True Tracks: Respecting Indigenous knowledge and culture
True Tracks by Wuthathi/Meriam solicitor Dr Terri Janke is a comprehensive guide to Indigenous cultural intellectual property (ICIP) across various fields, including – but not limited to – visual art, performance art and cultural practices. This is a comprehensive read, ideal for non-Indigenous people pursuing cross-cultural partnerships with Indigenous people. But most importantly, it gives First Nations readers the tools to understand their legal rights around cultural property.
Janke has written widely about cross-cultural collaborations in the performing arts and on how to work ethically with First Nations cultural material in creative projects and avoid cultural misappropriation. The mass production of fake or reproduced Aboriginal artwork, plastic boomerangs and fake didgeridoos, for example, does more than steal potential income from First Nations artists. As Janke writes, “the fake art and craft industry undermines thousands of years of culture and knowledge”.
Janke argues that ICIP protocols should become more commonplace, and that we need new and specific laws to better protect certain practices. She offers “The True Tracks” principles as guidelines to inform and support cross-cultural collaborations working with ICIP.
These principles have been used and accepted by many Indigenous and non-Indigenous creators when working with First Nations people and their cultures in projects such as writing novels, songwriting and caring for language collections.
Janke reminds the reader of our horrific history as a colonised nation and how the legacy of the Stolen Generations has disrupted the continuation of cultural practices. True Tracks emphasises the importance of self-determination and provides stories of success, as well as the challenges faced by First Nations people in maintaining ICIP in a country that can often feel entitled to their cultural knowledge and items.
Throughout True Tracks, Janke offers the reader ways to better support Indigenous communities, amplify Indigenous voices in writing and to be better informed about cultural appropriation and how to ethically purchase First Nations art. This is also a great resource for First Nations people, showing how to better navigate their rights surrounding copyright and Indigenous cultural intellectual property. I hope that works such as this will empower more First Nations people to tell their stories and share knowledge, knowing they can ensure their cultural property is protected.
University of New South Wales Press, 432pp, $44.99
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on August 21, 2021 as "True Tracks: Respecting Indigenous knowledge and culture, Terri Janke".
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