Session 3.2 - Research and advocacy for marginalised communities and displaced peoples


Kathy Carbone, Susan McKemmish, Gregory Rolan

Date Added:

22 October 2019

Chair: Julia Mant, President, Australian Society of Archivists

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Kathy Carbone, Susan McKemmish, Gregory Rolan

The Panel will engage the audience in exploring a research and advocacy agenda to pursue digital equity for marginalised communities and displaced peoples in the context of human rights and social justice. Rapid advances in information technologies and systems are further disenfranchising those living at the edge. Universal human rights, Indigenous human rights and the rights of specific groups, including refugees, and children in out-of-home Care are articulated in international conventions and declarations, national instruments, and local jurisprudence. However, their actualisation depends on recognising and implementing rights in data, information and records. Technologies and systems in the ‘big-data’ society (re)consolidate political and economic informational power at the centre, with divisive societal implications. Too often systems designed for the centre fail those on the edge, in all of their individualised complexity. The lived experience of people at the edge, inquiry reports and research findings highlight the failure of information and recordkeeping systems to meet their lifelong identity, memory, cultural, accountability and information accessibility challenges. Refugees worldwide lack access to and control over their data and records, resulting in inability to exercise their rights under the United Nations (UN) Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951/1967; denial of asylum claims; return of displaced individuals into dangerous spaces; statelessness; separation of and difficulties in reuniting families; and heightened vulnerability for women and children.

In the UK, Australia and Canada, many inquiries have highlighted the failure of information and recordkeeping systems to meet the lifelong identity, memory, cultural, accountability and information accessibility challenges for those caught up in child welfare and protection Care systems in the 20th and early 21st centuries, and impeding the exercise of their rights of the child as set down in the UN Convention 1990.
Indigenous peoples, UN rapporteurs, inquiries and research findings frequently point to the failure of information and recordkeeping governance frameworks, policies and systems to support the actualization of rights under the UN Declaration on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Too often they exacerbate rather than ameliorate the trauma of loss of knowledge, language and connection to Country, and fail to support the recovery of Indigenous knowledge or provide evidence to support recovery of identity, family link-ups, and Native Title claims. The Panel and the audience will identify the challenges of co-designing ethical, rights-based, and trauma-informed information and recordkeeping systems that will support disempowered groups and address digital inequities, biases, and insensitivities.


Kathy Carbone

Kathy Carbone is a Lecturer and Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) currently working on the Refugees Rights in Records (R3) Initiative. Her research interests focus on the intersection of archives, broadly conceived, with contemporary art practices, memory, forced migration, social justice, and human rights.

Susan McKemmish

Professor Sue McKemmish is a lead researcher in the Centre for Organisational and Social Informatics at Monash University. She has been immersed in archives for four decades, first as an archivist working for the National Archives of Australia and the Public Record Office of Victoria, and more recently as an academic. Joining Monash in 1990, her research focused on Records Continuum theory and modelling, recordkeeping metadata and smart information consumer portals. Her theory-building and modelling work on the Records Continuum has continued, but in more recent times, she has focused on issues of digital equity and decolonising the Archive, engaging in research relating to community-centred, participatory recordkeeping and archiving, rights in records in the context of social justice and human rights agendas, and inclusive, reflexive research design and practice.

Gregory Rolan

Dr Gregory Rolan is a research fellow at the Centre for Organisational and Social Informatics at Monash University. His research includes systems interoperability; recordkeeping informatics; and participatory recordkeeping systems design and implementation. More recently, he has begun investigating the application of data-science techniques to recordkeeping informatics. Dr Rolan has published widely including Archival Science, the Records Management Journal, and Archives and Manuscripts and has received a number of writing awards. He has submitted recommendations to a number of Australian Governmental inquiries relating to rights, records, and information more broadly, and has appeared as an expert witness.