Background and Context

The ARC-linkage project ‘Deepening Histories of Place: Exploring Indigenous Landscapes of National and International Significance’ (the Project) is a large Australian Research Council and Industry funded research project bringing together a unique interdisciplinary and industry team of people, publications, archive resources and history to deepen the understanding of three internationally significant Australian landscapes: Sydney/Blue Mountains, Central Australia and Arnhem Land/Kakadu.

In accordance with Article 31 of the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the AIATSIS ‘Guidelines for Ethical Research in Indigenous Studies’, the Project recognises the importance of respecting, protecting and upholding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights to their cultural and intellectual property.


This Protocol is designed to encourage best practice in the recognition and treatment of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) Rights in research projects. It applies to all Researchers and Partner Organisations (including employees and affiliates of those organisations) involved in the Project. The Researchers and Partner Organisations are referred to collectively in this Protocol as the ‘Project Partners’.

Researcher refers to any student or employee of any of the Partner Organisations who is responsible for collecting research materials and Recordings from participants and areas involved in the Project.

Partner Organisations refers to the organisations involved in the Deepening Histories Project, including:

  1. Australian National University (ANU);
  2. Director of National Parks;
  3. Office of Environment and Heritage NSW;
  4. National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA);
  5. University of Sydney;
  6. Ronin Films;
  7. Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)
  8. Northern Territory Department of Lands, Planning and Environment.

Researchers will seek permission when making film footage, videotapes, sound recordings, transcripts and photographs of the name, voice, image, biographic information and performances of Indigenous individuals, Community and Community lands for the Project. (the Recordings). The Recordings include all edited versions made by the Researchers.

The Recordings may be used in student papers (Thesis) or research reports which will be published online. Some of the Recordings may also be used by Partner Organisations for a range of online projects and for promotion of the Project in various media. The projects may include websites, electronic books and journal articles, down-loadable self-guided tour podcasts and other educational resources.

Copies of the Recordings and copyright in the Recordings will be assigned or licensed to the participants and communities for their use.


In Australia, IP (Intellectual Property) is protected under federal legislation. Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) is not adequately protected in this intellectual property legal framework. However work is underway in Australia and overseas for greater protection of ICIP. Many forms of IP, such as copyright, plant breeder’s rights, confidential information, trade marks, designs and patents can provide limited protection to ICIP material.

While the law catches up, Protocols such as this are used to ensure that ICIP is protected.[1] Protocols provide rules and guidelines for material which may not otherwise be subject to legal protection

Even where copyright material protects ICIP, that protection does not cover works after the duration of copyright protection, nor does it protect works that have been passed down through generations. For example, many rock artworks cannot be attributed to an individual author, and are old and out of copyright. Yet photographs and filming of those artworks can be protected by copyright. Similarly, many traditional stories have been handed down from generation to generation without being written down or published. The cultural owners of these oral stories do not own copyright in them because copyright law only protects written, recorded or published stories. See the diagram at Attachment B.

All Project affiliated organisations and individuals involved in the Deepening Histories project are committed in their support and acknowledgement of ICIP material. This support is formalised in the principles and protocols found in this Protocol.

[1] See for more information

Updated:  5 April 2013/ Responsible Officer:  Centre Director/ Page Contact:  Web Development Officer about this site