Writing Protocols for Producing Indigenous Australian Writing

Posted on February 21, 2014


Here in Australia, we do not have a brilliant history in our relations with Indigenous Australians and reconciliation is an ongoing process. One thing that was achieved was the Australia Council for the Arts adopting a set of formal protocols for producing Indigenous Australian Writing.

The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, of which I am a member, has just announced its next anthology which shall have a theme of “The Never Never Land”, looking for Australian stories, whatever that may mean to the author or stories inspired by The Never Never Land ie Australia.

Ancient mythology and culture are prime picking grounds for inspiring stories of the fantastic. While aspects of Indigenous Australian culture are more than just mythology, there is a temptation to explore them for story inspiration. I would not be surprised if there shall be authors intending to submit to the new CSFG anthology who want to go down this route of exploring indigenous themes.

I am sure that there will be many Australians who are like I was not that long ago, innocently seeing Aboriginal cultural artefacts like the Dreaming as being like things such as ancient Greek mythology – only acknowledging its existence and its role in a historical context. But as I have learned, things like the Greek mythology are an anthropological artefact, to be read, studied, and enjoyed as things of the past, whereas the equivalent Aboriginal culture is in many respects is still a living thing, part of an ongoing culture. Consequently there is a right of protection to what could be considered the Intellectual Property of these people. And that is where the Protocols for Producing Indigenous Australian Writing come into play.

I strongly encourage anyone thinking of exploring that no doubt fertile field to have a read of the protocols. The full documentation can be found on the website of the Australia Council for the Arts.

In short, there are nine specific protocols for consideration and implementation in any relevant work:

1. Respect

2. Indigenous control

3. Communication, consultation and consent

4. Interpretation, integrity and authenticity

5. Secrecy and confidentiality

6. Attribution and copyright

7. Proper returns and royalties

8. Continuing cultures

9. Recognition and protection.

The AustCo document details what these all mean, issues to consider and provides case studies in their application.

To quote one my Mum’s students from Kyabram Primary School, ‘do yourself a favour’ (old farts like me will probably get the gag) and go and have a read of this relevant and important documentation. It’s worth your time, especially if considering exploration of indigenous themes in Australian writing.

Ross sig

Posted in: Writing