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Indigenous Knowledge – Respecting biodiversity knowledge in Intellectual Property Law, RIG News – Sept. 2013

2014 January 3
by anthea

IK Forum– Biodiversity and Intellectual Property Law

As part of National Science Week, the Redfern Community Centre hosted an Indigenous Science Experience that included a seminar along with family oriented activities. It was an opportunity to learn about innovative projects underway in NSW and elsewhere – such as the River of Learning project that Yaegl Elders and Macquarie University’s Faculty of Science have developed together, the Sydney Olympic Park Authority’s Indigenous knowledge programs for schools and the Firesticks Customary Fire Management initiative that is underway in the northern rivers region of NSW.

Given the importance of the rights of Traditional Knowledge owners in Intellectual Property developments, I thought RIG News readers may like to learn about the Indigenous Knowledge Forum that Natalie Stoianoff spoke about at the Redfern seminar. The following story kindly provided by Professor Stoianoff.    

The Indigenous Knowledge Forum (IKF) is an initiative of the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

The aim of the IKF is to contribute to the understanding of the impact of biodiversity and intellectual property law and policy on Indigenous knowledge and biodiversity management focussing on how the implementation and operation of relevant laws affect the rights and interests of Indigenous peoples. It was determined from the very beginning that the best way to achieve this was to embark upon comparative studies so that experience from other nations might inform how Australia could proceed.

Led by Professor Natalie Stoianoff, the IKF is comprised of committee members from the faculties of Law, Business and Arts at UTS as well as from the University of Sydney, University of Queensland and Queen Mary College, London University (  It has an Advisory Board comprised of volunteers representing Mount Annan Botanical Gardens, Copyright Agency, NITV/SBS, Medicines Australia, United Nations University, IP Australia and AIATSIS (

In August 2012, the IKF held a forum on Indigenous knowledge and biodiversity in India and Australia at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). The forum brought together stakeholders from Australia and India, and representation from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity providing an opportunity for dialogue on comparative issues in Indigenous knowledge and biodiversity in Australia and India from the perspective of intellectual property and biodiversity laws and policies.

The forum explored current and future directions regarding the implementation and operation of these laws and policies, particularly with respect to the rights and interests of Indigenous and local peoples. Emphasis was given to Indigenous peoples’ activities in formulating their own approaches regarding the protection and use of their knowledge, as well as advocating for rights and recognition, and participation in policy development. The 2012 Forum Report and publications from that Forum are available at:

The 2012 forum provided a platform to encourage collaboration and ongoing dialogue between India and Australia including further development of networks, comparative research projects and forums. Outcomes from the forum included developing recommendations for action including policy development, internet based resources and publications to facilitate ongoing dialogue and the foundation on which specific research projects could be built.

The Indigenous Knowledge Forum has been working with TERI University in India towards running a second forum in November 2013 to extend the comparative analysis of experiences with protecting Indigenous knowledge, access and benefit sharing.  This forum will focus on experiences from nations of South Asia and the Pacific.

Currently, the IKF is investigating the recognition and protection of Indigenous knowledge associated with natural resource management commencing with a comparative study. This project was developed as a direct result of the first forum and will establish a comparative framework facilitating the development of a legislative regime for recognition and protection of such Indigenous knowledge. The engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Communities in developing a standard–setting model of involvement in natural resource management and access to country is a key element in the design of this project.  Accordingly, interested individuals, communities, and knowledge holder organisations are welcome to participate.

Further details can be obtained by contacting Professor Stoianoff by phone on (02) 9514 3453 or by email:

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