What mechanisms are suitable to protect Australian Indigenous knowledge

Sara Potts1

1James Cook University, Townsville, QLD

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (respectfully referred to hereafter as Indigenous Peoples) have a unique relationship with Country and have responsibilities to care for their particular Country and its heritage. The holistic, communal and inter-generational traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples is inadequately recognised and protected under Australian law. However, Indigenous communities have developed innovative mechanisms to affirm their rights over maintaining and protecting their cultural knowledge and heritage. Using locally developed protocols and policies in conjunction with legal agreements and contracts, has enabled Indigenous communities to protect and enforce how their knowledge and resources are used and accessed. Indigenous Peoples have internationally recognised rights to conserve, maintain and protect cultural knowledge and heritage, for present and future generations.


Sara manages the operations of the Townsville Hospital and Health Service Human Research Ethics Committee and provides advice on ethical matters in relation to research and applying National and International ethics guidelines for conducting research. Sara has over 10 years’ experience in health and research sectors, and is also studying majors in Tropical Health and Society, and Indigenous Australian Studies at James Cook University.

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The Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law (AABHL) was formed in 2009.

It encourages open discussion and debate on a range of bioethical issues, providing a place where people can ask difficult questions about ideas and practices associated with health and illness, biomedical research and human values.

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