Survey of Australian Public Opinion on Aboriginal Heritage using SoGo Surveys

My experiences using the online survey provider SoGo Surveys for academic research in understand the public perceptions of Aboriginal heritage.
By Liz Vaughan
I have often heard it discussed that only Aboriginal people and social scientists such as archaeologists and anthropologists are interested in Aboriginal heritage– these are considered to be ‘special’ interests. It is this type of reasoning that is used to defend the legitimacy of the Ministers decision when an Aboriginal site is approved to be impacted by industry– because the development in question is in the ‘general interest of the community’, of which the Minister is bound to have regard for.
The Minister should of course have regard for the interest of the general community, however this is based on the assumption that the preservation of significant Aboriginal sites is not always in the best interest of the community when it competes with mining interests. This is again based on the assumption that Aboriginal heritage is not valued by the wider Western Australian and Australian communities. It would appear evident that there are varying and divergent views on what is ‘significant’ and ‘important’ Aboriginal heritage– an important theoretical question in itself.  This is one of the reasons the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 is currently failing to be an effective instrument for managing Aboriginal heritage sites, as there is little consideration on the variability of the concept of ‘significance’ and ‘importance’, and what is worthy of protection.
To investigate the general publics opinion on Aboriginal heritage, a survey with SoGo Surveys ( has been launched. The newly launched survey is garnering some interesting preliminary results, notwithstanding considerations of sampling methods and bias which will require further consideration and possible adjustment. Of the 193 survey respondents so far (31.4% from WA, 59.3% from Australia and 8.26% from overseas)– respondents were overwhelmingly female (80%).  69% of respondents state they have had exposure to Aboriginal culture, and 90% of respondents state they value Aboriginal heritage .

James Price Point– significant to the Goolarabooloo Aboriginal people partly because it forms part of the Lurujarri Songcycle, but would not necessarily be considered ‘Aboriginal heritage’ to the wider uninitiated population. An example of the divergent views on what constitutes an Aboriginal ‘site’ in Western Australia. Photo: Liz Vaughan.

This is my first time using SoGo surveys, and so far the experience has been positive. You can simply run a report on your data online to produce an easily readable bar graph, or you can export the data to excel or other programs. When launching your survey you are offered tailored links that suit different platforms (for e.g. single or multi-use links that you can email, publication to Facebook, links you can embed on a website or blog. I changed from Survey Monkey to SoGo Surveys because Survey Monkey has has limit of 10 survey questions with their free subscription, whilst SoGo Surveys doesn’t have that limitation.
In the future I will write a post on my experiences with sampling, bias considerations and promotion through social media, until then here are some links to some other resources, from Web Survey Methodology and the University of Sydney.

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