Project Principles and Special Purpose Permits Central Land Council



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Project Principles and Special Purpose Permits

To ensure that projects in the CLC region respect Aboriginal rights, culture and intellectual property, the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre and CLC jointly developed a set of project principles.

The principles are intended to apply to all projects in the CLC region, whether for research on anthropology, linguistics or archaeology, or activities on the environment, tourism or filming, and whether or not on Aboriginal land.

Thus the principles are a guide to any project in the CLC region. In summary, the principles seek to respect Aboriginal rights, culture and intellectual property by requesting that:

Under the Aboriginal Land Act (NT) a special purpose permit is required for any project on Aboriginal land. The special purpose permit application incorporates the principles.

For areas not on Aboriginal land, a special purpose permit is not legally required, however, individuals are encouraged to follow the principles in carrying out their project, especially the need to obtain the informed consent of traditional owners relevant to the project area. Most communities not on Aboriginal land are still located on private land belonging to Aboriginal people where the same principles of protecting Aboriginal cultural and intellectual property rights apply.

Community councils or other organisations dealing with project applications that are not on Aboriginal land may seek the assistance of the CLC Legal Unit on (08) 8951 6238.


Special Purpose Permits Application Process

The applicant first needs to submit an application covering all the information requested in the special purpose permit application. The CLC will then consult with traditional owners for the area concerned, including any affected Aboriginal communities. The CLC will pay particular attention to ensuring participation of Aboriginal people where possible. The CLC can not approve the application without the informed consent of traditional owners.

Many Aboriginal people feel chronically over researched and that research is of little benefit to Aboriginal people. Research that is designed in response to Aboriginal peoples' research agendas, and has the support of traditional owners or other Aboriginal people, will have a better chance of being approved.

The CLC understands that where applicants wish to involve Aboriginal people in the project development, applicants may not have a defined project when applying for a permit. The CLC will accept applications that describe a methodology for project development as a basis for facilitating consultations with relevant communities. A later application may more specifically define the project.

To avoid the need for further consultations and unnecessary delay, the applicant is encouraged to supply as much information about the project as possible. If consent is granted by traditional owners for the project, the CLC will draw up the permit, with an additional agreement to protect Aboriginal cultural and intellectual property where necessary, setting out the conditions for the project.

Consultations can take some time and applicants need to allow sufficient time for it to be considered. The time taken for consultations will depend on the nature of the project, the size of the area concerned, the number of traditional owners affected, and other field work commitments of relevant CLC staff. Projects which involve issues more sensitive to Aboriginal cultural and intellectual property may take longer.

For most routine projects proposals which do not require extensive consultations, permit applications may be processed within one month. Other applications may take longer. Applications will be evaluated according to the project principles.

Project Principles

1 Informed Consent

1.1 All projects need to obtain the informed consent of traditional owners.

1.2 In seeking the informed consent, applicants must provide full details of the proposed project to traditional owners, which the CLC can facilitate.

2 Participation by Aboriginal People

2.1 All applications need to acknowledge Aboriginal peoples' customary laws, practices and local expertise. Applicants are encouraged to provide Aboriginal people with opportunities to participate, where appropriate, in all stages of project.

2.2 Aboriginal participation may be facilitated by utilising existing Aboriginal organisations. For major projects, applicants may consider the establishment of an Aboriginal steering committee.

2.3 Applicants need to consider the employment and training of Aboriginal people in all aspects of the work, including as guides, interpreters, and informants, as well as in the collection and analysis of research data.

2.4 Applicants need to acknowledge assistance and participation by Aboriginal people in the project.

3 Benefits for Aboriginal People

3.1 Aboriginal people expect that projects conducted on their land, and in their communities, will be of benefit to them. One way of ensuring mutual benefit is by designing projects and benefits in conjunction with Aboriginal communities.

3.2 Aboriginal people working on the project must be paid at fair and equitable rates.

3.3 Benefits flowing back to Aboriginal communities can comprise a combination of monetary and non-monetary benefits. Monetary benefits can comprise up-front payments, and staged methods of providing such payments. Non-monetary benefits can comprise training and skills assistance, community infrastructure provision, education and awareness, and community capacity development.

3.4 Aboriginal people value opportunities to visit country. In order to generate goodwill, applicants may consider including extended family on any trips onto country.

4 Aboriginal Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights

4.1 The term ‘Aboriginal cultural and intellectual property' is a general term which includes all aspects of Aboriginal peoples' cultural products and expressions, as well as their intangible cultural knowledge. Aboriginal cultural and intellectual property means the totality of cultural heritage of Aboriginal people, including, without limitation, their intangible heritage (such as songs, dances, stories, ecological and cultural knowledge), and cultural property, which includes Aboriginal human remains, artifacts, and any other tangible cultural objects. For a useful guide to Indigenous cultural and intellectual property, see for example, Our Culture, Our Future: Protection of Australian Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights , ATSIC and AIATSIS , Canberra , 1998.

4.2 Applications for projects must demonstrate a commitment to respect and uphold the rights of Aboriginal people, under their traditional law, to ownership and control over any Indigenous cultural and intellectual property that is in existence prior to the project. Where biological resources are sought applicants will need a permit from the Northern Territory Government and a benefit sharing agreement with the relevant Aboriginal landowners according to the Biological Resources Act 2006 (NT) . Other projects which benefit from Aboriginal culture and intellectual property, such as a commercial film, may also need to consider benefit sharing as part of any agreement.

5 Ethics Approval

5.1 Research proposals must have obtained clearance from an appropriate ethics committee before commencing the project. Applicants are encouraged to discuss their project with the Central Australian Ethics Committee.

6 Methodology

6.1 Applications must provide full details of the methodology to be used in the proposed project. This includes information about how the applicant will manage outcomes and data from the project in accordance with Aboriginal peoples' rights and interests. For example, the application needs to show how the project will allow provide research data or other outcomes of the project back to the Aboriginal communities involved.

6.2 Applications must provide details of project and financial management.

7 Photography, Film and Recording

7.1 Proposed projects that involve audiovisual recordings must provide full details of any proposed use of the recordings.

7.2 Any recording involving Aboriginal people or sacred sites, places or objects may only occur with the agreement of relevant traditional owners. Recordings of Aboriginal deceased persons must not be published without the permission of relatives of the deceased. Applicants must not broadcast, licence or sell any audiovisual recording without the agreement of traditional owners.

7.3 Where appropriate, applicants are encouraged to provide opportunity for Aboriginal input into the content of broadcasts or publications of recordings. Collaborative projects or recordings of live performances may require an agreement in relation to copyright.

8 Publication and Dissemination of Research Outcomes

8.1 Applicants must uphold the rights and interests of Aboriginal people regarding control over publication and other dissemination of project outcomes. Where known, applications need to provide full details of any plans for publication and dissemination, including any details of collaborative approaches to publication with Aboriginal people. For ethnobotanical publications, applicants need to provide for Aboriginal control over all material produced or collected or otherwise negotiate an appropriate licensing arrangement.

8.2 Copies of any publications must be made available, in an appropriately accessible form, to Aboriginal people upon request.

9 Professional Credentials

9.1 Applicants for research projects must provide details of registration of appropriate professional or industry bodies.

10 Other Guidelines

10.1 These principles are informed by and consistent with:

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