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Indigenous Knowledge helps heal our planet

For more than 60,000 years Indigenous Australians lived in harmony with the Australian environment. Over this time through years of intergenerational transfer of knowledge, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have developed knowledge of our land, seas and the environment that is useful in managing our future challenges such as climate change, land erosion, species management and coastal care.

Scientists are now seeing the value in the contributions Indigenous people can bring. Indigenous peoples' have access to land and sea resources as traditional owners and native title holders. This knowledge can provide the means to build enterprise and employment. Opportunities for collaborations can support our pastoral industry, marine, fishing and tourism industry. However, there are limitations for Indigenous people having their contribution of knowledge recognised and valued. This not only limits opportunities for Indigenous communities but it also denies the insights and innovation that can benefit all Australians.

To work in collaboration with Indigenous communities, protocols and agreements are important to set the ground rules for the collection, use and publication of Indigenous knowledge and data that is shared in research projects.

Protocols can address finding the right people in authority, how prior informed consent will be obtained and dealing with sacred or secret knowledge from publication. Indigenous stories, sites, places and cultural sensitive information will need to be dealt with differently than other sets of research data. There is also the commercial opportunities for Indigenous people to work with scientists and to share knowledge that can develop new medicines and new ways of solving the world’s challenges. At Terri Janke and Company, we have developed the True Tracks ten step protocol principles to assist collaboration projects.

Agreements set out the legal framework and set the foundation for the responsibilities of Indigenous communities and science and research entities. Agreements that we have drafted for our clients, both Indigenous organisations and science and research entities, include research agreements, access and benefit sharing agreements and data sharing agreements.

As we move further into the knowledge economy, it is urgent that Indigenous knowledge systems are appropriately acknowledged for their contributions. As Terri Janke, Solicitor Director said in her recent Ted Talk: ‘What would happen if we were to harness that knowledge and engage Indigenous people and really make them a part of the new knowledge economy?”

Watch Terri’s TEDx talk to learn more:

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