Funding awarded for new research on closing the digital gap in First Nations communities in Western Sydney

24th August 2023

The Centre for Western Sydney (CfWS) in collaboration with the School of Law and the School of Social Sciences at Western Sydney University has secured funding from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) to investigate the 'digital divide' effecting many Indigenous (Australian) people in Western Sydney.

'First Nations Digital Inclusion in Western Sydney' was announced as one of 7 successful projects in the 2023 round of ACCAN’s competitive Independent Grants Program, funded by the Commonwealth of Australia. 

The $92,500 ACCAN grant will be administered by the CfWS, with the two-year project delivered by an interdisciplinary Western Sydney University team led by Professor Azadeh Dastyari from the School of Law, Associate Professor Corrinne Sullivan from the School of Social Sciences, and CfWS Director Dr Rhonda Itaoui. 

Chief Investigator, Professor Dastyari, was named as a Vice-Chancellor’s Centre for Western Sydney Research Fellow in 2022 in support of her work on digital inclusion in Western Sydney. She said First Nations people are experiencing high levels of digital exclusion, however little is known about the extent of the digital divide in Western Sydney – the home of the largest population of Indigenous people in Australia.

"This project will explore the barriers, causes and consequences of digital exclusion for First Nations people in the region in Western Sydney," said Professor Dastyari.

"The project will provide vital data to inform culturally appropriate solutions to address digital exclusion and – in an intersectional approach – will also consider how disability, age, gender, LGBTQIA+SB status and socio-economic class contributes to the access and use of digital technologies."

Associate Professor Sullivan, a Wiradjuri scholar, will lead the community consultations as well as the formation of an Indigenous Research Governance Committee to oversee the research.

"The project will prioritise Indigenous voices and perspectives and – importantly – will produce recommendations to close the digital gap that are aligned with the needs and aspirations of the communities involved," said Associate Professor Sullivan. 

Dr Rhonda Itaoui said 'First Nations Digital Inclusion in Western Sydney' is a strategically important project that reflects the Centre’s focus on amplifying the voices of marginalised communities and securing the ongoing success of our region.

"As uncovered throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns, residents in parts of Western Sydney are facing digital exclusion, which further compounds experiences of disadvantage in a time where essential services, education and employment opportunities are highly digitised," said Dr Itaoui. "The digital divide in Sydney is a critical issue, and this research builds the evidence required to uncover the extent of this divide and develop policy responses to bridge this gap."

About the researchers

Professor Azadeh Dastyari from the School of Law at Western Sydney University has expertise in human rights law and policy development and works with Westerly – a grassroots network of community organisations in Western Sydney that advocates for digital inclusion. 

Associate Professor Corrinne Sullivan, a Wiradjuri scholar, is from the School of Social Sciences at Western Sydney University and Director of BlaQ Aboriginal Corporation, an organisation committed to empowering the Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander LGBTQIA+SB community. She is a human geographer whose research includes Indigenous LGBTIQ+ people’s social and emotional wellbeing; Indigenous peoples and urban spaces; and Indigenous communities and organisations.  

Dr Rhonda Itaoui, Director, Centre for Western Sydney, is a social researcher and human geographer with global expertise in the geographies of diversity and multiculturalism. Rhonda drives collaborative community engagement and research that mobilise partnerships between community, industry, and government for a thriving Western Sydney.

Community and Industry Partners

The project is funded by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) - $92,500. 

The research team will partner with community organisations including BlaQ Aboriginal Corporation, Jesuit Social Services, Bidwill Uniting, Digital Literacy Foundation, Salvation Army, Blacktown City Council, My Skills Australia, Baptist Care and Think and Do Tank.

Partner with us

The Centre for Western Sydney is a collaborative and partner focused organisation, committed to engaging with the communities of Western Sydney. Further partnership opportunities are available for the ‘First Nations Digital Inclusion in Western Sydney’ project. To express an interest in partnering on this project, email