What are protocols and why they are needed?
Protocols for handling indigenous materials may vary form one nation to the other, which are often based on cultural practices and ethical principles surrounding the artistry and significance of the materials.1In Australia, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library, Information and Resource Network Inc. (ATSILIRN), explained that protocols are intended to guide libraries, archives and information services in appropriate ways to interact with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the communities.2 This being said, protocols are more than the technicalities of preservation and management of indigenous materials, they are about reverence and respect to the cultural heritage of the Aboriginal peoples who have been prejudiced, discriminated, misunderstood and whose rights and interests have been ignored. These protocols are silver lining in understanding the Aboriginal peoples’ cultural diversity. The National and State Libraries Australasia (NSLA) in its position statement, commits to nationally and internationally recognise protocols to ensure that collections and services are accessible, appropriate and responsive to the needs and perspectives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.3The indigenous protocols may be surrounded by tremendous challenges in its implementation, but they are important tool for two-way conversation between communities and institutions to respectfully manage collections and to meet the needs of the Indigenous peoples (Thorpe 2013).
Aboriginal peoples should be given proper credit and acknowledgement for their cultural materials. Standardised classification tools should be used in cataloguing these materials such as the Australian Authority List and Indigenous Thesauri and the Pathways or AIATSIS Thesauri. To ensure integrity and accuracy of content and data, there has to be regular consultation with the experts in the field and Aboriginal peoples and create opportunities for them to describe and annotate materials which relates to them and their communities.
Being recognised as the primary guardians and interpreters of their cultures, any representation, depiction and use should reflect authenticity and integrity. This can be done through consultation with the relevant Aboriginal communities and have the Aboriginal peoples participate in cultural activities which relates to them and their communities. Furthermore, secrecy and sacredness of materials should be observed. There are indigenous materials which are unsuitable for public consumption. Permission is sought with extensive consultation with relevant parties. Institutions should also promote cultural sensitivity through training.
Copyright law protects the interests of the authors and publishers but not the owners of cultures they often describe. As such, it is imperative that they be given proper recognition, through thorough consultation as well as by weighing the risks and benefits of dissemination. Permission is then sought from the person who owns the indigenous material prior to publication. Institutions should also be educated about intellectual property through learning session/training, emphasizing the fact that it is not primarily for monetary gain.
1Ontario Arts Council, viewed 2 times, <http://www.art.on.ca/oac/media/oac/video>
2Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library, I.a.R.N.I. 2012, ‘ATSILIRN Protocols for Libraries, Archives and Information Services’,<http://atsilirn.aiatsis.gov.au/protocols.php>
3Australasia, N.S.L. , ‘National position statement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander library services and collections’, <https://www.nsla.org.au/sites/default/files/publications/NSLA.Indigenous_position_statement_2014.pdf>
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Protocols – Oxfam, https://www.oxfam.org.ay/wp…/11/2015-74-atsi-cultural-protocols-update_web.pdf.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library, I.a.R.N.I. 2012, ‘ATSILIRN Protocols for Libraries, Archives and Information Services’, <http://atsilirn.aiatsis.gov.au/protocols.php>.
Australasia, N.S.L. , ‘National position statement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander library services and collections’, <https://www.nsla.org.au/sites/default/files/publications/NSLA.Indigenous_position_statement_2014.pdf>.
Thorpe, K. 2013, ‘Protocols for libraries and archives in Australia: incorporating Indigenous perspectives in the information field’, paper presented to the IFLA WLIC, Singapore, viewed April 1, 2018, <https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/ThorpeKirsten-Indigenousprotocols.pdf>.