Charter for Research with Indigenous Knowledge Holders

The Indigenous Knowledge Institute (IKI) at the University of Melbourne seeks to work in equitable partnerships with Indigenous communities that recognise the rights of Indigenous knowledge-holders.

Indigenous knowledge-holders are defined as Indigenous people who are engaged in maintaining and, in some cases, reclaiming Indigenous Knowledge traditions as described herein at Section 1.1.

To this end, IKI adopts the following research principles and guidelines in alignment with best international policies and practices.1

Principle 1

We aim to respond to the needs and interests of Indigenous people, including those who participate in research projects and others in the community.

Our research will seek to provide tangible benefits to Indigenous communities who are involved in our research. We commit to ensuring that Indigenous people involved in research should benefit from, and not be disadvantaged by, the research we undertake.


  • Research projects will be co-designed with recognised Indigenous knowledge-holders to ensure that they meet their community needs.
  • Research projects will aim to generate research outcomes that meet the stated needs of the Indigenous knowledge holders and their communities.

Principle 2

We acknowledge and respect Indigenous knowledge practices and innovations.

We recognise Article 31.1 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and aim to work in accordance with the principle that ‘Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions’.2


  • Researchers will have a good understanding of the nature of Indigenous Knowledge traditions, cultural expressions and intellectual property.
  • Researchers will acknowledge the ongoing ownership, and cultural and intellectual property rights, of Indigenous knowledge-holders in ideas and materials they contribute to research and other scholarly activities.
  • Researchers will acknowledge the contributions of Indigenous knowledge-holders and partners in publications arising from co-designed research, and ensure the appropriate use and publication of research results as agreed with them.

Principle 3

Free, prior and informed consent is the foundation for our research with or about Indigenous peoples.

Free, prior and informed consent means that agreement is obtained free of duress or pressure, and that Indigenous people are fully cognisant of the details and risks of the proposed research. The informed consent of people in alignment with established local Indigenous processes and responsibilities for decision making is important.


  • Researchers will ensure that Indigenous knowledge-holders are equal participants in research processes.
  • Researchers will engage in appropriate negotiation and consultation with Indigenous knowledge-holders about research aims and objectives to ensure their meaningful involvement in the co-design of research processes and outcomes.
  • Researchers will conduct all research on the basis of free, prior and informed consent.

Principle 4

We welcome the fair and equitable sharing of benefits that arise from research.

Indigenous people who contribute traditional knowledge and practices, innovations, cultural expressions and intellectual property, skills, know-how, cultural products and expressions, and biological and genetic resources to our research collaborations will receive a fair and equitable share of benefits arising from the use and application of their knowledge, practices and innovative ideas.


  • Copyright in collected interviews with Indigenous knowledge-holders in any material form will be jointly owned and acknowledged by them and the University.
  • Any co-owner seeking to use a collected interview will first consult with its other owners and comply with any reasonable directions given by them.
  • Co-authorship with Indigenous knowledge-holders in any research output that draws upon their ideas or materials will be acknowledged by researchers.
  • Prior to publishing a research output, researchers will seek the views of co-owner Indigenous knowledge-holders on ideas and materials they have contributed and comply with any reasonable directions given by them.
  • Any co-owner seeking to use a research output will first consult with its other owners and comply with any reasonable directions given by them.
  • Researchers will comply with reasonable directions from Indigenous knowledge-holders concerning any proposed public use of their co-owned research.

Principle 5

We respect Indigenous research confidentiality requirements, the right of Indigenous knowledge-holders to access collected data and resources, and their status as co-owners and co-authors of collaborative research content and outputs.

We seek to work as equal collaborative partners in our research with Indigenous communities and knowledge-holders, and recognise the issues of confidentiality, access to information, co-ownership of content, and co-authorship of outputs that frequently arise through this work.


  • Researchers will respect the confidentiality of individual and organisational research partners in any case where they deem collected information or materials to be sensitive.
  • Researchers will consult with individual and organisational research partners to identify any confidential, sensitive or restricted information or materials, and determine appropriate conditions of use and access.
  • All issues of confidentiality will be determined by research partners and respected by researchers.
  • Researchers will make copies of any collected information and materials, including recordings, photographs and literature, requested by co-owner Indigenous knowledge-holders or their verified heirs, subject to confidentiality and privacy agreements.
  • Researchers will take responsibility for arranging to appropriately store and archive of any data collected during research, and must not destroy or dispose of research materials.