Kamal Puri


For indigenous peoples all over the world, the protection of cultural and intellectual property is a fundamental issue. At present, Aboriginal communities are principally governed by the same intellectual property regime as all Australians. While this is effective in some cases, it does not cater for the unique relationship which indigenous peoples have with their cultural heritage. The social organisation of Aboriginal societies reveals the Aboriginal system of collective ownership. The refusal of Australian law to recognise Aboriginal customary laws regarding ownership of land and intellectual property rights, including the use of ancestral designs, finds its roots in the operation of the common law doctrine of terra nullius. The latter referring to a land without owners, without a system of government and no recognisable commerce. Until the Australian legal system fully appreciates and recognises the Aboriginal folklore, the indigenous peoples of Australia, like their counterparts of Anglo-Celtic background will forever remain victims of the dreaded "cultural cringe. Of all the injustices done to Aboriginal people, expropriation of their traditional land and flagrant exploitation and destruction (without recompense) of their folklore are the losses they feel most keenly.



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