International Trade in Indigenous Cultural Heritage
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International Trade in Indigenous Cultural Heritage

Legal and Policy Issues

Edited by Christoph Beat Graber, Karolina Kuprecht and Jessica Christine Lai

The book is unique in taking a multi-faceted approach to cultural heritage, incorporating discussion on tangible and intangible, moveable and immoveable elements of indigenous peoples’ culture. From the perspectives of several international legal fields, including trade law, intellectual property, cultural property, cultural heritage law and human rights, the book explores how indigenous peoples could be empowered to participate more actively in the trade of their cultural heritage without being compelled to renounce important traditional values. The national and local legal realities in four jurisdictions (New Zealand, Australia, United States and Canada) lay the scene for a wide-ranging analysis of various possibilities and proposals on how this might be achieved.
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Chapter 15: International trade in indigenous cultural heritage: an Australian perspective

Kathy Bowrey


Protection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) and traditional knowledge (TK) is a very significant specialisation in Australia. There are forests of reports and academic literature commenting on the nature of the problems, analysing progress to date, feeding the international appetite for the subject and, most commonly, expressing a heartfelt aspiration to do better. This chapter provides an overview of these issues, whilst trying to bring to life the importance of appreciating law and rights in terms of the domestic political context. It is not altogether clear whether or not Australia is a post-colonial state. Government oversight and governance of Indigenous peoples remains, regardless of Indigenous withdrawal, reservations on terms of engagement and attempts at forms of self-determination. The potential for improving Indigenous rights in Australia differs depending upon the time, the players and the categories of law deployed. It is hard to pinpoint success or progress such that one would seek to promote such solutions internationally. However, what has developed is a home-grown appreciation of the complexity of the issues, the likely failure of imposing solutions from above and the benefits of supporting local Indigenous agency in wrestling greater control over the trade in indigenous cultural heritage.

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