Guarding ground: a vision for a National Indigenous Cultural Authority

Friday, 22 August 2008
Terri Janke

In the past 20 years Indigenous Australians have called for greater recognition of Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights. The intellectual property system does not acknowledge Indigenous communal ownership of cultural expressions and knowledge passed down through the generations, and nurtured by Indigenous cultural practice. Sacred knowledge is also at risk.

115 legislative and policy recommendations were made in Terri Janke’s 1999 report Our Culture: Our Future – report on Australian Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights. Yet, Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights remains largely unprotected in Australia, and a hotly debated international issue. Now is the time for us to reassess the current framework.

This lecture sketches out the ground gathered by Indigenous copyright cases and examine international model laws and draft provisions. Ms Janke argues for greater infrastructure to support and defend Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights. Her vision is for a National Indigenous Cultural Authority to facilitate consent and payment of royalties; to develop standards of appropriate use to guard cultural integrity, and to enforce rights.