Dream Shield to protect Indigenous ideas (ABC News)

11 Nov Dream Shield to protect Indigenous ideas (ABC News)

By Bronwyn Herbert


A new resource to protect the intellectual property (IP) of Indigenous Australians is being launched today.

A project known as Dream Shield has been launched to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to profit from their ideas and traditional knowledge.

But the project had a somewhat surprising beginning – it was sparked by a crocodile bite.

In the Kimberley region in the far north of Western Australia, Aboriginal elder John Watson lost part of his finger while hunting for crocodiles.

“I went fishing with my brother and we knew this crocodile was there and we were trying to catch him and we couldn’t catch him, but he caught me,” Mr Watson said.

Mark Allen, a lawyer who specialises in intellectual property and commercialisation of inventions, says Mr Watson used a traditional medicine from a plant to numb the pain.

“He chewed up the leaves of a plant that had traditionally been used for pain relief and for healing purposes and applied that to his finger … and the finger healed,” he said.

That plant eventually made its way into a university laboratory in Queensland.

“Some time later there was a white guy working as an executive officer with John Watson,” Mr Allen said.

“And he was allowed to take a cutting of the plant back to Griffith University where Professor Ron Quinn subsequently conducted experimentation and identified the active molecules that he thinks gives rise to healing and the pain relief properties of the plant.

“So the project has really been this collaboration between the community and the university.”Go to article.