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Why Cultural Institutions need an ICIP Protocol

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

Cultural institutions, such as museums, galleries, libraries and archives, are tasked with representing the contemporary cultural landscape and the history of the nation. This often involves the collecting, archiving and showcasing of Indigenous cultural materials and objects, or Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP). This cultural heritage is the means through which the vast history of the First Australians is depicted and understood.

A large amount of Indigenous heritage is held by cultural institutions. When using or dealing with ICIP, organisations must consider the effects on Indigenous culture and communities at every stage, whether it’s during acquisition, exhibition programming, archiving or deaccessioning. This brings up issues around the authenticity, representation, and interpretation of cultural material.

To ensure the integrity of Indigenous heritage is maintained and passed on, the sector must prioritise Indigenous values, voices and perspectives in relation to the ICIP. This can be achieved by connecting with Indigenous communities and increasing opportunities through community outreach, curatorship, employment and collaboration.

Indigenous engagement should be done with reference to the ICIP protocols of an organisation to ensure respectful, ethical and positive interactions. ICIP protocols are ethical guidelines that provide a set of procedures and recommendations stipulating the correct course of action to be followed surrounding the use of Indigenous cultural material. Protocols ensure the safeguarding of ICIP rights, that is, Indigenous people’s rights to their heritage and culture.

ICIP protocols are increasingly significant for organisations that work with, or are seeking to work with, Indigenous peoples and communities or Indigenous cultural materials. These protocols are applied to projects involving engagement and collaboration with Indigenous peoples and their ICIP to provide a framework and practical guidance for communication and interaction. As a result, organisations can engage with the cultural and intellectual property of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in an appropriate and respectful manner. ICIP protocols allow cultural institutions to observe and exercise the best practice in Indigenous engagement and upholding the ICIP rights of Indigenous peoples.

Terri Janke and Company worked with the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) to develop their MAAS Australian Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Protocol. This is a key example of an Australian cultural institution establishing a protocol document that provides guidance on how they can work and interact with Indigenous peoples, communities and materials in a respectful and collaborative manner that is in step with international practices.

To develop this document, Terri Janke and Anika Valenti worked with the charismatic MAAS Head of Indigenous Engagement & Strategy Marcus Hughes and the executive team to utilise the 10 True Tracks ICIP principles and develop practice points that guide both the staff and the direction of strategies contained within their Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). As Marcus notes, the MAAS Australian ICIP Protocol provides pathways for the organisation to deepen their engagement with Indigenous peoples, and their Indigenous collection.

For MAAS, the implementation of ICIP Protocols represents a progressive step towards further respecting and protecting the rights of Indigenous Australians and their culture and heritage. These processes and frameworks ensure that we are able to provide leadership within the sector by establishing initiatives with cultural integrity, authenticity and authority as we work towards building a post-reconciliation institution,says Marcus.

The MAAS Australian Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Protocol can be viewed at this link:

How TJC can help:

Terri Janke and Company works with cultural institutions regarding their Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property rights management.

Terri Janke and Company can assist in:

  • Delivering workshops about ICIP to staff

  • Drafting ICIP protocols

  • Designing policies for cultural institutions

  • Developing IP consent agreements

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