Protocols are essentially guidelines. These protocols aim to foster positive and mutually-beneficial working relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. While there are many common issues and sensitivities which are similar across language situations, these can also differ between communities.
Consultants need to find out about details of local protocols from a range of sources, including individuals and local and regional community organisations. Protocols, like languages and cultures, are dynamic. They change and develop over time in response to internal and external factors. It is important for consultants to be sensitive to, and accommodating of, such changes by building long term, ongoing relationships with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander informants and collaborators in any language project.
The FATSIL protocols guide outlines broad principles for working with language communities. It does not necessarily apply to every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Australia. Some communities have already developed protocols they wish consultants to follow. In these cases, the local document will be more relevant. For example:
- Kaurna Warra Pintyandi (2003), a language group in South Australia, has developed a two-page document – Kaurna Information Requests – which clearly asserts the rights of the language owners and includes advice on protocols for naming eg properties and businesses using Kaurna words.
- The Ganai Yirruk-Tinnor Language Program, provides all consultants to its program with Guidelines for the Teaching of the Ganai/Kurnai Language Program in Preschools and Schools (1995). This is a document introduced from the Ganai Language Reference Group and it helps to ensure that all Language matters are referred back to this group of Elders and community.
- Members of Victorian Aboriginal communities have developed protocols and advice for teachers involved in implementing an Aboriginal languages program as part of the school curriculum. These protocols have been published in Indigenous Languages of Victoria Revival and Reclamation. Victorian Certificate of Education Study (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2004).
- The Ara Irititja Project, a digital archive database, developed by the Pitjantjatjara Council for Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people (Anangu) in WA, NT and SA, is developing a set of procedures all non-Anungu researchers must follow to access materials. This will include protocols relating to confidentiality, publication rights, copyright and intellectual property rights. Essentially the principle purpose of the project is to make historical and contemporary multimedia materials, including photos, movies, sound recordings, documents and artworks accessible to community members and to protect those materials for posterity. In addition to requiring approval for their research approach and context, non-Anungu researchers will need to demonstrate how their work will be of direct benefit to Anangu.
- The introduction to the NSW Aboriginal Languages K-10 Syllabus and support documents (Board of Studies NSW 2003, 2004) clearly outline community consultation requirements in establishing and maintaining effective school language programs, as well as the importance of community control of those programs and cultural ownership of any teaching-learning materials which are produced in the course of implementing the programs.
- The South Australian Department of Education and Children’s Services (SA DECS) has developed a set of principles for departmental staff working with Aboriginal people to develop language materials.
The Indigenous Intellectual & Cultural Property Rights Position Paper (2003) includes advice about protocols, consultation and negotiation, copyright and contracts, student contributions to publications, considerations when publishing in various printed and electronic formats, use of published language materials. The SA DECS has also included one page of text, at the beginning of each of its Aboriginal Languages syllabus framework documents. This text uses the definition of Indigenous Heritage from Our Culture: Our Future (Janke 1998, p11) and it strongly affirms the rights of Indigenous people as the owners of their cultural and intellectual heritage.