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First Peoples

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Protection of Indigenous knowledge in the intellectual property system: consultation paper

Response of First Nations Media Australia
First Peoples and community media Intellectual property Copyright Aboriginal legal status and laws Australia

Media production is a dynamic and evolving means of maintaining and preserving Indigenous knowledge, recording a living history of aural and visual culture and language in modern formats. From the early 1980s to the present, First Nations media organisations provide an unbroken record of language usage, cultural knowledge, traditional skills, community events, family histories and oral histories. In this way, First Nations media makes an ongoing, active contribution to the maintenance and protection of Indigenous Knowledge. This submission responds to Intellectual Property (IP) Australia’s Protection of Indigenous Knowledge in the Intellectual Property System consultation paper, published in September 2018. It does not address all questioned posed in the consultation process, instead focusing only on areas of IP that should extend to the production of media content and the protection of archive materials. It reminds IP Australia of the contribution First Nations media makes to the protection of language and the potential role our sector could undertake in education and awareness processes to support the proposal’s outlined in the consultation paper.

First Nations broadcasters are not-for-profit community organisations providing a primary and essential service to their communities. Collectively, they reach nearly 50% of the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. First Nations broadcasters and media producers also connect non-Indigenous communities with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture, developing greater understanding and building stronger relationships.

The First Nations broadcasting sector delivers programming in over 20 languages national, including the first language of many people in remote communities. In the remote context, it is the most reliable and ubiquitous radio and media service available to audiences. The sector is based in local communities and employs local people as broadcasters and media producers.The sector reaches significant audience share with 80% of people in remote Indigenous communities being regular listeners to radio services.

Key Findings:

  • First Nations media organisations have collected a significant catalogue of recorded media over the past 40+ years. However producers, media organisations and custodians can be hesitant about the digitization of culturally sensitive materials due to concerns about the protection of Indigenous knowledge in digital formats. In response to these concerns, and to urgent requirements to transfer materials from degrading magnetic tape formats before 2025, First Nations Media Australia developed a Reference Group of First Nations representatives and major State/Territory/Australian collective agencies (including the National Film & Sound Archive and AIATSIS) in 2013. The reference group developed the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Audiovisual Collections Plan for preserving and managing community collections which has the broad support of First Nations media organisations and partners.
  • A number of protocols have been developed to provide guidance to media around the representation of matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the research, collection, production and publishing of media stories. These protocols have been developed to meet the needs of different media organisations (eg. SBS, Screen Australia, Media Diversity Australia) and while they are similar in nature, they don’t follow a standardized set of guidelines for engagement. First Nations Media Australia does not offer an opinion on the necessity for standardizing research protocols and guidelines, but does encourage IP Australia to include media should a national set of protocols to harmonize existing industry standards be developed to ensure the Traditional Knowledge collected through the researching and presentation of media materials is protected.
  • The inclusion of archived audiovisual recordings in a national database of Traditional Knowledge and genetic resources could reinforce adherence to copyright law. This would encourage repatriation for the use of those materials, resulting in greater economic opportunities, for First Nations produced content.
  • First Nations media organisations currently broadcast in over 20 Indigenous languages nationally, including the first language of many people in remote communities. In this way, our sector contributes to the ongoing maintenance of Indigenous languages every day. Beyond this, many First Nations media organisations provide programming to record and protect endangered languages. The use of culturally significant words is encouraged through education-based radio and television programming and the engagement of young people in broadcasting activities. In this way, the media archives collected in recent decades act as a dynamic audiovisual database of culturally significant words and imagery used with context.
  • First Nations Media Australia encourages IP Australia to draw on the resources, reach and expertise of the First Nations media sector in education and awareness activities. First Nations media practitioners are professionally trained to act as a key conduit for information relevant to communities across the country. The First Nations media sector has the capacity to report on complex information in a manner appropriate to the needs of their local audience, and in many cases to translate information into appropriate language. This results in meaningful engagement with audiences as means of two-way dialogue, with some listeners describing talkback programming as a public meeting in the community through directly participation in radio broadcasts.
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