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Bush Plants – Knowing your rights – Important Resources

2011 April 1
by Webmaster

Useful resources and contacts

Traditional Plant Knowledge – Knowing your knowledge rights

Story by Anthea Fawcett – for RIG News #12, and RIG links/Resources

Respect for traditional knowledge and cultural rights to them is integral to bush plant based initiatives. There are a number of organizations who are doing good work in this space. A range of useful information resources are also available to help you to better understand and to address what’s involved if you and your community are looking at developing bush plant based initiatives, or are being contacted by people about information that Elders and other community members in your community may hold.

The CRC for Remote Economic Participation, National

The CRC for Remote Economic Participation portfolio of projects includes the project “Plant Business”. The project builds on the work on bush tomatoes by the Desert Knowledge CRC (and others) in the last five to ten years and will focus on developing bush tomato plants suited to horticultural production based on appropriate cultural permissions. This project will also create commercialisation models that return greater equity share value to Aboriginal people for the genetic resources that are used commercially.

Further information about the project will be available soon on the CRC for Remote Economic Participation website -

Aboriginal Bush Traders, NT

With funding from the NT Government’s Indigenous Business Development Program, the Aboriginal Bush Traders Bush Harvest Project conducted by Aboriginal Bush Traders have developed three valuable booklets that were released in mid March. They are:

1. Knowing your rights to your Aboriginal Plant Knowledge – which provides Aboriginal knowledge holders an overview of what people need to consider when developing Plant based products.

2. An Analysis of Indigenous Body Products and Markets

3. A Support Manual – which has detailed information in regard to product development, legislative requirements, labeling and quality control. To obtain a PDF copy of the booklets email

Sowing the Seeds of Social Justice, WA

RIG Network recently learnt of the Sowing the Seeds project that has been underway since 1995. The project offers fact sheets and workshops to communities. Jenna Zed has kindly provided the following information.

Background and History of “Sowing the Seeds”

“Sowing the Seeds of Social Justice” began in Derby in 1995. Indigenous landowners and seed saver groups were deeply disturbed at the move to demand royalty payments by them to CALM (Conservation and Land Management – WA) for collection and propagation of their traditional seeds and plants. The concerns were prompted by CALM’s claim of ownership over Maldyar (a particular type of Smokebush) in order to sell the genetic copyright of the plant to an overseas business. The traditional rights to and knowledge of the plant were compromised by CALM’s actions, and Aboriginal collection rights were challenged. There are many similar examples of such compromise, such as the appropriation of Gubbinge in the Kimberleys, and plants in Cape Arid National Park in the Great Southern region. Aboriginal communities have requested help from Sowing the Seeds on these issues.

The North West Women’s Gathering became a springboard for the launch of the “Sowing the Seeds” project, with all involvement being on a volunteer basis. Jenna Zed facilitated a number of workshops outlining issues connected with rights to collect and non-Aboriginal misappropriation of traditional knowledge.

The core Aim of the project was to inform Aboriginal communities across Australia about their rights and responsibilities with regard to owning their intellectual property, rights to collect traditional material for their own community use, and coverage (or lack of) under Australian law.
The original strategies for “Sowing the Seeds” unanimously passed as motions at the 1995 NW Women’s Gathering were:

• To work towards having the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act and the CALM Amendment Act repealed.
• To develop adequate protection of Indigenous cultural material under Federal law.
• To conduct ongoing research into possible use of other Federal Acts to provide protection.
• To develop legal and other resources to be used in communities for their own protection and to raise awareness of these issues.

Project milestones include:

1995 “Sowing the Seeds” was established and resourced through the office of Jim Scott MLC. The first newsletter was sent to all Aboriginal delegates at the NW Women’s Gathering, with an invitation to pass it on to Aboriginal men and women who would like to be part of the developing network.

1996 Headline articles from environmental, legal, and botanical experts were written by volunteers for inclusion in the newsletters. Law student Barry Richardson, supervised by Jim and Jenna, analysed the intellectual property implications of the Native Title Act. An analysis of the CALM Act Amendments was conducted by Jenna and published through the newsletter. By the end of 1996, the network had 57 organisational and individual members.

1997 A dedicated space on Jim Scott’s parliamentary website was given to the “Sowing the Seeds” group for their exclusive use. The full transcripts of environmental science, legal and botanical articles were posted on the website. History and background to the project, newsletters and the Documentation Kit were also posted.

2004 Workshops for a number of WA government departments and for community organisations in urban and remote areas were facilitated by Jenna.

2004 Jenna was a keynote speaker and workshop facilitator for the Broome Natural Resource Management workshop series in August 2004. The workshop series confirmed aims from the Derby conference, and added development of a national scientist register and Elder involvement in community-based registered training. Jenna conducted introductory workshops in Meekatharra, Cue, Mt Magnet and Wiluna during field trips for another project. These workshops involved 67 people in the four towns.

2006 A series of workshops were conducted in Albany, Esperance, South Hedland, Broome, Karratha and Kununurra. The workshops discussed basic information on intellectual property, and discussed participants’ concerns about legal issues.

2007 Information from these workshops was used as a basis for publication of a series of Legal Fact Sheets on intellectual property issues for Aboriginal communities.

2008 Publication of Legal Fact Sheets on the Marr Mooditj website. Access to the Fact Sheets is free of charge.

Whats happening now

A 1-day workshop has been developed for Aboriginal community organisations and individuals. At present, the material presented mainly addresses the Federal and WA State Acts, but it is also relevant to all States and Territories. Participants are given workshop notes as part of the presentation.

The workshops are hands-on, with a series of small group activities. A specially designed Documentation Kit for community use of plants and seeds is part of the workshop and all participants have the opportunity to complete Kit in the workshop to take home with them.
Jenna Zed facilitates the workshops. Workshop presentations are free, with travel and accommodation covered by community groups requesting workshops.

For further information contact: Jenna Zed, email: jennaz [AT]

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