Model agreements for Language Projects PDF Print E-mail
At the Arts Law Centre of Australia for the finalization of the Model Agreement for Indigenous Languages Projects were Faith Baisden, Samantha Joseph, Sally Hanson and Susan Poetsch.This document is now available on the FATSIL website. (Photo Hannah Cox)

IN late 2003 I had a very interesting telephone call from Kevin Lowe, on behalf of an Indigenous organisation called FATSIL. I'd never heard of FATSIL and was intrigued to find out more, and find out we did.

Just prior to Kevin's phone call the Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law) had been advised that our pilot project to provide an Indigenous arts law service was to be funded by the Australia Council. Developing a language agreement for FATSIL presented a great opportunity for our new Indigenous service, eventually named Artists in the Black (AITB), to get its teeth stuck into a really interesting, innovative and important project. There was only one problem — we didn't have any staff or offices for AITB as yet. A few months later that all happened and finally in early 2004 the Arts Law staff sat down to get instructions from the FATSIL staff about what was required.

This was the start of an excellent working relationship which was based on mutual respect for our different knowledge bases and ways of working.The process probably took a lot longer and involved a lot more consultation than we expected but in hindsight a good length of time was probably needed to come to grips with the many issues the agreement sought to deal with.
Arts Law was not only involved in drafting the language agreement but also with ensuring that the protocol document with which it was to be used was consistent and that the two worked well together. Sally Hanson and Samantha Joseph were the two Arts Law solicitors involved in drafting the contract but were most reliant upon the work done for FATSIL by Faith Baisden and Susan Poetsch in reading drafts and getting and giving feedback on our work.

The fundamental principle of the agreement is the requirement that Indigenous culture and intellectual property (ICIP) must be respected by anyone wanting to work with Indigenous people in developing resources or other materials containing or which used ICIP.

The agreement has the potential to be adapted for a wide range of other Indigenous projects.We have already had approaches from a dance group who are interested in developing an agreement to ensure that both the individual, as well as the communal intellectual property in the works they are creating and performing are properly protected. Another project involves the development of an agreement for a remote Aboriginal community who want to work with artists from non- Indigenous groups in visual arts and crafts projects.Whilst the arts projects can bring economic rewards, the community also want maintain a degree of control over people accessing their community and culture. They also want to ensure that they receive proper financial benefits from the works created and that their integrity is maintained in the documentation and promotion of their work.

There is also international interest in the work of Artists in the Black and the development of sample agreements to assist Indigenous artists and communities deal with ICIP issues.The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is interested in Arts Law making available copies of the FATSIL language agreement and protocol so that this information can be shared with Indigenous communities internationally.Arts Law has also received inquiries from a women's organisation on the Thai Burmese border about adapting the contract in order for Indigenous refugees from Burma to have a greater degree of control in their dealings with foreign aid agencies coming in to work with them on projects their communities.

Robyn Ayres
Executive Director
Arts Law Centre of Australia.