This page was last updated: 10 May 2011
Protocols are the standards of behaviour that people use to show respect to each other. Every culture has different ways of communicating, and in order to be able to work with someone from a different background or culture in a respectful way then you need to understand how people might see, value or express things differently.
This page includes links and reviews of protocol guides developed by a range of organisations to help people understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (or Indigenous) protocols and to work with Indigenous people in a way that is culturally respectful.
ReconciliACTION has collected and reviewed these guides from different sources - please let us know if one of the links has been changed. The guides listed cover issues such as: understanding Indigenous cultures, how to do a Welcome to Country, how to build effective partnerships with Indigenous groups, how to organise consultations, how to encourage Indigenous involvement in programs or to learn about Indigenous peoples. There are also a number of guides focusing on Indigenous art, Indigenous intellectual property and protocols about culture and heritage.
Click on one of the links below or scroll down to find out more. Some of the guides are long but have indexes, so the documents are easy to open up and see if they’ve got what you’re looking for! Thank you to the NSW Reconciliation Council (http://www.nswreconciliation.org.au) for assistance with compiling some of the links for this page.
List of Protocol Guides
- Welcome to Country and Acknowledgment of Country Guidelines and Protocols (NSW Dept Education/ AECG)
- Welcome to Country Fact Sheet (Reconciliation Australia, 2009)
- Protocols for Consultation and Negotiation with Aboriginal People and Torres Strait Islander People (Qld Government)
- Visiting Aboriginal Land (Northern Land Council, NT)
- Protocols for working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board of the Australia Council, 2008)
- Communicating Positively: A Guide to Appropriate Aboriginal Terminology (NSW Health)
- The Greater Perspective (Lester Bostock, SBS Television)
- Cultural Protocols for Indigenous Reporting in the Media (ABC Message Stick)
- Guidelines for Ethical Research in Indigenous Studies (Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies)
- Working With Aboriginal Communities: A guide to community consultation and protocols (Board of Studies NSW, 2008)
- Pathways & Protocols: A Filmmaker’s Guide to working with Indigenous people, culture and concepts (Terri Janke for Screen Australia, 2008)
- Listen, learn and respect: Indigenous cultural protocols and radio (Terri Janke and Nancia Guivarra for the Australian Television and Radio School, 2006)
Reviews and links to Protocol Guides
A good, concise introductory guide to protocols, what they mean and why they are important, including suggested words for performing an Acknowledgment of Country at official events. Developed in NSW but general info is useful for everyone. Suitable for use by teachers, students and members of the community.
http://www.reconciliation.org.au (follow the links to ‘Resources’ and then ‘Facts and Figures’)
This Fact Sheet includes sections on the difference between a Welcome and an Acknowledgement of Country. Also check out the other useful resources on this website, including the info about ‘How does a Welcome to or Acknowledgement of Country Fact help address Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander disadvantage?’
This site has two publications designed for government officers who need to consult with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, groups or individuals in Queensland. The Aboriginal publication is quite long but worth skimming through, especially the sections on Aboriginality, what it means to ‘consult’ with Aboriginal people, and practical things about how to work with Aboriginal people around projects, for example who to approach, how to hold a community meeting and how to communicate well. Also see the links on this Qld Government website to the publication Proper Communication with Torres Strait Islander Peoples (Mina Mir Lo Ailan Mun). The first section gives background to Torres Strait Islander culture and history, and the second section focuses on cross-cultural communication.
Information for researchers and media, this guide covers when and how to get permission from local Aboriginal people, the role of the Land Council, cultural considerations and copyright.
Note that this guide gives some good general info but is for Northern Territory communities, so refers to local Aboriginal protocols and the specific government laws that cover Aboriginal lands in the NT - for example the permit system. Other states and Aboriginal groups have different rules. If you are planning to visit areas that may include sites of importance to Indigenous people, or generally if you are planning to travel through lands that are managed or controlled by Indigenous people, for example some National Parks, it is important to do research about the rules and protocols for that particular area beforehand by contacting your local Indigenous land council, government agency or tourism body.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council has produced five Indigenous protocol guides for working with different kinds of arts. The guides reflect the complexity of Indigenous Australian culture, and provide information and advice on respecting Indigenous cultural heritage. Very well respected guides that give useful advice for anyone wanting to work in partnership with Indigenous people on projects. Copies are free to download or can be ordered by email.
Go to the Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts homepage at http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au and Search for ‘Protocols’ or lists of resources/ publications. A warning though - this website is a bit hard to navigate, but you can call reception for advice. Plus, in 2011 the guides (yellow covers) were also available from the website of one of the authors - Indigenous lawyer Terri Janke, at http://www.terrijanke.com.au/publications.html.
Copy can be downloaded from the NSW Health website at http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/pubs/2004/aboriginal_terms.html.
This guide was developed to assist NSW Health staff to communicate more effectively with their Indigenous clients, and explores the correct terminology to describe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (not just in NSW), as well as terms associated with Aboriginal communities and community organisations. This overview will be helpful in gaining a better understanding of the historical, political and cultural context around why it’s important to communicate respectfully with Indigenous communities.
This popular publication by respected Indigenous elder Lester Bostock was first produced in 1990, and has since been reprinted and put online. Although produced to assist people working in television and radio it has an excellent introduction and overview about Indigenous culture and history, as well as how to understand the different ways that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people communicate, and the key things to be respectful of and sensitive to. Follow the links to the policies section of the SBS website for electronic copy.
The ABC’s Indigenous program, Message Stick, has produced an Indigenous Protocol publication for its journalists, as well filmmakers, producers and documentary makers to understand and apply Indigenous Protocols, particularly when reporting stories involving Indigenous people. Note - if a copy of this guide is hard to find through the ABC’s Indigenous Web-Portal, in 2011 a copy was also available to download from: http://www.wipo.int/export/sites/www/tk/en/folklore/creative_heritage/docs/abc_cultural_protocol.pdf.
These guidelines have been compiled by AIATSIS and are mandatory reading for people applying for research grants, but are useful for anyone intending to conduct research about Indigenous Australia or involving Indigenous communities. The AIATSIS website also includes a range of other useful publications about Indigenous Australia, some of which are free.
A guide produced by the NSW Board of Studies about community consultation and protocols, aimed at teachers but includes good explanations about why consultation with Aboriginal people is important, outlines of sensitive issues to be aware of when working with Aboriginal people for anyone working with Aboriginal communities, and practical tips for building successful relationships with Aboriginal groups.
This guide provides advice about the ethical and legal issues involved in transferring Indigenous cultural material to the screen. It is long and includes a lot of detail, but is written in a straightforward way with a focus on the practical issues. Better for film-makers, researchers and policy makers than high school students.
Note - Terri Janke is one of Australia’s leading Indigenous lawyers, and she has a website which has this and a range of other publications about Indigenous protocols, Indigenous heritage, Indigenous knowledge and the law. Her reports tend to include good summaries at the beginning, explaining the law and Australia’s historic treatment of Indigenous culture and heritage, written in a straightforward and easy to understand way for non-lawyers. Again, best for researchers and policy makers. See http://www.terrijanke.com.au/publications.html.