The First Nations Digital Inclusion Advisory Group is focussed on Outcome 17 of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. Outcome 17 is about ensuring First Nations people can access information and services to make informed decisions about their own lives. The Advisory Group will work in partnership with First Nations people throughout its work.
The Advisory Group will provide advice to the Minister for Communications about digital inclusion for First Nations people. The Advisory Group will focus on providing advice on the current gaps in data on digital inclusion at the national and community level. The Advisory Group will be guided by:
- the National Agreement’s goals and priorities
- the key issues raised during the First Nations Digital Inclusion Roundtable (December 2022), including shared decision-making in digital inclusion:
- the priorities for future work identified in consultations for the First Nations Digital Inclusion Plan.
The Advisory Group will provide advice on ways to improve digital inclusion in areas such as telecommunications, media and broadcasting. It will focus on access, affordability and digital ability.
The Advisory Group aims to improve national data collection on digital inclusion so it can understand and track progress towards Target 17 under Outcome 17. Target 17 aims for equal digital inclusion for First Nations people by 2026.
Short term, the Advisory Group will provide advice on practical ways to:
- improve digital inclusion in remote communities
- fix the barriers to digital inclusion in other areas, with a focus on communities in need, regardless of location.
It will also provide the Minister a longer-term plan to support progress with Target 17 and advise on how to measure that progress.
Function and scope of the Advisory Group
(a) Work in partnership with First Nations people to encourage shared decision making and understand their priorities for investing in digital inclusion including in remote communities and other communities of need.
(b) Advise the Minister on what can be done in the next year (2023–24) to move closer to Target 17. This will cover areas such as telecommunications, media and broadcasting.
(c) Advise the Minister about existing data sources and point out any gaps in the data.
The Advisory Group will provide its initial advice to the Minister by mid-2023.
(d) Advise the Minister on progress towards Target 17 and what needs to change in programs or policies to speed up progress. This will cover both remote communities and non-remote areas.
(e) Recommend to the Minister ways to fill gaps in collecting and analysing data. This advice will focus on ways to evaluate digital inclusion efforts and track progress towards Target 17.
- Advice will ensure that First Nations communities have access to, and the capability to use, locally-relevant data and information to inform shared decision-making on Target 17.
(f) Work in partnership with First Nations organisations and communities to develop a longer-term plan to reach Target 17. The Advisory Group will provide this advice to the Minister.
The Advisory Group will work with the Coalition of Peaks to make sure the Advisory Group’s efforts are part of and match the wider efforts under Closing the Gap. This will include involving First Nations Media Australia, which is a member of the Coalition of Peaks and helps with First Nations:
- digital inclusion
The Minister for Communications will work closely with the Minister for Indigenous Australians on policy matters that the Advisory Group raises. The Advisory Group will also receive support from the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA). The Advisory Group will request an NIAA representative to attend and observe meetings.
With the Advisory Group, the Australian Government has the chance to work in partnership with First Nations people and communities to close the gap on digital inclusion. The Advisory Group will also work with organisations such as the Northern Australia Indigenous Reference Group and talk with state, territory and local governments, and land councils.
In its first stage, the Advisory Group will have:
- two co-chairs
- up to five general members.
The Minister will choose members for the Advisory Group based on their expertise on two or more of the following issues relevant to First Nations people:
- connectivity infrastructure
- barriers to digital inclusion, including cost, digital ability and access
- online safety
- broadcasting and satellite television
- stakeholder engagement and management
- delivery of services (like health and education) in remote communities
- communications devices and spaces
- data collection and analysis.
Choosing members will be based on:
- First Nations representation
- diverse locations
- gender balance.
Membership will be for up to two years unless the Minister decides otherwise. Advisory Group members cannot ask someone else to vote or go to meetings in their place.
Ex Officio Members
The co-chairs, with the support of the Minister, may invite peak bodies to join the Advisory Group as ex officio members. If the nominated representative, who must be an executive officer, resigns from the peak body, a replacement nominee must be identified by the peak body within twenty business days.
Third party participation
Digital Inclusion Expert Panel
The Digital Inclusion Expert Panel will provide expert advice to the Advisory Group on issues about:
- telecommunications infrastructure
The Expert Panel will carefully check the evidence to find gaps and identify ways to solve digital inclusion barriers faced by First Nations people. It will advise on issues and solutions for digital inclusion for First Nations people and communities. The Expert Panel will work together and form special groups if asked by the Advisory Group co-chairs.
The Advisory Group co-chairs can approve people who are experts to join the Expert Panel. The Expert Panel will have a balance of people from different genders, locations and fields of work. Members will stay on the Expert Panel for two years unless the Minister says otherwise. Expert Panel members will follow rules and regulations set by the Advisory Group.
The Advisory Group will decide who is the chair of the Expert Panel. The Expert Panel may be asked to come to Advisory Group meetings, but they will not have a vote.
Expert third parties
The Advisory Group can invite in other experts. If the Advisory Group needs more funding to bring in these experts, it must ask the secretariat for approval. Experts must tell the co-chairs if there is a conflict of interest. Third party experts may be anyone who the Advisory Group decides can help with issues about digital inclusion, such as:
- people who represent a community
- land councils
Administration and governance
The Advisory Group will receive support from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts. This support will cover administrative tasks and expenses. The secretariat will assist the Advisory Group and the Expert Panel, managing:
- meetings, travel and accommodation
- policy guidance and help.
The secretariat will work with other government agencies, such as the NIAA, to make sure Advisory Group efforts align with Closing the Gap. It will also talk with state, territory and local governments if needed.
The secretariat team will have people who engage and communicate with different groups. They will:
- develop a stakeholder engagement plan
- host roundtables and workshops with First Nations organisations, states and territories, and other stakeholders
- draft material for public communications.
The secretariat will provide documents to the Advisory Group and Expert Panel at least five days before feedback or decision is due, unless the co-chairs say otherwise.
The Advisory Group will report to the Minister for Communications. The co-chairs will advise the secretariat about the Advisory Group’s key activities, including when they engage with people.
Members of the Advisory Group and Expert Panel must advise the co-chairs about conflicts of interest that may arise. The co-chairs must advise the Department as soon as possible. The co-chairs should consider whether the member removes themselves from the Advisory Group’s decisions due to the conflict. The Advisory Group should maintain its integrity at all times.
If a member of the Advisory Group leaves or cannot undertake their duties, the co-chairs must advise the Department as soon as possible. The Minister for Communications will choose a new member after consulting with the co-chairs.
The Advisory Group must meet at least four times per financial year. This can be face-to-face or via video or teleconference. A majority of members must attend for it to proceed. The co-chairs must attend all meetings.
All members will usually agree on a decision. If this does not happen, the co-chairs may ask for members to vote on a decision. If this happens, decisions will be based on the majority agreeing. If there is no agreement, the co-chairs make the final decision.
If a decision is required out-of-session, a paper will be provided and the majority of members must agree. Members will have five business days to make their decision. If there is no response within five days, this will be accepted as agreement. The secretariat will record this activity in the next meeting’s minutes.
Advisory Group and Expert Panel members will be paid. The rates for Advisory Group and Expert Panel members are stated in the Australian Government Remuneration Tribunal for part time officer holders, Part 4. The co-chairs will be paid at a rate determined by the Minister.
The secretariat will organise travel and accommodation, which the Department will fund. Extra costs, such as meals and transport, will be refunded in line with Remuneration Tribunal rules. Members must keep invoices and receipts and provide them to the Secretariat.
Advisory Group members and Expert Panel members may not be paid if there is a conflict of interest or rules that prevent extra payments.