How to engage with Indigenous Knowledge

If you're using Indigenous Knowledge (IK) in your business, seeking informed consent from its Traditional Custodians can help ensure you're treating it respectfully.

Why is it important to work respectfully with IK?

IK is an important asset belonging to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It can identify a community’s history, cultural and social identity and its values. If you're working with IK, treating it appropriately ensures you're being respectful and this can be part of building a brand that consumers view positively.

We've heard in conversations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that they want to have:

  1. control over who uses IK and how it's used
  2. protection to prevent unauthorised use of their knowledge and impose sanctions against misappropriation
  3. recognition as owners of their IK
  4. respect as owners of the IK and the cultural protocols associated with it.

Seeking consent from the Traditional Custodians before you use IK can help you avoid causing cultural harm or offence and give effect to the principles of Control, Protection, Recognition and Respect.

How should I engage community on their IK?

Engage early and often in a culturally appropriate manner with the appropriate Traditional Custodians to ensure that you have the right permissions in place prior to using any IK.

Having a conversation with people is really the key to start exploring the best approach. Getting consent can take time and can involve talking to many people. Consent is also something that can be withdrawn.

The use of principles such as Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC), help ensure that owners of IK can fairly enter into negotiations around the terms of your activity and give or withhold their consent. How that looks depends on the circumstances.

Consultation and participation are important components of the consent process. A collective decision should be made by the IK owners and reached through the customary decision-making processes of the communities.

How can I work with community to manage IK?

IK is knowledge held within a community by Traditional Custodians. If you're approaching a community to work with their knowledge, it's best to consider how you'll do that in partnership with them – working together towards the goal of the particular research or development you might be doing.

When using IK, seeking consent or negotiating with Traditional Custodians of IK, it's important to think about how it will be managed.

Some things you may want to discuss with community members include:

  • Do they agree for you to own an IP right over the IK?
  • Can others in your community use the IK?
  • How will any future decisions about the use of the IK and IP be made?
  • Will there be a special way to share benefits?

Supporting resources

If you're looking for additional information on engaging with IK, here are some useful links.

Speak with us on Yarnline
Are you an Indigenous business using IK? Yarnline is here to help — our callback service is dedicated to helping you understand how IP rights can protect your new ideas, including those based on IK.

To book an in-depth conversation with one of our specialist team members, get in touch with us.

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