Historic global agreement recognising First Nations’ cultural knowledge

  • Joint media release with:
  • Senator the Hon Don Farrell, Minister for Trade and Tourism
  • The Hon Linda Burney MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians

Australia welcomes the conclusion of a landmark treaty that recognises the use of Indigenous peoples' genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge such as medicinal plants and agricultural crops, in patent systems. The Treaty on Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge was agreed among members of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The treaty establishes a new form of legal recognition for Indigenous peoples' traditional knowledge in the international intellectual property system. For the first time, patent applicants will be required to disclose the origin or source of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge in patent applications. While genetic resources themselves cannot be directly protected as intellectual property, inventions developed using them can, often through patents.

The treaty enables Australian First Nations peoples to benefit from their cultural heritage, promote their unique and diverse export offerings, and is an important step toward further protection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' traditional knowledge within Australia.

The Australian Government commends the significant contributions of Australian First Nations people over many years in bringing this negotiation to a conclusion. The treaty demonstrates the Government's commitment to deliver a First Nations approach to Australia's foreign policy.

Quote attributable to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Penny Wong:

"First Nations Australians have been innovating for thousands of years. This landmark treaty will recognise Indigenous peoples' contributions in the international intellectual property system for the first time.

"This new and historic treaty is a key outcome of the Government's commitment to a First Nations approach to foreign policy."

Quote attributable to the Minister for Trade and Tourism, Senator the Hon Don Farrell: 

"Australia's First Nations people are Australia's first traders. The Government is proud to deliver on our commitment to represent Australian First Nations interests in our trade and economic policy on the world stage.

"Protecting first nations intellectual property is a practical step that will help First Nations people, business and exporters share in the benefits of trade."

Quote attributable to the Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Linda Burney MP:

"The recognition under this treaty brings us one step closer to protecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional knowledge.

"The Government is committed to supporting efforts to recognise First Nations intellectual property rights and will continue this work in partnership with First Nations peoples across Australia."

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555