Implementing Access and Benefit Sharing for Seed Banking

  • Lucy A. Sutherland Botanic Garden and State Herbarium
  • Mark L. Shepheard University of New England
Keywords: Access and benefit sharing, ex situ conservation, Indigenous peoples, science paradigms, seed banks, traditional knowledge


A global study has shown that Australian crop wild relatives (CWRs) are a priority for ex situ conservation and future use. The majority of target species occur across various land tenures in northern Australia, including Indigenous Protected Areas. Work undertaken on Indigenous lands needs careful consideration, and until recently the planning of wild crop collections has taken a Western scientific approach. Awareness of potential cultural issues associated with access and use of traditional knowledge is increasing, and Indigenous community expectations associated with use of their knowledge can vary between individual traditional owners and within communities. The Council of Heads of Australian Botanic Gardens Incorporated, through its Australian Seed Bank Partnership, is collaborating with the University of New England to define clear processes and develop protocols for traditional knowledge stewardship, helping to minimize the risk of compromising the cultural integrity of data, while being practical for implementation by the nation’s leading botanic gardens. This paper examines how scientific paradigms within botanic garden policy are being transformed in the context of working with Indigenous traditional owners. It will highlight how the Partnership is creating possibilities "on country" (i.e., on traditional lands) within its projects and consider benefits that Indigenous communities may receive from working with this alliance.