Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations and issues relating to them continue to attract much study by researchers in Australia and overseas, including a growing number of researchers who are themselves Indigenous Australians. The materials compiled in that research are increasingly ‘born digital’ and consequently vulnerable to format obsolescence. Few of the digital datasets have assured longevity and continuing useability, nor are the content or management issues of many adequately described. To fill that gap, Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning and the University Library at the University of Technology, Sydney are creating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Archive (ATSIDA) as a thematic archive within the Australian Data Archive (ADA).
ATSIDA is designed to become a digital counterpart to the extensive collections of physical research materials held in many institutions and, notably, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) whose collections are the largest resource on Australian Indigenous peoples. ATSIDA aims to collect and preserve the fragmented digital research resources, ensure their preservation and make them available for further research under appropriate protocols. This will enable informed analysis and commentary in areas of national priority while helping to reduce demands placed on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities by researchers. The archiving of Indigenous research datasets will also make it possible to repatriate them to the communities to which they pertain, thereby returning the data which were supplied to researchers and building a sense of reciprocity and trust.
The keys to the success of ATSIDA will be the formulation of effective protocols to manage the datasets, the application of suitable information technology systems to ensure their continuing preservation and availability within the terms of those protocols and the development of strong, reciprocated relationships with Indigenous communities and collecting institutions.