Critical issues presentations/Noongarpedia: The epitome of cultural clashes between Wikipedia and Aboriginal Australian worldviews.

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Submission no. 100
Title of the submission

Noongarpedia: The epitome of cultural clashes between Wikipedia and Aboriginal Australian worldviews.

Author of the submission
  • Casey Kickett
Country of origin



other, Outreach, Policy, Projects, Research

  • Noongar
  • Indigenous worldviews
  • Culture clashes
  • Minority language
  • Language revitalization
  • Meeting in the middle
  • Noongarpedia

The topic I would like to present on is the issue of cultural clashes on Wikipedia between Indigenous and Western worldviews that have surfaced since beginning the ‘Noongarpedia’ project. ‘Noongarpedia’ aims to establish a Wikipedia entirely in the Noongar langauge (a borderline extinct Aboriginal language of south-west Western Australia). The content of Noongarpedia relates to the area of which the Noongar people are from, including certain Noongar cultural knowledge. The purpose of Noongarpedia is to help revive an almost extinct language by acting as a medium where Noongar people and non-Indigenous people are able to learn to write, read and speak in Noongar and to pass on the knowledge. However, we are slowly finding that sometimes it is like trying to fit a square into a circle.

The language is almost extinct due to being a minority language in an English dominated country and the effects of colonisation, specifically the Stolen Generations (an event that lasted over many decades which saw Aboriginal babies and children taken from their parents and taught to live ‘white’).

Although colonisation has had a hugely negative impact on the knowledge and passing on of the Noongar langauge, cultural protocols and sensitivities which have arisen from colonisation and the traumatic experiences of it remain intact with the Noongar people – and as we have found with the Noongarpedia project, often clash with the policies of Wikipedia. The major policy clashes occur with what are reliable sources of information, due to different ideas from a Western viewpoint and a Noongar viewpoint as to what ‘evidence’ is (evidence in Noongar worldviews consist of verbal stories from Elders, or found in the Earth itself), not being able to upload content of a person you know (everybody knows or is related to everyone in the Noongar community) and finally, no censorship (this is an issue when there are sensitivities around certain events and cultural content, and with who owns what knowledge in a cultural context).

Leading on from the policy issues, there are major concerns within our local Noongar community of cultural Noongar knowledge which, if uploaded to Noongarpedia, may be stolen for commercial benefit, ownership of knowledge and cultural sensitivities on where we draw the line with content about massacres that have happened to our people.

Ultimately, the purpose of my presentation would be to discuss these issues mentioned above, to make people question whether Wikipedia acts as promoting the Western worldview and whether then Wikipedia is a neutral medium. It will also create a safe space where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who are involved with Wikipedia can discuss these issues and encourage other Indigenous peoples to begin creating their own Wikipedia in order to save their language and knowledge within that language, and to use it as a learning tool for younger, more tech-savvy generations to come.

My presentation is tackling the theme of Wikipedia as a driver for change through positioning Wikipedia as the ultimate community-engaging and community-responsible project that can revive, deliver and act as a sound board for borderline extinct languages in a way that engages the younger generations through technology and via means that are free.

This presentation is aimed at Indigenous people who've experience in using Wikipedia to carry on their language and knowledge, and those who are interested in doing so. It is also aimed at non-Indigenous people to try and bring together the two groups of people in order to find a solution to the cultural differences. No background knowledge is needed to understand the point of the talk, however any knowledge of Indigenous worldviews and cultural protocols is beneficial.


Accepted as reserve