Meet Carissa – First Peoples Collection Editor

The APO First Peoples & Public Policy Collection (FPPP Collection) was launched in partnership with the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) in February 2019. I spoke to Carissa Lee Godwin, Specialist Editor of the Collection and First Nations academic, about the need for this Collection in the First Peoples’ policy space.

Carissa Lee Godwin, Specialist Editor for the APO First Peoples & Public Policy Collection

Emily: Carissa, welcome. It’s fantastic to have your specialist First Peoples knowledge contributing to APO. To start, can you tell me a little about your background?

Carissa: I’m a Wemba-Wemba and Noongar woman. I’m currently completing my PhD in Indigenous Theatre through The University of Melbourne. 

Emily: Can you give us a quick intro to the Collection? 

Carissa: Yes, of course. The APO First Peoples & Public Policy Collection was launched at the ANZSOG Reimagining Public Administration Conference in February this year, and it’s fast becoming one of the most visited Collections on the APO site. The Collection collates and curates policy-relevant and accessible resources specific to First Peoples. It focuses on Australian and New Zealand resources, as well as international First Nations resources, where relevant.

Emily: Why did APO partner with ANZSOG on this Collection?

Carissa: ANZSOG believed that we could assist with better education of First Peoples’ and public policy through the Collection, with the goal of influencing better policies being created as a result.

Emily: Can you share what kinds of resources this Collection contains?

Carissa: We collect and curate articles, publications, policy and government documents. A notable quality of First Peoples is that we’re great speakers, so the Collection also has transcriptions, video and audio files available to access.

Emily: Providing ‘spoken word’ resources sounds wonderful. Can you tell me a little bit about your personal experience being a First Nations researcher? Are there any particular challenges that you’ve faced?

Carissa: As a First Nations and First Peoples academic, I have found that it’s not always straightforward when it comes to accessing First Nations-themed or First Nations-written materials. It’s often especially difficult to find out if a particular resource was written by an Indigenous person. 

The development of this Collection needs to be a collaborative process. I can’t stress that enough. Because that’s how mob work.

Carissa Lee Godwin, First Peoples Collection Editor

Emily: So are you saying that there is a need for Indigenous academics to reference materials by other Indigenous authors, but it’s hard to find this information?

Carissa: Exactly. Some First Nations academics, myself included, like to ensure that their literature review predominantly contains materials written by other First Peoples, so as to ensure cultural and ethical integrity within our research. 

Emily: It must be frustrating not being able to find that information easily when it is so crucial to your research.

Carissa: Yes. Because ethnicity isn’t always explicitly stated on some search engines, this can be a tricky endeavour. In addition to this, it’s often useful to know what mob/nation is being represented in the publication being read, as not all First Peoples belong to the same groups.

Emily: Is there anything else that makes this Collection special? I mean, some people may ask why they can’t just use Google, or search for these resources on APO.

Carissa: All APO Collections are designed to make the research experience much more efficient and provide a space to explore both broad and focused subjects. 

Emily: Can you share your key objectives for this Collection with us?

Carissa: Of course. There are three main objectives. The first objective is to feature curated resources that relate to current policy discussions and actions, that build community strengths and work with communities. The second objective is to use the Collection as a way to showcase the authorship of First Peoples across a variety of fields, assisting with the cultural integrity of research and knowledge. And the third objective is to include key findings and case studies relevant to First Nations Australians and New Zealanders, as well as international Indigenous materials where pertinent. 

Emily: How do you plan to curate content for the Collection?

Carissa: The development of this Collection needs to be a collaborative process. I can’t stress that enough. Because that’s how mob work. Through our decolonised approach to the curation of resources, we aim to allow straightforward access for people wanting to find materials created by First Peoples, and improve our keyword searches, so as to acknowledge and honour the specificity of each mob and their needs respectively. 

Emily: Can you explain what you mean by a ‘decolonised approach’ to curation? 

Carissa: In a practical sense, one way would be to change the keywords from library catalogue terminology, such as ‘traditional’, ‘Indigenous’, and ‘Aboriginal’. As I mentioned earlier, we’d like to introduce mob and nation names as keywords and geographical coverage tags that readers can use in their search.

Although the Collection is intended as a search tool for researchers and people working in policy, this is also an educational opportunity for the entire APO community to expand their learning through reading and hearing from some of the oldest living storytellers in the world.

Carissa Lee Godwin, First Peoples Collection Editor

Emily: Is the Collection open to everyone?

Carissa: Yes, at this point, all the resources in the Collection are free for anyone to access all around the world. However, we do hope to one day have the ability to maintain data sovereignty by ensuring access is restricted to certain First Nations people, where applicable.

Emily: So even though it is open to anyone, is the Collection specifically designed to be used by Indigenous peoples?

Carissa: The Collection will appeal to a wide variety of people – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous working in the First Peoples policy space. These include policy makers in government, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, with responsibility for engaging with, and improving outcomes for, Indigenous peoples. Another group will be policy and program managers delivering public services specifically to Indigenous communities or whose clients include Indigenous peoples. People in various levels of government occupying Indigenous-specific roles will benefit also benefit from this Collection, as well as people working in both First Peoples community-controlled organisations and mainstream organisations in the not-for-profit sector. And of course it will also be used by First Peoples and non-Indigenous researchers and academics seeking reference materials by and for First Peoples.

Emily: It sounds like this Collection will benefit a lot of different people. Do you have any tips for people who are unfamiliar with APO Collections on how to begin using it?

Carissa: The ‘Browse’ option is a great place to start. This allows readers to navigate materials via keywords, subjects, authors, etc. You can see these on the left hand side of the screen. 

Emily: Can anyone contribute resources to the Collection?

Carissa: Yes absolutely. If there are any resources that people want to include they can contact the APO Editors. Suggestions will be reviewed by the team and added at our discretion. In addition, if people have other ideas for improving the Collection, then we are more than happy to hear those too. Like I said, we want this Collection to function in a collaborative way.

Emily: Is there anything else that you’d like to say about the Collection?

Carissa: Although the Collection is intended as a search tool for researchers and people working in policy, this is also an educational opportunity for the entire APO community to expand their learning through reading and hearing from some of the oldest living storytellers in the world. One of the ways in which we hope to maintain cultural integrity throughout the collation and curation of our works, is to collaborate wherever possible. 

Emily: APO seems to offer the perfect platform to achieve this. 

Carissa: Yes, I agree. Rather than considering the Collection and resources that we offer and the way we conduct research as something Eurocentric and final, we are allowing the way we curate this Collection to be an open conversation, ensuring a more flexible approach to data collection. Because this is the way we mob work, by talking, deep listening, and respecting one another. 

Emily: Beautifully said. Thank you so much for your time and insights Carissa. 

Carissa: You’re welcome. I look forward to hearing people’s thoughts on the Collection. Happy exploring everyone!

Explore the APO First Peoples & Public Policy Collection on the APO website. If you have suggested resources for the Collection, or ideas about how to present or navigate the Collection, please contact