OLT Data Quality Framework

Developing a Culturally Appropriate Data Quality Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Statistics

Lead institution: University of Notre Dame Australia (UNDA)

Partner institution: Southern Cross University (SCU)

Project leaders: Professor Neil Drew (UNDA), Dr Judith Wilks (SCU)

Team members: Katie Wilson (SCU), Carolyn Crook (UNDA), Gillian Kennedy (UNDA), Professor Lyn Henderson-Yates (UNDA), Steve Kinnane (UNDA), Bruce Gorring (UNDA)


In this project a number of challenges, assumptions, complexities, and possible approaches to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data and statistics in higher education have been explored. A number of significant data quality aspects were identified, including a range of cultural dimensions and contexts which are absent from current guidelines including the ABS Quality Data Framework and the Higher Education Information Management System(HEIMS). A draft, culturally-appropriate data quality framework was proposed (refer to the project’s Discussion Paper link), guided by existing frameworks and principles including the Māori Statistical framework, the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC) protocols and guidelines, and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).

The project team also defined and discussed the purpose of a data dictionary, as well as the importance of metadata. A health sector (AIHW) and a higher education sector (HEIMS) data information system were compared for their function, supporting information, data quality standards and use of metadata, revealing broad differences in the two. Key elements that may inform the development of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data set within a National Higher Education Data Dictionary have been proposed.

The above elements were brought together with the intention of beginning a discussion relating to mitigating challenges that exist in the field of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data and statistics in higher education settings. A continuation of this important conversation throughout the sector, with subsequent measures being put in place, could make a significant contribution to the wider and important goal of instilling culturally informed and responsive policies, practices and procedures across the sector. Such outcomes possess considerable potential to enrich and strengthen the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in their journey through higher education.

Artwork: ‘Seeing Country’ by Nyapuru Laurel
Nyapuru Laurel was a Walmajarri artist and educator from the Kadjina Community in the Kimberley region of Western Australia on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert – part of Millijidee Station. Along with her sisters, brothers and mothers, Nyapuru advocated to set up the remote Wulungarra Community School and through her work, contributed to the passing on of knowledge of the land, law and culture to future generations. She passed away in August, 2015.