True Tracks, Respecting Indigenous knowledge and culture, by Terri Janke

True Tracks, Respecting Indigenous knowledge and culture is the book that needs to be on the reading lists of every writing school in the country. I’ve posted before about the Protocols for using First Nations Cultural and Intellectual Property in the Arts (2020) as an essential resource for anyone working in the creative industries in Australia. True Tracks is like a self-help book that unpacks these protocols into clear explanations with specific examples of what to do — and what not to do… This is the blurb: Indigenous cultures are not terra nullius — nobody’s land, free to be taken.True Tracks is a ground-breaking work that paves the way for the respectful and ethical engagement with Indigenous cultures. Using real-world cases and personal stories, award-winning Meriam/Wuthathi lawyer Dr Terri Janke draws on twenty years of professional experience and personal stories to inform and inspire leaders across many industries – from art and architecture, to film and publishing, dance, science and tourism.How will your project affect and involve Indigenous communities? What Indigenous materials and knowledge are you using? Who owns Indigenous languages?True Tracks helps answer these questions and many more, and provides invaluable guidelines that enable Indigenous peoples to actively practise, manage and strengthen their cultural life, keeping tracks into the future to empower the next generations.If we keep our tracks true, Indigenous culture and knowledge can benefit everyone. In the Introduction, Janke explains the concept of ICIP (Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property) which covers not just the areas you’d expect like artistic works and cultural property such as objects in museums and sacred sites, but also languages, knowledge, performance and more.  ICIP rights are about the right of control (to use, or to adapt); the right of attribution and integrity, and the right to share in benefits.  (There is more detail about what it covers, here.) Janke offers the Ten Tracks Principles as a framework for interrogating the issues that can arise in the creative industries. I’m *very* mindful of the need to respect the ICIP in this book, so I refer you to this PPT to see a graphic that shows what the Ten True Tracks Principles are and how they are interconnected.  Scroll down to Slide 14, and read on from there to see brief explanations of each principle. In the book, Janke devotes a chapter to each of the creative industries that should be mindful of ICIP.  These include: Ch 3: Indigenous visual arts (where there have been high profile cases of appropriation and exploitation); Ch 4: Indigenous architecture (which includes discussion of the controversy around copyright ownership of the Aboriginal flag); Ch 5: indigenous music, of particular importance given the popularity of Indigenous song and performance; Ch 6: Film & TV—protocols for current productions and the vexed issue of ‘legacy’ films made before protocols. As with some other areas of ICIP, copyright often rests with the creator (i.e. the film maker), not the Indigenous people who were filmed.  There is a chapter on the management of archives as well. Ch 7: ‘How the story got its black voice back: amplifying Indigenous voices in writing. This was, of course, the chapter that most interested me because of the rise of Indigenous writing and its prominence in our literary landscape.  But just as there are unscrupulous authors of so-called Holocaust fiction, so too there are authors who deliberately falsify an Indigenous identity or use shallow appropriations or misrepresent or offend Indigenous people.  So I read the section on Non-Indigenous writers and protocols closely because this is something that book reviewers need to attend to.  Janke suggests that non-Indigenous writers can depict Indigenous culture and people, as long as they engage in proper consultation and consent procedures. These are clearly explained with examples and already I am starting to see acknowledgement of these processes in the contemporary fiction I read today.  (I do not, however, read much in the way of genre or commercial fiction so I have no idea whether those authors and publishers are respectful or not.) As with film & TV, copyright law privileges the creator, or as Janke puts it in the case of written work, it favours the person with the pen, that is, copyright belongs to the person who writes the story that is told or given to them.  There are notable cases of this happening with collections of myths and legends, the most well-known being the case of Ngarrindjeri Elder David Unaipon’s Myths and Legends of the Australian Aboriginals, whose contributions submitted to Angus & Robertson had copyright assigned to the anthropologist William Ramsay Smith. Also, copyright law applies to written work.  The Copyright Act 1968 does not apply to oral stories. After the chapter about literature, there are also chapters about dance, bush foods and traditional medicine, scien

True Tracks, Respecting Indigenous knowledge and culture, by Terri Janke

True Tracks, Respecting Indigenous knowledge and culture is the book that needs to be on the reading lists of every writing school in the country.

I’ve posted before about the Protocols for using First Nations Cultural and Intellectual Property in the Arts (2020) as an essential resource for anyone working in the creative industries in Australia. True Tracks is like a self-help book that unpacks these protocols into clear explanations with specific examples of what to do — and what not to do…

This is the blurb:

Indigenous cultures are not terra nullius — nobody’s land, free to be taken.
True Tracks is a ground-breaking work that paves the way for the respectful and ethical engagement with Indigenous cultures. Using real-world cases and personal stories, award-winning Meriam/Wuthathi lawyer Dr Terri Janke draws on twenty years of professional experience and personal stories to inform and inspire leaders across many industries – from art and architecture, to film and publishing, dance, science and tourism.
How will your project affect and involve Indigenous communities? What Indigenous materials and knowledge are you using? Who owns Indigenous languages?
True Tracks helps answer these questions and many more, and provides invaluable guidelines that enable Indigenous peoples to actively practise, manage and strengthen their cultural life, keeping tracks into the future to empower the next generations.
If we keep our tracks true, Indigenous culture and knowledge can benefit everyone.

In the Introduction, Janke explains the concept of ICIP (Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property) which covers not just the areas you’d expect like artistic works and cultural property such as objects in museums and sacred sites, but also languages, knowledge, performance and more.  ICIP rights are about the right of control (to use, or to adapt); the right of attribution and integrity, and the right to share in benefits.  (There is more detail about what it covers, here.) Janke offers the Ten Tracks Principles as a framework for interrogating the issues that can arise in the creative industries.

I’m *very* mindful of the need to respect the ICIP in this book, so I refer you to this PPT to see a graphic that shows what the Ten True Tracks Principles are and how they are interconnected.  Scroll down to Slide 14, and read on from there to see brief explanations of each principle.

In the book, Janke devotes a chapter to each of the creative industries that should be mindful of ICIP.  These include:

  • Ch 3: Indigenous visual arts (where there have been high profile cases of appropriation and exploitation);
  • Ch 4: Indigenous architecture (which includes discussion of the controversy around copyright ownership of the Aboriginal flag);
  • Ch 5: indigenous music, of particular importance given the popularity of Indigenous song and performance;
  • Ch 6: Film & TV—protocols for current productions and the vexed issue of ‘legacy’ films made before protocols. As with some other areas of ICIP, copyright often rests with the creator (i.e. the film maker), not the Indigenous people who were filmed.  There is a chapter on the management of archives as well.
  • Ch 7: ‘How the story got its black voice back: amplifying Indigenous voices in writing.
    • This was, of course, the chapter that most interested me because of the rise of Indigenous writing and its prominence in our literary landscape.  But just as there are unscrupulous authors of so-called Holocaust fiction, so too there are authors who deliberately falsify an Indigenous identity or use shallow appropriations or misrepresent or offend Indigenous people.  So I read the section on Non-Indigenous writers and protocols closely because this is something that book reviewers need to attend to.  Janke suggests that non-Indigenous writers can depict Indigenous culture and people, as long as they engage in proper consultation and consent procedures. These are clearly explained with examples and already I am starting to see acknowledgement of these processes in the contemporary fiction I read today.  (I do not, however, read much in the way of genre or commercial fiction so I have no idea whether those authors and publishers are respectful or not.)
    • As with film & TV, copyright law privileges the creator, or as Janke puts it in the case of written work, it favours the person with the pen, that is, copyright belongs to the person who writes the story that is told or given to them.  There are notable cases of this happening with collections of myths and legends, the most well-known being the case of Ngarrindjeri Elder David Unaipon’s Myths and Legends of the Australian Aboriginals, whose contributions submitted to Angus & Robertson had copyright assigned to the anthropologist William Ramsay Smith.
    • Also, copyright law applies to written work.  The Copyright Act 1968 does not apply to oral stories.

After the chapter about literature, there are also chapters about dance, bush foods and traditional medicine, science, research processes, education, digital technologies, Indigenous collections in galleries, libraries, archives and museums, tourism , business and fashion.

So this is a very comprehensive guide that belongs in many institutions and personal book collections!

One way to learn about ICIP is through one of the cultural workshops run by Terri Janke’s law firm.  There was one on June 22, see details here so presumably there will be others in due course.

You can also watch Terri Janke’s TED Talk here.

The ASA (Australian Authors Association) makes resources available for members who are authors and illustrations wanting to learn more. Click here.

I read this book for First Nations Reading Week 2022.

Terri Janke is a Murri woman from Cairns and of Torres Strait descent with Meriam and Wuthathi heritage.

Author: Terri Janke
Title: True Tracks, Respecting Indigenous knowledge and culture
Cover design: Debra Billson, cover artwork Terri—Butterfly Flowers Dreaming 2020, by Bibi Barba
Publisher: UNSW Press, New South Publishing, (University of New South Wales Press) 2021
ISBN: 9781742236810, pbk., 424 pages including a List of Acronyms, Glossary, Acknowledgements and an Index.
Source: personal library, purchased from Fishpond.

Protocols for using First Nations Cultural and Intellectual Property in the Arts (2020)