Indigenous cyber safety issues need addressing: report

A House of Representatives committee has urged parliament to begin a far reaching inquiry into cyber safety, cultural, policy and literacy issues for Indigenous Australians.

According to the committee, an inquiry could inform future policy and direction relating to cyber safety issues which affect Indigenous communities.

The report by the Joint Select Committee on Cyber Safety found that cyber bullying via mobile phones is affecting both urban and rural Indigenous Australians.

Cyber bullying can relate to an ongoing family or language group conflict which could impact a whole community, the report said.

“Many Indigenous Australians have low levels of digital literacy skills and therefore they lack the ability to use the Internet themselves or to supervise their children online,” read the report.

“In remote Indigenous communities, cultural, language and access barriers exacerbate this rift, meaning mobile enabled youth may be more vulnerable to cyber bullying and other emergent online threats as mobile access is improved.”

It suggested that providing information to parents and older community members abut mobile phone and social networking usage may help to establish engagement between older and younger generations.

The committee also found that users in some remote areas had been targeted by scammers asking for an advance fee before providing a product or service. According to an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report, advance fee/up-front payment fraud was the most common type of fraud reported by Australians in 2012, making up 32 per cent of recorded scams.

Members of the committee visited two Indigenous schools in Brisbane to discuss cyber bullying with students and teachers in May as part of its inquiry which began in March 2013.

The AFP has also run education sessions with indigenous elders as part of the ThinkUKnow program which aims to educate children, parents, carers and teachers about the risks faced online.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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