COMMITTEES;Cyber-Safety Committee;Report – 24 Jun 2013

I present the report of the Joint Select Committee on Cybersafety on its inquiry into Cybersafety for Indigenous Australians.

Ordered that the report be printed.

 Senator BILYK: I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

During the course of the 43rd parliament the Joint Select Committee on Cybersafety conducted two extensive inquiries, one relating to cybersafety and young people and the other relating to cybersafety and senior Australians. Following completion of those inquiries, it was agreed that issues surrounding cybersafety for Indigenous Australians warranted further investigation.

Although the committee had very little remaining time available to conduct an in-depth inquiry into these issues, it has conducted a brief investigation to identify the particular issues Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people might be facing with cybersafety. Given the limited timeframe, the committee did not call for submissions for this inquiry from the general public but it wrote to several Australian government departments and authorities and several Indigenous organisations in the Northern Territory to notify them of the inquiry and to invite brief submissions.

The committee found that many Indigenous Australians who live in remote areas have internet access issues and therefore these Australians are at particular risk of being left behind as the majority of Australians gain internet access and go on line. This is of concern to the committee because evidence gathered during its previous inquiry into cybersafety for senior Australians strongly suggested that in the immediate future Australians without access to the internet or without the skills to use the internet will become an increasingly disadvantaged group in society.

The committee visited two schools in Brisbane to discuss concerns about cybersafety with their Indigenous students, and the committee found that, as with other young people in the community, mobile phones are a valuable communication tool for Indigenous youth. Smartphone technologies can provide Indigenous people with important links to family and community, especially when they have to move for school, training or work. At the same time, mobiles allow for a 24-hour cycle of a cyber intrusions which can lead to breaches of privacy and conflict both verbal and physical. The Australian Communications Consumer Advocacy Network told the committee that its research shows that where coverage is available mobile phones are the preferred communications device for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and therefore most cyberbullying in the Indigenous community is likely to occur through the use of mobile phones. The committee’s discussion with students from the Southside Education Centre in Sunnybank and the Aboriginal and Islander Independent Community School in Acacia Ridge confirmed that. The discussions with students at both schools were very informative and useful and we were grateful for the time afforded to us by the principal of each school and by teachers and students.

The committee found that another key issue affecting cybersafety for adult Indigenous Australians is that many have low levels of digital literacy skills and therefore they may lack the ability to either use the internet themselves or to supervise their children’s internet use adequately. Additionally, the committee heard that many older Indigenous people have low levels of English literacy, which impacts on their ability to gain digital literacy skills.

The report I am tabling today briefly discusses the issues that the committee found to be relevant to cybersafety for Indigenous Australians. In so doing, the committee has concluded that a longer, more in-depth investigation into all aspects of internet and communications technology use as it relates to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders by a committee in the 44th parliament would be appropriate.

I would like to express my thanks to my colleagues on the committee and to the deputy chair in the other place, and of course to the secretariat for their enthusiastic dedication to this inquiry and to all the inquiries the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety has undertaken while I have been chair. I commend the report to the Senate.

Question agreed to.