Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann, our Chair of Linguistics and Endangered Languages, has published Engaging – A Guide to Interacting Respectfully and Reciprocally with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, and their Arts Practices and Intellectual Property. The guide, assisted by the Indigenous Culture Support program through the Ministry for the Arts of the Australian Government is intended to help students and academics across Australia, especially in an Arts faculty (Humanities and Social Sciences). Undergraduates, postgraduates and teaching staff members in the visual, musical and performance arts, linguists, anthropologists, sociologists, historians, public intellectuals etc. can use the guide to engage with ‘Traditional Cultural Expressions’ (a.k.a. TCEs) such as song, dance, visual arts and stories, in a way that is respectful, reciprocal and that benefits all.
This guide will help students and academics to:
- Reach a deeper understanding of cultures
- Feel confident in engaging with traditional cultures and knowledge systems
- Build lasting relationships with Indigenous communities
- Correctly handle paperwork, for example with regard to consent and permissions
- Understand why art inspired by traditional cultures can be controversial, and how to avoid causing harm
- Fathom intellectual property, with an easy guide to the ins and outs of copyright
- Familiarise themselves with payment and other ways to share benefits with informants, their families and their communities
Here are five pointers to get students started:
- Establish trust with Indigenous people and speech-cultural communities and wait patiently for their invitation to talk about your queries on the meaning of symbols, stories and motifs.
- Ask if it is at all appropriate to even enquire about the meaning of any symbols, stories and motifs. They might be sacred or secret. Respect fully people’s right to say no (sometimes indirectly).
- Only if you have received an invitation and are certain that you are not causing offence, ask about the meaning of symbols, stories or motifs that are culturally public.
- Get permission from Traditional Custodians and appropriate Indigenous people for your project. Do not ignore knowledge holders who are quiet or marginalized. Take into consideration practices of social inclusion within the speech-cultural community that you would like to research in.
- Share the benefits (including commercial returns, if any) of your work with your informants, their families and their community. Make sure you add references to them within your published work. Provide them with copies of all your work. Give back to those who assist you. Be reciprocal.