.

The survey provides confirmation of the substantial rate of growth in sites by, for or about Indigenous Australians, and strongly supports a prediction that the rate will continue to increase rapidly into the future. It indicates that it is in the areas of Art, Education and Justice that the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander topics and issues on the WWW is currently strongest, and provides some characterisation of the areas which appear to be of particular significance in Indigenous Australian affairs, at least in terms of web publishing.

A very positive situation regarding the purposes behind the publication of 'Aboriginal' websites was revealed by the survey - there were no negative reasons given - indicating a strong interest by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in promoting awareness of Aboriginal issues nationally and internationally and, in many cases, encouraging action to right injustices; both past and present.

While the survey confirms that it is overwhelmingly non-Indigenous people who are currently primarily responsible for the representation of Aboriginal topics and issues on the WWW, it also indicates a general recognition of the need for consultation to take place in the publication of materials relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Conversely, it confirms that the views and opinions expressed by Indigenous people in the medium cannot simply be taken as representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples en masse.

Perhaps one of the most significant outcomes of the survey is that it clearly evidences the existence of sites which are wholly and solely the product of Indigenous Australian efforts. But, it is no less worthy of note that it also establishes that these constitute a small minority of the current population, and that it is far more common for 'Aboriginal' sites to have been published with either no active Indigenous participation or contributions restricted to only the Content of sites.

Although it would be possible to construe these trends as indicative of a broad non-Indigenous domination of the current representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander topics on the WWW, such a view needs to be balanced by the knowledge that some sites represent services offered to Indigenous Australians by mainstream organisations, and that there are others, particularly in the area of Justice, which are intended as gestures of reconciliation from the non-Indigenous community to their fellows.

Similarly, the interpretion that the content of websites has been appropriated from Aboriginal people and put to use by others is not borne out in the survey sample. Although it is mostly non-Aboriginal people who have responded to the survey, designed and maintain the sites, they have generally done so either as the colleagues, employees or servants of the Indigenous people concerned. As the respondent for one organisation went to some length to point out:

"Aboriginal organisations in remote areas rely on the employment of non-Aboriginal technical staff, but what sets them apart from mainstream organisations is the community controlled structure. It is this structure that has enabled the development of this site ahead of any other regional... organisations, mainstream included. This is a significant achievement for the community and Council members. Our web site has been a source of pride for all staff."

And, it must be remembered, there is no basis on which to expect Aboriginal people to have greater skills in such areas as HTML or site design than the remainder of the population, who must also often rely on outside services for technical assistance.

Perhaps what the survey does support most strongly is the assertion that there is an opportunity, if not a need, to increase access for Indigenous Australians to the technology and skills necessary to permit much broader participation in the new medium. Just as there are not yet enough Aboriginal doctors, lawyers and teachers to supply the demand for people to work with their own communities, so there are not yet enough Aboriginal computer technicians and programmers to assume wider control over the representation of their peoples on the WWW. While there is evidently no shortfall of helpful supporters, a greater level of self-determination for Indigenous Australians in the field of information technology is a possible development that communities, providers of education and training, and the technologically rich, might all like to consider; especially as information seems poised to become the new currency of the next century.

In the interim, Aboriginal webmasters might like to develop some method of identifying their sites as being a totally Indigenous product. Indeed, a suggestion of this nature was made by one of the survey respondents:

"I would like to see an Indigenous ring; i.e. a list of sites that at the bottom refer people to the next Indigenous site immediately."

Such a scheme would both afford the recognition such achievement deserves, and provide an incentive for others to facilitate greater equity of access; perhaps even to the point of the eventual transfer of control into Indigenous hands.

So, where are all the Aboriginal home pages? As was mentioned above it was only in the category of Personal websites that no responses to the survey were received. And, in the ATSI WWW Resource Directory the Personal category is one of the smallest with only five sites listed; four of these from participants in the same Internet skills workshop. Such an apparent lack of enthusiasm for the promotion of one's personal identity, hobbies, and interests is in sharp contrast with the typical form of many non-Aboriginal people's ventures into WWW publishing.

Writers such as Harris (1980), Sansom (1980) and Eades (1985) have variously documented many of the differences between Indigenous and non- Indigenous communication and the social conventions which govern it in different parts of Aboriginal Australia. Generally all have emphasised that "in Aboriginal society... knowledge is not a free and easily acquired good... ", but " ...is passed on as a part of social interaction and is subject to strong controls..." (Eades, 1985, p98). Information is a privilege, not a right. They have also observed that given the small, close-knit nature of most Aboriginal communities, there are strong lines of communication and social relationships which ensure the transmission of public information and allow the identity of all group members to be known (Harris, 1980, pp115-6). Conversely, this very 'public' nature of many Aboriginal societies places privacy at a premium.

Under such circumstances the absence of Aboriginal Personal home pages from the WWWshould be regarded as hardly surprising. Access to information, particularly of a personal nature, is relatively outside the control of its author and any social conventions once it has been placed on a publicly accessible site. Indeed, one site participating in the survey maintains a closed -access section on community family information for precisely these sort of reasons. At any rate, for those people to whom such information should be most important; other members of the same community, its publication would be redundant since it would generally be already known.

Future development of the Indigenous Australian presence on the WWW by Indigenious Australians may see some increase in the presence of Personal home pages, particularly by those individuals who are more at ease operating in both cultural contexts. However, it is far more likely that the representation of Aboriginal topics and issues on the WWW in the forseeable future will continue to emphasise both the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those areas in which social justice and change is overdue.

The author gratefully acknowledges the participation of the following websites and the people behind them who took the time to respond to this survey. It would not have been possible without them since it was they, rather than me, who actually provided the content.


Eades, D (1985) You Gotta Know How to Talk... Information Seeking in South-East Queensland Aboriginal Society, in Pride, J B (ed) Cross-Cultural Encounters: Communication and Mis-Communication. River Seine, Melbourne.

Harris, S (1980) Culture and Learning: Tradition and Education in Northeast Arnhem Land. Professional Sevices Branch, Nothern Territory Department of Education, Darwin.

Hobson, J R (1997) Strategies for Building an Indigenous Australian Cybercommunity: The KooriNet Project. Paper presented at the 1997 Fulbright Symposium: Indigenous Cultures in an Interconnected World, July 24-27, Darwin.

Sansom, (1980) The Camp at Wallaby Cross. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra.

The terms "Indigenous", "Indigenous Australian", "Aboriginal" and "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander" are used interchageably throughout this report. However, it was an unfortunate reality of the survey that no substantial Torres Strait Islander participation in the WWW was able to be identified in the process.