Satellite Boy (2012) © Matt Nettheim Satellite Boy (2012) © Matt Nettheim

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Working with Indigenous People

Indigenous Content and Participation

Where there is Indigenous community participation or Indigenous content involved in any project, written confirmation of the willingness of both the subject(s) and the community to be involved in the project is essential. Screenwest also requires that each applicant complies with protocols related to the treatment of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights (ICIP).  For more information on ICIP, please refer to the Arts Law Centre of Australia. 

Indigenous content means a film or program based on an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander story, with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander subjects or featuring Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage in any form.

Where the content involves a true story or real-life subject, you will need to provide a signed clearance or release for any individual or community depicted. Where the content involves culturally specific material, you may need written consent to use Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage.

Where the content involved is not specific to a particular community or does not involve a real-life story or depictions of culturally specific material, the team will still need to provide a written statement of how they will deal with the material, ie what research has been done, what action has been taken to date, and what consultation is proposed. Evidence of a concrete plan is required.

Please ensure you allow sufficient time for consultation so that people giving consent can more fully understand what they are consenting to.
Please note, these requirements apply equally to Indigenous and non-Indigenous filmmakers.


Consultation and Consent

Consultation and consent in Indigenous communities are interrelated. Through consultation a filmmaker can come to understand what requires consent and the correct people to give it, and the people giving consent can more fully understand what they are consenting to.

  • Consultation refers to the process whereby people exchange views and information. Consultation is not just a one-way process, but a process of sharing knowledge and opinions. Consultation means working together, listening to what the other party has to say and acting upon it.
  • Consent is a process whereby permission is given, based on a relationship of trust. Consent should be informed, and this means filmmakers need to provide a clear explanation of the filmmaking process, timeframes, contract details, possible benefits, impacts and future uses of footage at the time of seeking consent, to avoid misunderstandings at a later time. The consent process should be transparent for all parties, and information should be explained in plain English or with the help of an interpreter.

We recommend that filmmakers intending to use any Indigenous material in their projects read the protocols. It is a useful guide that provides information on dealing with Indigenous material from research to marketing of your film. It also provides useful tips for consultation with Indigenous communities.


Pathways & Protocols

Please refer to Screen Australia’s Pathways & Protocols: a filmmaker’s guide to working with Indigenous people, culture and concepts for more detailed information on Indigenous Content and Participation protocols.

Pathways & Protocols covers key areas such as:

  • the principles for protocols and implementing those protocols within film practice
  • what the concepts of communication, consultation and consent mean
  • copyright law and related legal issues such as contracts and Indigenous communal moral rights
  • case studies on working with Indigenous content in both drama and documentary productions
  • information for Indigenous communities on their rights and obligations when working on film projects
  • information for non-Indigenous filmmakers working with Indigenous subject matter