Traditional knowledge and biodiscovery

Reforms to the Act in September 2020 introduced protections for the use of traditional knowledge in biodiscovery, to improve the alignment with international standards such as the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit sharing. The Nagoya Protocol requires that biodiscovery only be undertaken with the prior informed consent of Indigenous communities who hold traditional knowledge about the resources. It also requires that the benefits of biodiscovery are fairly and equitably shared.

The traditional knowledge obligation under the Biodiscovery Act 2004 requires that a biodiscovery entity takes all reasonable and practical measures to only use traditional knowledge in biodiscovery with the agreement of the custodian of the knowledge. In general, you must only use traditional knowledge with the free, prior and informed consent of custodians and mutual agreement on the terms of benefit sharing.

The traditional knowledge obligation applies to native biological material collected anywhere in Queensland. You are required to seek the custodians' agreement for use of their knowledge, even if the material you are collecting is not sourced from State land or Queensland waters.

An example of using traditional knowledge in biodiscovery could be learning about the traditional medicinal uses of a plant from First Nations peoples, then using that knowledge to conduct research with a view to produce an anti-inflammatory cream.

If you are using traditional knowledge and collecting material from State land, you must enter into an agreement with the custodians of the knowledge as well as obtain the necessary Queensland Government approvals.

The state will not be involved in agreements for the use of traditional knowledge—they will be between the biodiscovery entity and the custodian of the knowledge.

Traditional knowledge code of practice

On 27 August 2021, the Traditional knowledge code of practice (PDF, 1.8MB) (the code) commenced.

The code assists biodiscovery entities seeking to use traditional knowledge in biodiscovery to meet the traditional knowledge obligation under the Biodiscovery Act 2004.

The code describes the circumstances under which the traditional knowledge obligation applies and the minimum requirements for meeting the obligation. It includes practical steps for a biodiscovery entity to:

  • identify the custodians of the traditional knowledge
  • obtain consent from custodians to use this knowledge
  • and
  • establish benefit sharing agreements with custodians on mutually agreed terms.

You can meet the traditional knowledge obligation in another way, where an equivalent outcome to meeting the code is achieved.

Further information to support you to comply with the code is available through the Traditional knowledge guidelines (PDF, 734KB) and the Traditional knowledge guidelines – Using publicly accessible traditional knowledge (PDF, 8.8MB).

Read more about the traditional knowledge obligation, the code, and guidelines, as well as a strength and support toolkit (PDF, 1.9MB) to support collaboration between industry and First Nations peoples.