Other things to think about

Illustrative material

Images (photographs, graphs and maps) if published in printed form will most often be reproduced in greyscale (one colour). If the image must be included check that it will still work in greyscale. The final number of images will often need to be negotiated with your publisher.


Remember that you will need to seek clearances from the appropriate rights holders to reproduce images and content in book form. Even if you have permission to include the content in your thesis, you will need to seek specific clearances for publishing in book form. In addition to seeking clearance from the copyright holders, for example the photographer, you will also need to seek clearance from the people who are shown in the image.

AIATSIS also requests a letter of support from the appropriate community representatives or those who feature in the final work. Whilst you may have already had to go through an ethics approval process for your research, ASP will still require an up-to-date written document that relates to the manuscript that you're submitting. If you are including direct quotes from interviews conducted as part of your research, you will need to follow up with the interviewees to confirm that they are still happy with their words being quoted. Some time may have passed since conducting your research and people may change their mind.

It's important that the people whose lives are being discussed, or whose words are being quoted, are clear about the kinds of publications that will evolve, and if the work is accepted for publication what publishing will entail. For example, the book may potentially be read by people all around the world in both printed form and as an ebook which can be read on screen. You should also talk about what, if any, restrictions are to be placed on content in the event of their passing.

Over time many Indigenous Australians have worked in good faith with researchers and writers who were keen to know more about their communities and lives. Some of those researchers have gone on to publish the material in their own name because they wrote the text and so asserted copyright over the material. Sometimes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were called informants, an expression that doesn't capture anything like the full weight of the intellectual property that belongs to them. If you are drawing on the knowledge and stories of others you should consider how you intend to assign authorship, copyright and any potential royalties. You will also need to include time to check the final edited manuscript with them and potentially the page proofs (designed pages) — see editorial and production process.

ICIP rights

AIATSIS takes Indigenous intellectual property and cultural rights seriously. These rights acknowledge that Indigenous peoples have the right to protect, maintain and control the use of their tangible and intangible heritage including traditional knowledge and cultural expressions.  See the Ethical publishing guidelines and the Guidelines for ethical research.

Indigenous IP expert Terri Janke, who has written widely on this subject, points to several main ways in which Australian copyright law doesn't properly deal with Indigenous storytelling (Janke 2010); for instance:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories derive from an oral culture, meaning they weren't written down but were shared in a spoken form. In contrast, Australian copyright law covers ideas in the written form.
  • The period of copyright in Australian law is the life of the author plus 70 years, whereas traditional stories have existed for many, many years.
  • Copyright law doesn't protect sacred stories which might not be able to be shared with uninitiated people, or even people of different genders or ages.
  • Copyright focuses on individuals' rights rather than communal rights such as those that apply to traditional stories, the rights in which are held jointly and for future generations.

ASPs publishing agreement includes a set of warranties or promises. One of these is that you have the right to tell a story (and that someone else doesn't have the rights which prevent that) and that you have gained the express permission of any relevant owner or custodian of traditional material prior to publication. This means you take responsibility for checking with relevant communities and individuals that you have permission to use the material from those who are entitled to give that permission. Whether you will need to check the whole manuscript or just sections of it will depend on the work itself and the cultural knowledge involved.


Publishers will look at whether content could be viewed as defamatory. You're better off removing anything that could be considered defamatory before submitting to a publisher. For defamation to occur one person has to communicate something to another person that lowers the reputation of a third person. For a claim to succeed the third person has to be identifiable — note that just removing or changing someone's personal information (name, gender, age etc.) doesn't mean that they can't be identified.

If publishing with ASP you are contractually bound to point out sections of the text where you've written about someone who's alive (whether using their real name or not) or where you have a reasonable concern that what you've written might be damaging. Note too that the potential for cultural hurt is a serious consideration for AIATSIS.

Cultural hurt

For AIATSIS, cultural hurt means injuring an individual or community through inappropriate representation of them and/or their culture. Often this occurs out of ignorance when people fail to take into account cultural differences and make assumptions based solely on their own experiences.

Some examples of cultural hurt include:

  • The inclusion of materials without appropriate approvals being sought.
  • The representation of historical events based solely on non-Indigenous materials and the discounting or devaluing of oral history traditions.
  • Not recognising the diversity and uniqueness of peoples as well as individuals— writing as though there is a single Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander culture or experience.
Last reviewed: 7 Nov 2018