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The Australia Council for the Arts has published new protocols addressing legal, ethical, and moral considerations for using Indigenous cultural and intellectual material in the arts.

A report titled ‘Protocols for using First Nations Cultural and Intellectual Property in the Arts’ was co-authored by Indigenous lawyer Terri Janke alongside staff of the Australia Council, and published on 29 September. It addresses “gaps” in the law that fail to protect Indigenous cultural property – noting that Indigenous works receive automatic copyright protection but there are no laws governing the general reproduction and use of Indigenous cultural heritage material.

The protocols are not legal obligations but set ethical standards for artists to comply with when using Indigenous materials to ensure responsible use and protection of cultural symbols. 

“While works by individual artists are protected by copyright, Australia does not yet have a law that prevents alteration, distortion or misuse of traditional symbols, songs, dances, performances and story that may be part of the heritage of particular Indigenous language groups,” said report author and solicitor Terri Janke.

“The protocols provide a pathway for collaborations and creation of new Indigenous work.” 

Download the protocols here.