Protecting Indigenous Knowledge – He Toa Takitini

Our Te Pae Tawhiti and Ōhanga (economic) policy teams in collaboration with indigenous intellectual property experts Local Contexts, brought together leaders and policy developers whose mahi helps protect indigenous knowledge around the world, including mātauranga Māori.

Published: Friday, 23 February 2024 | Rāmere, 23 Huitanguru, 2024

”Mātauranga Māori (traditional Māori knowledge) provides our country with a rich history and understanding of the relationship between people, place and the environment. It is interwoven throughout whānau, hapū and iwi, and across Aotearoa New Zealand. The importance of mātauranga Māori is integral to Māori culture and underpins our unique national identity,” says Laine Fisher Manager Te Pae Tawhiti.

“The joint policy workshop held at the end of last year brought together some of the organisations working to protect indigenous knowledge as an opportunity to share what we are all doing in this space.”

Maui Hudson (Whakatōhea) from Local Contexts gave a presentation on their work in advancing labels to recognise and protect traditional knowledge across domestic and global databases. He provided museums and archives as examples, as they both store and use traditional knowledge such as art, songs, historic stories, and more. He emphasised the importance of involving indigenous groups and leading the shift away from conventional systems towards locally based decision-making and indigenous governance frameworks.

Maui Hudson, Local Contexts presenting their mahi.

Maui and the Local Contexts team are focused on applying labels to bioscience where mātauranga needs recognition and protection. Recently they developed biocultural labels to support the work Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board is doing with Manaaki Whenua. The biocultural labels are digital tags that reflect indigenous interest in scientific data. The tags identify provenance (the relationship with the community), protocols (consent), and permissions (outreach activities, research use, commerciality, and collaboration).

Sally Page from our Te Pae Tawhiti team presented our work through the Aotearoa and Australia Indigenous Collaboration Arrangement (ICA). The ICA commits our two countries to advancing indigenous peoples through relationship development, improved knowledge sharing, and stronger collaboration.

Sally presented alongside Maylyn Teh from the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA). The NIAA is our Ministry equivalent in Australia. Together Sally and Maylyn shared the story of the ICA to date, the strategic direction of the ICA and the importance of it being ‘indigenous-led, government enabled’. The group provided feedback and ideas for the future of the ICA.

Beginning in April Te Puni Kōkiri will be hosting kaimahi from the NIAA for three months as an opportunity to share knowledge and understanding.

“We have built a close relationship with our NIAA colleagues through our ICA work together, and we are looking forward to having time with them in te tari matua and in the regions,” says Sally.

Amy Wikaira, Te Pae Tawhiti (TPK) presenting Sui Generis mahi.

Amy Wikaira from the Te Pae Tawhiti team discussed our mahi in developing a Sui Generis intellectual property system to enable Māori to benefit from the appropriate use of mātauranga Māori.

“Our involvement in the international negotiations for Aotearoa New Zealand across 193 United Nations member states on two international legal instruments protecting traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions will potentially provide the international recognition and protections of indigenous traditional knowledge and cultural expression to protect mātauranga Māori globally,” says Amy.

Senior Research Manager, Dr Cassandra Sedran-Price and Executive Manager, Louisa Warren from Australia’s national science energy agency, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), presented their findings. They focused on synergies, particularly the opportunity for governments to support indigenous-to-indigenous collaboration and indigenous-led research initiatives.

Senior Research Manager, Dr Cassandra Sedran-Price and Executive Manager, Louisa Warren from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

“It’s important that we continue to take the time to have kōrero like this. These kōrero help us articulate our learnings along our journey and also learn from others who have overcome challenges in similar kaupapa - he waka eke noa” says Laine.

More information

You can find further information on the work of Local Contexts and how they contribute to the protection of Indigenous Knowledge here:

You can find the Indigenous Collaboration Arrangement with Australia on our website here: /mo-te-puni-kokiri/our-stories-and-media/collaboration-arrangement

You can watch a video here that shows the biocultural labels being implemented by Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board.


Top image: LtoR: Sally Page (TPK), Abeena Mohann (NIAA), Maylyn Teh (NIAA), Lee Arna Nepia, John Ineleo-Phillips (TPK).