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A preliminary review of ethics resources, with particular focus on those available online from Indigenous organisations in WA, NT and Qld.

Abstract: In light of a growing interest in Indigenous knowledge, this preliminary review maps the forms and contents of some existing resources and processes currently available and under development in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia, along with those enacted through several cross-jurisdictional initiatives. A significant majority of ethics resources have been developed in response to a growing interest in the application of Indigenous knowledge in land and natural resource management. The aim of these resources is to 'manage' (i.e. protect and maintain) Indigenous knowledge by ensuring ethical engagement with the knowledge holders. Case studies are drawn on from each jurisdiction to illustrate both the diversity and commonality in the approach to managing this intercultural engagement. Such resources include protocols, guidelines, memorandums of understanding, research agreements and strategic plans. In conducting this review we encourage greater awareness of the range of approaches in practice and under development today, while emphasising that systematic, localised processes for establishing these mechanisms is of fundamental importance to ensuring equitable collaboration. Likewise, making available a range of ethics tools and resources also enables the sharing of the local and regional initiatives in this very dynamic area of Indigenous knowledge rights.


This preliminary review considers ethics resources produced by a variety of organisations ranging from Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) to regional land management bodies and Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs). For the purposes of this paper, 'ethics resources' encompass a range of tools (such as guidelines, protocols, agreements, memorandums of understanding (MoUs) and strategic plans) that seek to ensure an equitable and negotiated approach to research and/or working with Indigenous peoples (however, while our approach was to seek written resources, in doing so it became clear that non-written processes were preferred in some organisations--an outcome that is explored below). They may also be understood as knowledge management tools for ethically operating in an intercultural environment. Increasing attention is being paid by a raft of government and non-government agencies to the management of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) in research to ensure that resulting Intellectual Property (IP) is shared equitably.

A significant quantity of ethics resources have been developed in response to a growing interest in Indigenous knowledge, notably by government agencies, and its application in land and natural resource management. Indeed, charting current ethics approaches provides a window into the complex range of collaborative methods being utilised and developed when Indigenous knowledge is recognised and harnessed in resource management research and programs. In this context Indigenous knowledge is often referred to as 'Indigenous Ecological Knowledge', (1) which is partly due to an increasing understanding of the relationship between cultural and biological diversity (see Cullen-Unsworth et al. 2008 and the ISE (2006) Code of Ethics). Modern 'Western' science requires resources--engagement tools--to manage the dynamics of working with this relationship. Thus, joint management agreements, for example, are important vehicles for providing funding and support for recognising and supporting the knowledge that Indigenous people hold.

A range of organisations have arisen to address these concerns over engagement and collaboration in this space. As well as local organisations representing interests within each of the jurisdictions considered in this paper, confederations such as the North Australian Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA) and the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) transcend state and territory boundaries. Likewise, the emergence of alliances between regional and national organisations (such as land councils and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) and partnerships across industry, research organisations and Indigenous organisations (such as CRCs) operate across jurisdictions. Australia-wide resources (discussed below) have grown from and are related to Commonwealth Government programs--particularly through the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) and its range of land management programs, notably the 'Caring for Our Country' and the Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) programs. Likewise, the High Court's Mabo decision (Mabo v Queensland [No. 2] (1992) 175 CLR 1) provided support for the proposition that co-operative management of national parks might well be encompassed within the ambit of Native Title rights (see Porter and Meyers 2008:262). Thus, there is now a range of joint management agreements across Australia with associated resources to manage the knowledge shared and/or generated in the engagement, as illustrated by several examples in the case studies below.

Organisations that utilise ethics policies and processes tend to be those that need to manage Indigenous knowledge, via clearances of tangible heritage for development interests under the various state or territory Heritage Acts, and that offer land management services. However, at the level of Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions, (2) of which there are 56 across Australia, there are diverse approaches to the management of Indigenous Knowledge (IK), with some NRM bodies being very proactive in developing specific engagement strategies and associated resources, and others barely acknowledging Indigenous interests. (3)

DEWHA resources

In 2003 DEWHA hosted a workshop in Alice Springs to address issues surrounding the loss, protection, documentation and transfer of Indigenous knowledge. Along with the Workshop Outcomes report (National Heritage Trust 2004a), three short publications directed at regional NRM bodies and Commonwealth agencies were produced outlining issues and recommendations in engaging with Indigenous knowledge (National Heritage Trust 2004b, 2004c, 2004d). These resources and guidelines are sometimes referred to on NRM body websites, but they are in no way comprehensive. For instance, they make no mention of the Multilateral Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD 1992) to which Australia is a signatory (4) or the associated Nationally Consistent Approach for Access to and the Utilisation of Australia's Native Genetic and Biochemical Resources (Australian Government 2002), both of which outline measures concerning IK in NRM. The DEWHA resources are clearly outdated yet new ones have not been developed, probably due at least in part to the raft of new government policies and departmental restructuring.

In June 2008 a further workshop was hosted by DEWHA on Indigenous information management, one result of which was Indigenous Knowledge Management Systems (Databases) Guide for Indigenous Communities (Australian Government 2008). However, this document is not a 'guide' but, rather, an assortment of information and ideas that does not reference key resources in this area, most notably the United Nation's report on The Role of Registers and Databases in the Protection of Traditional Knowledge: A comparative analysis (UNU-IAS 2004). A concern we have is that guidance at the national level is lacking in this area of IK and NRM. (5)

Case studies

The following case studies are provided to indicate the range of current and developing key resources from organisations that operate within and across the jurisdictions outlined above. Importantly, they also illustrate some critical aspects of the utility of these ethics resources in operation and practice. These resources are charted through four types of organisations, which were chosen to not only capture a cross-section of the sector but also to highlight the diversity and scope of their approaches:

* Land Councils and NTRBs

* NRM bodies and Indigenous land management organisations

* research organisations and collaborative arrangements with research organisations, NRM bodies and Indigenous organisations

* cross-jurisdictional land management organisations.

Land Councils and NTRBs

The four organisations discussed below are well established and relatively well supported through legislation and/or through NTRB status. As such, they have developed a range of resources and processes that encourage a standardised and systematic approach for researchers and other external parties to engage with Indigenous interests. These organisations are usually the first point of contact for researchers and other external parties in their respective regions.

Kimberley Land Council (KLC) ( au). First established in 1978, the KLC is one of four NTRBs and one Native Title Service Provider (NTSP) in Western Australia. (6) It negotiates and manages a raft of programs (e.g. ranger groups) and land use agreements (e.g. mining agreements), IPAs and other joint management agreements over national parks. It utilises Cooperative Research Agreements when researchers seek to work with Indigenous interests on projects in the region and it is in the process of finalising a research protocol. The KLC also has a Research Ethics and Assessment Committee which reviews research proposals. (7)

The draft protocol is structured in terms of prior informed consent, participation by Aboriginal people, benefits, Aboriginal cultural and intellectual property rights, ethics approval, methodology, access and storage, attribution and professional standards. It emphasises Indigenous control of research process, collaborative research in the design and methodology of the project, provision of drafts for comment prior to submission, and the return of research findings so they are available locally and in a form that is relevant to community members. The protocol also requires that Indigenous cultural knowledge be automatically treated as confidential until agreement is reached otherwise. Likewise for the South West Catchments Council MoU (below), this requirement of confidentiality is a significant new element in the negotiation of research practice.

Goldfields Land and Sea Council (GLSC) (www. The GLSC was established in 1984 as the peak Aboriginal land and heritage body in the Goldfields region of Western Australia, and is also the NTRB for the Goldfields. It is in the management of mining agreements that the GLSC has developed strong rights-based instruments to negotiate benefit-sharing agreements--using the principles of the United Nations (2007) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and leveraging the right to negotiate provision of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). The GLSC (2001) has developed a Heritage Protection Protocol which is further fleshed out in the Agreement for Protecting Heritage Sites on Exploration and Prospecting Tenements (GLSC 2003). Of particular relevance is the section on confidential information:

* The final [heritage survey] report will not be disclosed by the miner or DIA [Department of Indigenous Affairs] to any third party, unless the claim group agrees to its disclosure.

* No confidential information or culturally-sensitive information is required for the purposes of the report and if such information is provided it may not be disclosed to the miner or DIA.

* Ownership of all intellectual property rights in any reports produced during the course of the survey remain with the claim group (GLSC 2003:2).

More recently, the GLSC (2008) has developed a Mining Policy where it has embedded principles from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, such as Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Likewise, the mining policy draws on several articles of the Declaration that specifically address the linkages between lands, territories and resources and the human right to development; notably, articles 10, 11, 19, 28, 29 and 32 (also note article 23). Ensuring this international rights-based Declaration--as a potentially powerful resource--is taken up locally is a crucial step in ensuring the language of the Declaration becomes operationalised.

Central Land Council (CLC) ( au). (8) The CLC covers an area of 750000 square kilometres in the southern half of the Northern Territory and is the statutory body under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) (ALRA). To an extent it controls relationships with researchers through its permit system. While the future of this system within designated townships has been unknown since the 2007 Commonwealth 'Emergency Response', the CLC requests that all visitors comply with its existing permit system. Regardless of any government changes, a permit is still legally required to visit Aboriginal land outside of designated townships. (9)

Those seeking to undertake research on Aboriginal land within the CLC area are required to obtain a Special Purpose Permit (CLC n.d.). As well as details of the project and its methodology, the CLC's online application form requires information about how the research will benefit Aboriginal people and how they will participate, and how ICIP rights will be managed, including research dissemination. A successful applicant is issued with a Special Purpose Permit with conditions tailored to the project, such as a requirement to execute an agreement in relation to ICIP. All Aboriginal communities in the CLC region have permit officers who manage this process, although the approach varies between communities. Regional staff anthropologists will also assess applications and provide advice as necessary to the traditional owners. Unlike other ethics resources considered in this article, the CLC's ability to tie the research agreement to the permit system acts as strong leverage to ensure compliance.

For an academic to receive a research permit, the CLC requires evidence that formal ethical approval has already been provided by the applicant's university. However, Human Ethics Research Committees within universities usually insist that permission is gained first from the Indigenous group/representative body before they grant approval. This Catch-22 situation highlights not only the processual challenges for applicants needing approval from two different bodies, but also that organisations granting such approvals may be seeking different evidence of endorsement in their determinations.

Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) (www. Along with the Cape York Land Council and the North Queensland Land Council, the TSRA is one of three NTRBs in Queensland. The State also has two NTSPs--Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation and Queensland South Native Title Services Ltd. The TSRA is a Commonwealth statutory authority governed by a Board of 20 elected Indigenous members, and also functions as both the NTRB and the NRM body for the Torres Strait region (see TSRA 2009 for its programs).

The TSRA performs a consultative service for external research projects through its Land and Sea Management Unit (LSMU), which encourages researchers 'to contact the [LSMU] before commencing work to discuss research proposals and methodology and for more information on Torres Strait research protocols' (TSRA 2007a). The protocols are the Guidelines for Ethical and Effective Communication for Researchers Working in the Torres Strait (Jones and Barnett 2006), which were developed through CRC Torres Strait. This detailed document provides supporting case studies as it outlines and reviews guidelines for ethical research and communication tools. It also provides guidelines for developing research agreements to protect IP rights (Jones and Barnett 2006:88-90) and recommends actions for each step of the research process (Jones and Barnett 2006:92-7). The TSRA is in the early stages of producing its own protocols and a similar resource is being developed in partnership with the Torres Strait Scientific Advisory Committee, which will guide the Protected Zone Joint Authority's research for managing fisheries in the area (Damien Miley, LSMU Manager, TSRA, personal communication, 24 July 2010).

The TSRA performs a liaison and advisory role between researchers and communities, and this is emphasised strongly as its preferred strategy for ensuring ethical research practices (note that the Girringun Aboriginal Corporation (see below) performs a similar role in the Wet Tropics). Researcher(s) are asked by the Community Liaison Officers to put into writing (and in a poster) the nature of and reasons for the research and the possible benefits to communities (10) which are then forwarded by the LSMU to local councils and communities, along with a letter of support from the unit. Depending on the nature of the research, local leaders may be consulted during the development and approval of the research proposal, and during fieldwork. If the research is particularly complex, the liaison officers will accompany the researchers on site. There is a verbal expectation that participating communities need to be able to review and approve draft reports before publication, and receive research results. While encouraging researchers to go through the LSMU in this manner, this method does not capture all of the research conducted in the Torres Strait region as some researchers go directly to communities.

This methodology has been used extensively in seven Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF) projects (11) (see the MTSRF section below) (Mellissa Jess, Senior Research Manager (Rainforests and Catchments), MTSRF, personal communication, 22 October 2010; TSRA 2007b).

NRM bodies and Indigenous land management organisations

There are 56 NRM regions across Australia, each with its own organisation variously referred to as a Catchment Management Authority, Council or Board. (12) In this section we provide case studies of five of these primarily Commonwealth Government-funded bodies (through Indigenous NRM funding) by briefly reviewing the approach taken to developing ethics resources and some key elements within them.

South West Catchments Council (SWCC) (www. The SWCC is one of six NRM groups across Western Australia. (13) While all have strategies for Indigenous engagement, they vary considerably in the attention they have placed in their regional NRM strategies to both increasing Indigenous engagement and, more specifically, to managing ICIP. The SWCC is included here because it stands out in terms of identifying issues surrounding ICIP and implementing a strategy, including protocols and strategic agreements, to action them.

This NRM region overlaps with the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) jurisdiction, which is the NTRB representing the Nyungar. In SWCC's (2005:129) South West Regional Strategy for Natural Resource Management, the main resource condition target relevant to the management of ICIP requires that 'all intellectual property and knowledge given by the Nyungar community [to the SWCC] is protected by 2015'. This is to be achieved by following two 'strategic directions':

* PT8: A[n] MOU between traditional owners and SWCC, for protection of knowledge rights recognised by SWALSC by 2006

* PT9: Policy on the protection of all Indigenous environmental knowledge supplied by Indigenous community in place by 2009 (SWCC 2005:129).

The MoU and the policy were developed with two regional working parties representing the two groups of south-west Native Title traditional owners, with assistance from SWALSC (inter-PART and Associates 2009:25). (14)

As with the KLC and the GLSC, the SWCC has considered the issue of confidentiality, particularly in its 2008 development of a 'Pro forma confidentiality deed and licence to use cultural knowledge' contract (SWCC 2008a). This contract treats as confidential 'all information which relates directly or indirectly to the Cultural Property of any of the cultural knowledge holders; and is in oral or visual form (including, but not limited to, signs, dances or gestures) or is recorded or stored in a document'. The contract sets out how such confidential knowledge may be used by the recipient; for example, that it can only be disclosed under the deed or with the prior written consent of the knowledge holders, that it cannot be used to develop a product without prior written consent and that it can only be used for 'the Express purpose and not ... to the cultural, commercial, financial or competitive disadvantage of a Discloser'.

In both the MoU (SWCC 2008b) and the pro forma contract (SWCC 2008a), the rights of the knowledge holders are accorded greater legal weight than those of the non-Indigenous recipients of the knowledge. This is an emerging approach to proactively using contract law to ensure that Indigenous prior rights over knowledge imparted in research are legally recognised (and see also Hemming et al., this volume). For example, in relation to the assignment of copyright, the pro forma (SWCC 2008a:5) states that 'the Disclosures will grant the Recipient who created the document a revocable, perpetual, non-assignable, non-exclusive right to use the document', which ensures that IP does not become lost to a third party and thus the cultural knowledge holders maintain rights over it (and see Holcombe, this volume). The section of the pro forma on the 'Return and destruction of information' also states that the Recipient must on demand by a Discloser return or destroy or delete all original documents and copies which are or contain confidential information (SWCC 2008a:6). Similarly, the pro forma details the management of the moral rights of the cultural knowledge holders; the right of attribution of authorship or performership; the right not to have authorship or performership falsely attributed; and the right of integrity.

Natural Resource Management Board of the Northern Territory (NRMB NT) (www.nrmbnt. Unlike Western Australia and Queensland, there is only one NRM body that covers the whole of the Northern Territory. In 2008 the NRMB NT developed three resources under an Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Program Brief as part of its Integrated Natural Resource Management plan. These resources are the Guidelines for Indigenous Ecological Management (Holcombe 2009), Handbook for Working with Indigenous Ecological Knowledge and Intellectual Property (Davis 2009) and Report on the Current Status of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge and Intellectual Property in the NT (Janke 2009). All are available online. Each resource is targeted at a specific audience--the Guidelines are directed at researchers, defined as anyone asking questions and taking notes with intent for later knowledge retrieval (whether Indigenous, non-Indigenous, government, industry or academic). The Handbook is directed at Indigenous NRM practitioners as they engage with researchers, and the Report is directed at policy makers and legal practitioners. The content of the resources is rights-based and they draw on the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its definition of ICIP.

As part of the NRMB NT's 'Indigenous Ecological Knowledge' (IEK) program, the CLC and NAILSMA were appointed by the NRMB NT in 2007 to host a $1 million program to support intergenerational transfer of IEK. The program forms a significant component of $2.7 million of Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) funding set aside in the 2004-07 Northern Territory Regional Investment Strategy to support the recording, recovery, maintenance and application of IEK. An interim protocol (NRMB NT n.d.) has been developed to manage the knowledge that is generated from the projects.

Since approximately 2007 the CLC and the Northern Land Council (NLC) have also been working closely with the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in developing a range of policies and guidelines for the joint management with traditional owners of the Territory's national parks. (15) The resulting draft policy includes a detailed protocol that outlines the management of ICIP in relation to park management. Fourteen principles detail benefit sharing and FPIC; that ICIP will be regarded as confidential information and often as group property and should be treated accordingly; that Aboriginal participation in park management will include opportunities for intergenerational knowledge transfer and cultural maintenance; and that traditional owners have the right to full and proper attribution and due credit in relation to the use and application of ICIP. These NPWS policy and practice resources cater for the fact that a systematic approach has to be taken to working with traditional owners and their knowledge in this intercultural space as tourists are increasingly interested in accessing parks for their cultural value. (16)

Terrain NRM (formerly Far North Queensland NRM) ( This organisation is the NRM body for the Wet Tropics region, the boundary of which corresponds very closely with that of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. It displays a high level of engagement with Indigenous issues, particularly through its 2004 NRM plan Sustaining the Wet Tropics: A regional plan for natural resource management 2004-2008 (FNQ NRM Ltd and Rainforest CRC 2004), and its funding of, and engagement with, The Wet Tropics Aboriginal Cultural and Natural Resource Management Plan (discussed below).

One of Terrain's completed targets for improving traditional owner engagement with NRM is the implementation of its Cultural Heritage Mapping Project (CHMP) (FNQ NRM Ltd and Rainforest CRC 2004:119). Funding for the CHMP was secured jointly with Girringun (an Aboriginal Corporation which provides a wide range of representative services for nine Southern Wet Tropics groups (Girringun 2008)) through NHT funding in 2006. The Aboriginal Rainforest Council (ARC) was sub-contracted by Terrain to deliver its portion of the project with four Rainforest groups (Jirrbal, Ngadjon, Ma:Mu, and Kuku Nyungkal), while Girringun used funding to support traditional knowledge recording for its heritage databases in the south (Standley 2008; Terrain NRM Ltd 2007:58; 2009:10). An IP sub-committee was formed under ARC to assist in developing appropriate IP protocols for the CHMP (Chantal Roder, former CHMP Coordinator, personal communication, 18 June 2010). Through collaboration with the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies, a draft Cultural Knowledge Kit (ARC 2008), in the form of a set of guidelines accompanied by sample declarations and agreements, was developed for adaptation and use by traditional owners in ARC activities. The kit is tailored to address four different intended users: knowledge holders wanting to record their cultural information, knowledge holders approached by researchers interested in recording their information, ARC staff members either supporting traditional owners in recording information or intending to use or access ARC-held information, and those interested in collecting information for external or independent research.

The kit was trialled with the Ma:Mu participants (since they were already regularly meeting for classes in a TAFE course also funded through CHMP). Roder introduced and explained the kit to the class with the help of two IP sub-committee members and an ARC officer. However, since the dissolution of the ARC (ABC News 2008), and since the funding period ended in 2008, there has been no representative organisation able to finalise, publish and manage the dissemination and implementation of the kit (Chantal Roder, former CHMP Coordinator, personal communication, 28 July 2010). According to Roder, for the above reasons, it is unlikely that these resources are in active use at the time of writing. (See below for discussion about this issue of continuity.)

Dhimurru Land Management Aboriginal Corporation (Nhulunbuy) (DAC) (www. DAC is based in eastern Arnhem Land and operates over Aboriginal land. Its 'primary functions are to facilitate the protection, conservation and sustainable management of natural and cultural resource values ... and to effectively manage natural and cultural resources based on Yolnu control and a community-based approach to planning' (DAC 2008). DAC has been delegated authority to issue permits from the NLC (as the CLC does for its region) pursuant to the Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Act 1979 for the land in the Gove Peninsula region. Three management plans are available online-- including a Cultural Heritage Management plan for the local IPA.

A fundamental objective of the organisation is to 'investigate avenues for incorporating western science-based management practice within traditional resource management with an approach that ensures the environmental and cultural integrity of Yolnu lands and seas' (DAC 2008). With this in mind, DAC has established a co-operative working relationship in collaborative research and survey projects with a range of agencies and institutions, such as Charles Darwin University.

To manage these relationships DAC (forthcoming) has outlined its expectations for researchers in Dhimurru Research Partnerships: Information from applicants. (17) This lists a range of successful working partnerships developed with researchers studying a diverse range of issues, and advises that successful research projects should:

* address issues of concern and interest to Yolnu

* assist Dhimurru to address management issues

* respect and incorporate traditional knowledge

* provide for the employment or involvement of Yolnu

* promote the goals, aims and values of Dhimurru

* provide culturally appropriate feedback to Yolnu empowering them to utilise the research outcomes on country (DAC forthcoming:1).

An MoU between DAC and research partners is negotiated on a project by project basis. Each MoU has to contain a plain English overview of the research project and its core aims and methods, and the individual duties and responsibilities of the key researchers from each listed institution involved. A section of the MoU also outlines an 'Intellectual Property Agreement' and that 'the data will belong to DAC. However, no decisions about the use, dissemination, reporting or publication will be made without the express written agreement of all participating institutions.' (18)

In many ways DAC is unique. As a land management organisation it has a specific mandate that incorporates the remote and ecologically rich region of a defined group of Yolnu traditional owners who have strong land tenure--both customary and under the ALRA. Likewise, it also has access to Northern Territory and Commonwealth resources through the IPA process and through linkages with a diverse range of organisations (see also Bauman and Smyth 2007). More so than many other organisations, it is in a position to exercise control over the terms of research engagement within its area.

South East Queensland Traditional Owners Alliance (SEQTOA, formerly South East Queensland Traditional Owners Land and Sea Management Alliance (SEQTOLSMA)) (www. SEQTOA was incorporated in 2005 through efforts to address problems with existing consultation arrangements between traditional owners and the State, and through efforts to capture NHT funds to support these consultations (SEQTOLSMA 2008:iv). It seems to represent the significant majority of South East Queensland groups.

With funding from South East Queensland (SEQ) Catchments (a regional NRM body), SEQTOLSMA (2008) developed Our Plan: The South East Queensland Traditional Owner Cultural Resource Management Plan with the intention of promoting greater engagement of traditional owners in NRM. Currently, the following resources are being developed: a Memorandum of Agreement with SEQ Catchments; engagement protocols with partner organisations (some traditional owner groups are developing these independently of SEQTOA); strategies and protocols for the collection and management of traditional knowledge; IP protocols (SEQTOLSMA 2008:26-32).

The Management Action Targets that refer to the last two aforementioned resources are being addressed by a Traditional Owner Knowledge Recording and Intellectual Property Protocol, which is being developed as part of the Moreton Bay Oil Spill Environmental Restoration Program (Kabi Kabi, Gubbi Gubbi, Jinibara, Dalungbara, Yugambeh (8 tribes), Ngarang-Wal/Kumbumerri, Mulinjarlie, Jagera, [including] (Yuggera, Ugarapul), Quandamooka [including] (Ngugi, Noonucle, Gorenpul) were involved in developing this protocol) (SEQTOLSMA 2008:1). Still in draft form, it is being designed to be consistent with AIATSIS and the Desert Knowledge CRC Aboriginal Knowledge and Intellectual Property Protocol (Vanessa Hounsell, Acting Chief Executive Officer of SEQTOA, personal communication, 12 July 2010). (19)

Research organisations and collaborative arrangements with research organisations, NRM bodies and Indigenous organisations

A diverse range of resources has been developed by research organisations, such as CRCs and the Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities (CERF) program. We are not including universities, except where they are part of the research partnerships considered below. However, ensuring ongoing uptake of the resources and the approach to engagement they espouse is ultimately compromised by funding cycles and thus the ongoing legitimacy of the resources developed.

Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (DKCRC) ( The DKCRC operated between 2003 and mid-2010 and has now been replaced by the CRC for Remote Economic Participation (CRC REP). During its lifetime the DKCRC developed a wide range of ethics management resources (which may be carried over in some way as the IP is vested in Ninti One Ltd, the management company for the new CRC REP and Waltja Aboriginal Corporation) and sponsored a range of reports exploring the intersections of IK and modern Western science. A key reason for the development of these resources was to ensure a systematic and consistent approach to working with Aboriginal people in joint research, especially as many of the CRC researchers were neither social scientists and/or experienced in working with Aboriginal people and came from a diverse range of research institutions. The resources attempted to ensure that all researchers working under the DKCRC banner had guidance across the range of research processes--from 'Free prior informed consent forms' to a 'Schedule of rates of pay for Aboriginal co-researchers' and a 'Good manners guide to working with Aboriginal people in research' (DKCRC 2008a).

The DKCRC developed an Aboriginal Knowledge and Intellectual Property Protocol (DKCRC 2008b) for researchers. This was accompanied by plain English materials (a poster and guide) to increase its accessibility in order to ensure that Aboriginal research participants were fully aware of the Protocol so that they could monitor researcher compliance (20) (see Orr et al. 2009a for the guide and Orr et al. 2009b for the poster). The Alice Springs-based Aboriginal organisation Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi (also a registered training organisation) assisted in the development of the plain English materials, along with a range of other resources. Waltja and DKCRC ran accredited courses on the 'ethics of good research practise' for potential Aboriginal co-researchers which were attended by more than 25 senior Aboriginal women. Both the plain English materials and the training programs effectively developed as an empowerment tool for Aboriginal people to assert control over the research process. In this preliminary review we have found that such accessible tools are rare.

The Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area Regional Agreement (WTMA 2005). This agreement consists of a formal commitment by the signatories (Rainforest Aboriginal people, Queensland Government agencies (21) and the Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH, now DEWHA)) to co-operatively manage the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA). The ARC, an independent regional organisation for the 18 groups present in the WTWHA, was recognised in this document and established as the statutory Advisory Committee to the WTMA (WTMA 2005:11). It was allocated federal and state government seed funding over two years, to operate under the Regional Agreement (Australian Senate 2007).

The Regional Agreement has three components: a framework, an MoU with the ARC, and protocols for consultation and involvement. It provides detailed engagement mechanisms, and specifies the roles and responsibilities of the signatories. In terms of outlining consultation practices during research, the framework stipulates that:

Research commissioned by the parties within the WTWHA will require researchers to undertake the project in conformity with the AIATSIS Guidelines or any other guidelines that may replace those in the future. Parties to the Regional Agreement will encourage local institutions undertaking research within the WTWHA to involve Rainforest Aboriginal people in the decision making and advisory structures of each institution ... (WTMA 2005:16).

The Regional Agreement provides ten detailed protocols including a Consultation Protocol, Integrated Aboriginal Engagement Protocol, and a Rainforest Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management and Mapping Protocol (WTMA 2005:22-46). It also calls for the development of an interim protocol between all parties ensuring the appropriate use of traditional ecological knowledge 'pending the clarification of Statewide policy' (WTMA 2005:16), although this has yet to be developed (Nigel Hedgcock, Indigenous Partnerships Project Manager, WTMA, personal communication, 22 July 2010). (22)

Although the Regional Agreement is still considered a live document, its effectiveness and implementation is unclear, particularly as the consultative body referred to in the document (the ARC) is no longer operating (ABC News 2008). Since the cessation of the ARC, Rainforest Aboriginal leaders have endeavoured to establish alternative representative mechanisms to address this gap. Most recently, in May 2010, the Rainforest Aboriginal People's Alliance (RAPA) was formed and is currently involved, with other stakeholders (including Terrain NRM), in helping assess, along with local communities, the effectiveness of the Regional Agreement and the Wet Tropics Aboriginal Cultural and Natural Resource Management Plan (Allison Halliday, former CEO of the ARC, personal communication, 28 July 2010; Nigel Hedgcock, personal communication, 22 July 2010). (23)

Caring for Country and Culture--The Wet Tropics Aboriginal Cultural and Natural Resource Management Plan. This plan (Wet Tropics Aboriginal Plan Project Team 2005) was funded by the CRC for Tropical Rainforest Ecology and Management (Rainforest CRC) and Terrain NRM (the Wet Tropics regional NRM body; see above). It details the partners (government and non-government) for the intended co-operative implementation of the plan and their responsibilities (Wet Tropics Aboriginal Plan Project Team 2005:103-8). The plan contains targets without timelines--(although in Terrain NRM's Regional Plan (FNQ NRM Ltd and Rainforest CRC 2004), which incorporates some of this plan's relevant targets, timelines are provided) in areas of both cultural and natural resource management.

Strategy 2 in this plan is to 'Develop mechanisms for the protection of Aboriginal intellectual and cultural property' which includes the targets:

* 2.1 Develop a legal framework and policies that recognise and protect Aboriginal ICPR [Intellectual and Cultural Property Rights] ...

* 2.6 Develop binding protocols and mechanisms for research institutions to ensure that Aboriginal ICPR issues are respected in research approval processes (Wet Tropics Aboriginal Plan Project Team 2005:61).

Not all of these targets have yet been met. According to Terrain NRM personnel, (24) this is in part due to their aspirational nature and ongoing and significant fragmentation in government funding, but also due to a lack of strong government commitment to the implementation phase of the Regional Agreement, and to the ARC.

Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF) and previous Queensland Commonwealth environment research programs. Commonwealth environment research programs (25) in Queensland include projects in areas such as the Great Barrier Reef, the WTWHA and the Tortes Strait. From 2006 to 2010, MTSRF, the most recent Commonwealth-funded research facility run by the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC), hosted a range of projects involving Indigenous participants (RRRC 2010a). These included those purely dedicated to addressing Indigenous concerns (the main project being 4.9.1: Indigenous Landscapes in the Wet Tropics), as well as non-specific projects involving a variety of Indigenous components. Their content and extent cannot be addressed here; however, several research reports examining Indigenous engagement were produced, with more reports to be finalised at the time of writing (see Cullen-Unsworth et al. 2008; Fuary 2009; Gabriel 2007; Hill et al. 2008).

According to Sheriden Morris, Managing Director of the RRRC, the RRRC has endeavoured to uphold and maintain relationships developed between the previous three Commonwealth-funded research centres (26) and Indigenous communities. She explains that this has ensured that, for example, prior to the publication or dissemination of any potentially sensitive information collected through MTSRF research, approval is sought from relevant local councils and committees (personal communication, 16 September 2010). The RRRC also inherited the CRC Reef Indigenous Engagement Guidelines (CRC Reef Research Centre Ltd 2004), an eight-page document referencing the AIATSIS (2000), ASTEC (1998) and AHC (2002) guidelines, whose purpose is to guide researchers during research activities. (27) The RRRC believes that this document is thorough and not in need of updating--rather, the ongoing relationships described above are emphasised as providing more reliable knowledge protection. The outcomes of these engagement processes have, however, also relied on the representative and organisational capacity of the local Indigenous communities. Thus they note that engagement processes were particularly strong, for example, in the Torres Strait, with the help of the TSRA (see above).

Knowledge repatriation was also enabled in the Torres Strait through funds allocated specifically to the project 1.3.3b: Torres Strait Knowledge Repatriation: Returning knowledge to local communities in the Torres Strait region. Elsewhere, repatriation was managed by individual researchers (Mellissa Jess, Senior Research Manager (Rainforests and Catchments), MTSRF, personal communication, 12 July 10; RRRC 2010b).

In summary, for the rainforest region of Queensland, issues of organisational continuity and stability make it difficult to ensure that the resources developed are subsequently disseminated and utilised. One-off, time-limited funding for CRC and ARC projects has major implications for the continued usage of these tools (this is also illustrated by the DKCRC example in the Northern Territory). By the time resources are developed, the research organisation may no longer be operational. Under these circumstances, it may be difficult to fulfil the intended purposes of ensuring ethical engagement with knowledge holders, and regulating the management of subsequent IK gathered in research.

Cross-jurisdictional land management organisations

Indigenous land tenure and caring for Country are not bound by state and territory borders. Rather, they are 'bound' by several jurisdictions, which can result in fuzziness and uncertainty around planning, funding and so on. This has major implications for the development and operationalisation of 'ethics resources' by these organisations. As a result a number of Indigenous land management advocacy bodies have developed, such as the two we discuss below. The two examples have active websites with a range of accessible resources and policies in the area of IK management and engagement.

North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA) (www. NAILSMA is an alliance of the Kimberley Land Council, the NLC, the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Cooperation and Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation and is an unincorporated bioregional forum for Indigenous land and sea managers across North Australia. It aims to support Indigenous land and sea management using strategic approaches to care for Country with an emphasis on practical management by traditional owners across the whole of the North. (28) For instance, NAILSMA is the northern host in the Northern Territory for the NT NRM Indigenous Ecological Knowledge program (as the CLC is in the south).

NAILSMA (2007) has developed a booklet, Guidelines and Protocols for the Conduct of Research, that provides advice and guidance to researchers wishing to undertake research in Indigenous communities, particularly in natural and cultural resource management.

The booklet includes a checklist for research proposals. There are 32 elements that are expected of a research project. These include that it assists getting Indigenous people 'on country'; has a realistic timeframe that takes account of the dictates of Indigenous life patterns; helps record, collate and store IK for generational transmission, education and management; that it provides robust physical, biophysical and ecological baseline data to inform management; and that it leaves ownership of the data with Indigenous custodians. Successful research projects also have to employ Indigenous people as researchers, informants, cultural advisors, translators and technical support using levels of remuneration in line with mainstream scales, and provide training, particularly when formally accredited and available to young people.

NAILSMA was established partly to overcome the ad hoc approach of state and federal government funding for Indigenous land management (NAILSMA 2004) with the recognition that 'short time frames stifle long term planning and development of Indigenous institutional structures and the agendas of different agencies involved do not necessarily correspond with Indigenous priorities and caring for country practises' (NAILSMA 2004:5; see also Altman and Whitehead 2003). The Research Guidelines and Protocols, as a standardised approach to engagement with Indigenous people in research 'on country', should be viewed in this context as overcoming both state and territory boundaries and short-term funding arrangements.

The Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) ( MLDRIN is a confederation of ten Indigenous nations and traditional owners in the lower southern part of the Murray Darling Basin, for whom it performs a range of functions. MLDRIN facilitates and advocates for the participation of its members within the different levels of government decisions on NRM; it advises on the cultural, social and economic impacts of development on Indigenous traditional country; and it is a collective voice for the rights and interests of their traditional Country and people.

MLDRIN has developed a Cooperation Agreement between Murray Lower Darling Indigenous Nations and Environmental NGOs, which, in relation to knowledge (management), for instance, states:

traditional owners have intellectual property rights to traditional knowledge and hold the right to control and withhold cultural knowledge; all parties will work together to actively share and explain other useful information such as relevant western scientific knowledge, legal knowledge and the workings of government; this cooperative agreement document and all discussions, minutes, Statements and documents produced jointly by the groups is shared intellectual property and may be used by each group with appropriate acknowledgement (MLDRIN 2007:8).

After almost five years of negotiation, in 2006 MLDRIN signed an MoU with the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council and the Murray Darling Basin Commission (including partner jurisdictions of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Government). (29) The aim of the MoU was to secure MLDRIN a pathway into full participation in NRM and it also provided resourcing for several years (see MLDRIN n.d.).

As a coalition of Indigenous organisations, MLDRIN, like NAILSMA, operates across state boundaries to coalesce Indigenous interests in an attempt to transcend the arbitrary nature of state policy in relation to engagement with non-Indigenous interests in land. By developing MoUs and associated resources, these organisations aim to ensure a systematic and consistent approach for external stakeholders in their engagement with Indigenous interests. However, unlike NAILSMA, which operates across remote areas, often with controlling Indigenous interests, MLDRIN operates across a diverse range of land tenures that are highly regulated for non-Indigenous interests.


While there are many more ethics resources available in Australia than have been considered in this review, from the case studies it is nonetheless possible to synthesise some of the common ingredients considered essential for an ethical approach. One consistent theme is that local benefit should accrue to the Indigenous participants from any research negotiated and that at the very minimum discussions should be held about how the intellectual property that will emerge from the research will be managed. In some resources, notably those developed by the SWCC and the KLC, the approach of treating, from the outset, all cultural knowledge as 'confidential' until agreement is reached otherwise is a significant new element in the negotiation surrounding the use of research data.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is beginning to be taken up by some organisations in their development of ethics resources, notably by the GLSC and the IEK resources developed for the NRMB NT. Perhaps surprisingly, the take-up of the principles within the Declaration is as yet relatively limited. One of the most compelling articles in this context of research management is Article 31--which refers to ICIP: 'Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions ... [including] their intellectual property ...' (United Nations 2007). Ensuring that the principles within this international rights-based Declaration are taken up locally is a crucial step in ensuring the language of the Declaration becomes operationalised.

This paper has not sought to establish how effective the resources overviewed in the case studies are. However, it seems to us that in developing MoUs and regional agreements, for instance, the processes engaged in must be negotiated with all interested parties to be effective. The process of negotiation and ongoing communication is itself vital to ensuring that the benefits of engagement and collaboration are mutually understood, valued and adhered to. Thus, many of the resources discussed here have been tailored from existing resources to meet specific and localised interests and needs, and some organisations have put themselves forward to assist in the negotiation arena (e.g. the TSRA). As go-betweens (or as per Raven, this volume, they are a mix between 'gatekeepers' and 'guardians'), they perform a mediating role between external interests and their Indigenous constituents.

In some cases (as in the case of the ICIP policies and guidelines developed for the Northern Territory NPWS), developing a systematic engagement process with Indigenous landholders and their knowledge is of fundamental importance. As a government organisation, the principles and protocols that the Northern Territory NPWS has negotiated with the land councils (though still in draft form) offer powerful recognition of Indigenous people's prior rights over their cultural heritage and their customary rights to manage it. Embedding the principles of FPIC and respect for customary protocols over knowledge ownership, and providing adequate opportunities and timeframes to consider and respond to ICIP requests in parks, has potentially broad implications for government at all levels. Such a respectful dialogic approach to engagement that actively realises and appreciates the value of cultural difference communicates to all stakeholders that these processes are to be taken seriously.

Efforts to establish systematic processes, however, may be hindered by the lack of a co-ordinated approach between both government and non-government entities, as is the case in the Wet Tropics. If funding regimes for responsible entities are not ongoing, adhering to the production and implementation of plans and agreements can prove to be a much more difficult task. Indeed, a further analysis into the funding regimes of, and opportunities for, different organisations and different states and territories may reveal patterns that may account, in some way, for the varying success in the production and implementation of these resources and processes.

However, an ethical and collaborative approach to working with Indigenous peoples cannot be enforced in the long term by a reliance on institutional regulation and codification alone. Genuine collaboration has to be based on good faith and ongoing respect. It may be the case that differences in organisational cultures and in strategies for communication between parties may promote different forms, and thus qualities, of engagement; take, for example, the TSRA's emphasis on consultative mechanisms, rather than on written agreements.

Thus, this review does not advocate universalisation of codes of ethics, but, rather, a deeper understanding, and appreciation, of the range of approaches that have been and are being developed. Indeed, the local development of resources is, for us, of the greatest importance, because it is at this intimate interface that accountability is most easily monitored to ensure fair and just methods of engagement. This includes, for instance, FPIC as ongoing and not a one-off process and collaborative methods that engender mutual respect and benefit sharing. Nevertheless, it is notable that at this stage there seem to be few resources specifically targeted for Indigenous uptake--many of them are targeted at external researchers and ensuring compliance to a standard. Exceptions to this are those developed by the NRMB NT (Davis 2009) and the community guide (Orr et al. 2009a) and poster (Orr et al. 2009b) for the DKCRC Aboriginal Knowledge and IP Protocol.

In light of the case studies and ethics resources we have reviewed in this paper, we strongly suggest that making ethics management resources available online is appropriate if organisations are aiming for wide uptake, to inform other organisations and be informed by them. Likewise, if compliance is sought, then ensuring that the processes and protocols are readily available is also vital.


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-- 2003 Agreement for Protecting Heritage Sites on Exploration and Prospecting Tenements, <www.glc. Agreement.pdf> accessed 18 May 2010.

-- 2008 GLSC Mining Policy, < pu_xx/Mining%20Policy%20@%20April08.pdf> accessed 18 May 2010.

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Sarah Holcombe

The Australian National University

Natalia Gould

La Trobe University and Aurora Student, The Australian National University


(1.) A discussion of what this term 'Indigenous knowledge' encompasses is discussed in the introduction to this volume.

(2.) Under the federal 'Caring for Our Country' program, initiated in 2008 and jointly administered by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, NRM bodies are guaranteed a proportion of base-level 'Caring for Our Country' funding (allocated to each state and territory under bilateral agreements between federal and state/territory governments) to carry out activities in accordance with Caring for Country priorities in NRM (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities 2010a). In establishing this program, the Australian Government identified 56 NRM regions covering Australia, based on catchments or bioregions. Organisations responsible for managing NRM activities in those regions were created or identified (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities 2010b). Each organisation varies considerably in its approach to working with Indigenous people and their knowledge. However, those regional organisations that we profile in this paper tend to accord high value to Indigenous knowledge and fund programs accordingly.

(3.) See Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities 2008 for a map of the NRM regions, each with an associated management body.

(4.) Articles 8(j) and 10(c), 17 and 18 in particular address the issues promoting and protecting the use of IK in NRM.

(5.) For a summary of this issue, see Holcombe et al. 2009.

(6.) Western Australia does not have an Aboriginal land rights regime. The Aboriginal Lands Trust (ALT) is a major Aboriginal land holder, established under the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972, which transferred responsibility for former Aboriginal reserves held by various federal and state agencies to the ALT. The ALT holds approximately 11% of the State's landmass (Department of Indigenous Affairs 2010). In terms of Aboriginal Native Title rights through the Native Title system, as of 31 May 2010 Western Australia has 'the largest land area of determined native title' (National Native Title Tribunal 2010).

(7.) Thanks to Ari Gorring (Project Manager for the Kimberly National Heritage Assessment) and Jenny Bolton (KLC Librarian) for providing us with the draft resources and telephone discussions.

(8.) In 2008 Indigenous-owned or controlled land constituted 48.8% of total Northern Territory land, 87.2% of that being inalienable freehold (SCRGSP 2009: Table 8A.2.1). The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) established the statutory functions of the four Land Councils in the Northern Territory (the CLC, the NLC, the Tiwi Land Council and the Anindilyakwa Land Council). These functions centre on assisting traditional owners in various aspects of the management of their land, including, but not limited to, the protection of sacred sites, consultation and representation in regards to any proposed uses of the land, assistance in negotiating those proposed uses, and assistance with land claim and land lease processes.

(9.) For further information on permits see CLC n.d.

(10.) Thanks to Damian Miley, TSRA LSMU Manager (pers. comm., 24 July 2010) and Vic McGrath, TSRA Community Liaison Officer (pers. comm., 13 August 2010) for this information.

(11.) These seven projects sit within MTSRF Theme 1: Status of the Ecosystems: five are under Program 1.3: Torres Strait: Status, Use and Trends, and two are under Program 1.4: Species and Communities of Conservation Concern (RRRC 2010b).

(12.) As is the case in other states, NRM regional boundaries have no relationship with the boundaries of Aboriginal language groupings, clans or nations, nor do they correspond with the boundaries of the four NTRBs and one NTSP.

(13.) See the State Natural Resource Management Office in Western Australia website at <www.nrm.>.

(14.) We would like to thank Bill Bennell of the SWCC who supplied us with copies of both of these resources--the Deed and the MoU, as at the time of writing they were not available on the website.

(15.) This joint management with traditional owners of all Northern Territory parks grew from a 2003 finding that the gazettal of the parks had not been lawful and had to take into account the ALRA as a Commonwealth Act.

(16.) Thanks to Peter Donohue, CLC Coordinator joint Management and Tourism, for providing us with the draft resource and his helpful discussion.

(17.) This document will be accessible on the DAC website by late 2010 (Steve Roeger, DAC CEO, pets. comm., 19 August 2010).

(18.) Thanks to Steve Roeger for providing us with drafts of two of DAC's research MoUs and the 'Dhimurru research partnerships information for applicants' document.

(19.) Thanks to Vanessa Hounsell for this information.

(20.) Mrs T Dixon, a senior Luritja women of Papunya community, and a key contributor to the AKIPP Community Guide, passed away at the end of October 2010. Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi Aboriginal Corporation and staff of the DKCRC who worked with her including Holcombe, acknowledge the contribution that Mrs Dixon made to two-way learning and teaching about Aboriginal culture throughout her life. We will miss her greatly.

(21.) Specifically, the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA), Environmental Protection Agency/Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (EPA/QPWS, now the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM)), and the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (now also DERM). The WTMA manages the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area according to Australia's obligations under the World Heritage Convention (WTMA 2010).

(22.) Thanks to Nigel Hedgcock for providing information on the current use of these documents.

(23.) RAPA, anticipated as a future regional strategic partner for the Wet Tropics region, aims to strengthen relationships between three existing Wet Tropics Aboriginal Corporations: Girringun (representing southern groups), Central Wet Tropics Institute for Country and Culture, and Jabalbina Yalanji (representing northern groups), as well as other traditional owner organisations and tribal groups. Thanks to Allison Halliday and Nigel Hedgcock for this information.

(24.) Thank you to Allan Dale (Chief Executive Officer of Terrain NRM, personal communication, 18 June 2010) and Lyle Johnson (Land and Sea Management Coordinator of Terrain NRM, personal communication 22 July 2010) for this information.

(25.) Namely, the CRC program and the CERF program (replaced in 2010 by the National Environmental Research Program (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities 2010)).

(26.) Namely, the CRC for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (CRC Reef), the Rainforest CRC and CRC Tortes Strait Ltd (RRRC 2010a).

(27.) This document is available on the RRRC intranet for MTSRF participants--the document is provided to researchers either through login or through RRRC staff (Mellissa Jess, Senior Research Manager (Rainforests and Catchments), MTSRF, pers. comm., 25 October 2010).

(28.) Per the website, <>, accessed 19 July 2010.

(29.) Note that the Murray Darling Basin Commission is now the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and we are unclear whether the MoU has 'carried through' to retain its relevance with regard to the MDBA.

Dr Sarah Holcombe is a research fellow at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies (NCIS), The Australian National University (ANU). As a social anthropologist, she has 20 years research experience with Aboriginal peoples in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and western Queensland. Her research has been a balance of applied and academic anthropology. Holcombe's PhD (1998) research was in the central Australian community of Mt Liebig. Before joining the NCIS, Sarah was a Research Fellow at the ANU Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR). The final project Sarah was engaged in at CAEPR was as Social Science Coordinator for the Desert Knowledge CRC, where she developed a range of ethical research tools, including an Aboriginal knowledge and IP protocol. Dr Holcombe has published widely in a range of areas, including Indigenous engagement with the mining industry, Indigenous community governance and the socio-politics of contemporary Indigenous land tenure.


Natalia Gould is currently completing her Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours at La Trobe University, with a major in Anthropology. Her participation in this paper was enabled through an internship placement at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, through the Australia-wide Aurora Project. This paper was an outcome of the internship, with Dr Holcombe as supervisor.

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Author:Holcombe, Sarah; Gould, Natalia
Publication:Australian Aboriginal Studies
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Sep 22, 2010
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