Indigenous stories, songs and dance protected under new Victorian law

danceUnder new Aboriginal heritage laws that came into force on 1 August, ‘intangible’ assets can now be added to the Aboriginal heritage register. This can include any cultural knowledge that is not widely known to the public, including oral traditions, performing arts, stories, rituals, festivals, social practices, craft, visual arts and environmental and ecological knowledge.

Mick Harding, a Taungurung man and chairman of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, said the new law would encourage the preservation and propagation of cultural knowledge as well as addressing gaps in intellectual property law.

“The things that have always been able to be protected had this sense that they were there: you could see them, you could touch them, and I suppose that they had an archaeological element to them,” Harding told Guardian Australia.

“This intangible stuff is the space between what is tangible. It is the stories that mothers share with their children, that elders share with groups, the special skills, the cultural stories, the dreamings.” Harding said the law would ensure that ownership of cultural knowledge could be both protected and shared through generations and families.

“It’s something that comes from a line of 2,000 generations of people and something that also exists for the children of the future,” he said. Indigenous songlines are a beautiful way to think about the confluence of story and time. Victoria is the second jurisdiction in a Commonwealth nation to legislate to protect indigenous intangible heritage, following Quebec in Canada.

The intention of the new laws is to protect heritage that is not adequately protected under existing intellectual property, copyright or patent laws, and to give Victoria’s First Peoples more control over their cultural heritage. Read more



 Victoria’s new Aboriginal heritage laws are designed to protect ownership of cultural knowledge. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images




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