Resource development should be simple. Find the best resources you can and use them so your students can have the best learning experience possible. But it’s not always that easy. How do you balance using the best resources you can find with the need to comply with both copyright laws and Indigenous intellectual property protocols?

The Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges (CAIK) have been working with the Postgraduate Learning Design team on three micro-credentials, starting with Supervising Indigenous Higher Degree Research. As these courses will be publicly available to learners who are not enrolled students, we can only use resources that the copyright owner has decided to make freely available for commercial purposes. This excludes most resources you would use in a classroom, such as journal articles licensed by the Library or film clips from YouTube. 

An added complexity here is that we are working with many resources that involve Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP). ICIP refers to a series of principles and protocols that have been developed by Indigenous Australian legal experts—like Terri Janke and Company—to rectify the misuse of ICIP in the arts and media. These protocols help to cover gaps in Western intellectual property law and are increasingly being used by organisations like the Australian Research Council to help people to work ethically and treat ICIP with respect. Learning Designer Eleanor Rowan has been working with Susan Page, Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews and Katrina Thorpe from CAIK, to identify appropriate resources and follow protocols when seeking permission to use and attribute ICIP. 

We’re really happy to be using Back to Country as a resource, which was created by Wiradjuri academic Tamara Power with creative and cultural contributions from Budawan /Yuin researcher and designer Danièle Hromek and design academic Gabriel Clark. Although we’re legally allowed to embed the resource, this doesn’t guarantee we’re working ethically. As outlined in the ICIP protocols, best practice is to work with consent and consultation, which is why we spoke with Tamara to ask permission and discuss how we intended to use the work, and how benefits could be shared. 

We’ve also been working with Indigenous artist Nathan Peckham of Yurana Creative, who created an artwork that was used as the basis for the visual assets of the course, like banners and infographics. Nathan gave us permission to adapt his artwork with the agreement to run all iterations by him, and we’ve tried to make it easy for him to say “no”. We’ve tried to demonstrate respect for his work, choosing to layer his images over photographs that show Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the Australian landscape as varied, vibrant and alive.  

Nathan’s artist statement, which we have included in the course so students can read it, explains what his artwork is about: 

“The survival of our culture was dependant on our ability to adapt and innovate, while utilising the many resources the environment offered. This was carefully and cleverly done while maintaining respect, understanding and importance of the balance of all living things. Yindyamarra.

This was only possible by gathering and sharing knowledge among maing (our own tribe), maing-gulli other tribes and between generations. This was vital to our survival and our muyulung (Elders) understood this. And so, from one generation to the next knowledge was handed down and with it the responsibility that one day that generation will be required to hand down their collective wisdom. Yalmambirra.

In order to efficiently and effectively gather information, it was also understood that we must be willing to share. Sharing involves trust between each other and respect for what is shared and what is shared is to be treasured and cared for, as without these things, knowledge will be lost, and our survival threatened. Burum-ba-bi-rra Yalbilinya.

Nathan Peckham, 2020

Nathan enunciates the principles of resource reuse eloquently. Trust and respect are the most important parts of sharing, both for the people and the resources. Co-designing a fully online course involves multiple people, and this trust and respect between academics, learning designers, and artists is key for the co-design process too. 

The Supervising Indigenous Higher Degree Research micro-credential is scheduled to go live towards the end of 2020 on UTSOpen.

Banner image: a section artwork by Nathan Peckham

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