A special purpose permit is required for long term or ongoing projects with Aboriginal people on their land.

This includes (but is not limited to) research, environmental activities, filming and commercial projects that seek to undertake work on Aboriginal land and/or with Aboriginal communities.

The CLC consults with the Aboriginal people affected based on information provided within the special purpose permit application. The applicant should seek to respect Aboriginal rights, culture and intellectual property, and ensure that their application provides sufficient information to Aboriginal people about projects affecting them.

The CLC seeks to ensure that Aboriginal people are involved in projects as far as is practical and agreements to protect cultural and intellectual property rights and commercial rights are made where appropriate.
For areas not on Aboriginal land, a special purpose permit is not legally required but individuals are encouraged to follow the principles in carrying out their project, especially the need to obtain the informed consent of Aboriginal people relevant to the project area. Most communities not on Aboriginal land are still located on private land belonging to Aboriginal people where the same principles of protecting Aboriginal cultural and intellectual property rights apply.

Communities or other organisations dealing with project applications that are not on Aboriginal land may seek the assistance of the CLC Legal Unit on (08) 8951 6232.

Application Process

To enable applicants to prepare their special purpose permit applications more easily the CLC advises that researchers or project staff apply for  an entry permit online here in the first instance.

An entry permit provides researchers or project staff access to discuss the project with Aboriginal residents and to seek community support for the project, but does not allow projects or research to be undertaken. Evidence and written documentation, including letters of support from the community and/or Aboriginal community researchers, should then be included in a special purpose permit application.

Commercial projects need to be mindful that Aboriginal land is private land. The CLC will pay particular attention to the commercial value for Aboriginal landowners of projects on Aboriginal land. Also, the issue of the permit does not indicate that the CLC endorses the commercial activity, and merely indicates that the community has approved the permit.
If informed consent is given by Aboriginal landowners for the project, the CLC will draw up the permit, with an additional agreement to protect Aboriginal cultural and intellectual property or commercial interests where necessary, setting out the conditions for the project.

After the relevant Aboriginal people have given their consent for the project staff and/or researchers can then apply for a special purpose application online here. To avoid the need for further consultations and unnecessary delay, the applicant is encouraged to supply as much information about the project as possible, and evidence of community support for the research or project. Research projects should also include details on ethics approval.

Research that is designed in response to Aboriginal peoples’ research agendas, and has the support of Aboriginal landowners or other Aboriginal people, will have a better chance of being approved.

Consultations can take some time and applicants need to allow sufficient time for it to be considered. The time taken for consultations will depend on the nature of the project, the size of the area concerned, the number of Aboriginal landowners affected, amount of evidence supplied regarding community support for the project or research and other field work commitments of relevant CLC staff. Projects which involve issues more sensitive to Aboriginal cultural and intellectual property may take longer.

For most routine projects proposals which do not require extensive consultations, permit applications may be processed within one month. Applications will be evaluated according to the project principles, see below for more details.

Applicants need to be realistic in terms of application and response times. Limited communication and availability of staff to undertake consultation may delay responses, especially for complex proposals. Applicants should plan and apply well in advance.

Project Principles

Informed Consent

All projects need to obtain the informed consent of Aboriginal landowners and Aboriginal participants.

Participation by Aboriginal People 

Applicants are encouraged to provide Aboriginal people with opportunities to participate, where appropriate, in all stages of project.

Aboriginal participation may be facilitated by utilising existing Aboriginal organisations. For major projects, applicants may consider the establishment of an Aboriginal steering committee.

Applicants should consider the employment and training of Aboriginal people including as guides, interpreters, and informants, as well as in the collection and analysis of research data.

All persons visiting Aboriginal communities for a project that would involve participation by children must be in possession of and display an Ochre card.

Benefits for Aboriginal People 

Aboriginal people expect that projects conducted on their land, and in their communities, will be of benefit to them. One way of ensuring mutual benefit is by designing projects and benefits in conjunction with Aboriginal communities.

Aboriginal people value opportunities to visit country. In order to generate goodwill, applicants may consider including extended family on any trips onto country.

Aboriginal Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights 

The term ‘Aboriginal cultural and intellectual property’ is a general term which includes all aspects of Aboriginal peoples’ cultural products and expressions, as well as their intangible cultural knowledge. Aboriginal cultural and intellectual property means the totality of cultural heritage of Aboriginal people, including, without limitation, their intangible heritage (such as songs, dances, stories, ecological and cultural knowledge), and cultural property, which includes Aboriginal human remains, artifacts, and any other tangible cultural objects. For a useful guide to Indigenous cultural and intellectual property, see for example Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies, AIATSIS 2011 at

Applications for projects must demonstrate a commitment to respect and uphold the rights of Aboriginal people, under their traditional law, to ownership and control over any Indigenous cultural and intellectual property that is in existence prior to the project.

Where biological resources are sought applicants will need a permit from the Northern Territory Government Department of Natural Resources, the Environment, the Arts and Sport and a benefit sharing agreement with the relevant Aboriginal landowners according to the Biological Resources Act 2006 (NT). Other projects which benefit from Aboriginal culture and intellectual property, such as a commercial film, may also need to consider benefit sharing as part of any agreement.

Ethics Approval

Extensive research proposals should include ethics clearance from a reliable and reputable ethics committee.


Applications should provide full details of the methodology to be used in the proposed project. This includes information about how the applicant will manage outcomes and data from the project in accordance with Aboriginal peoples’ rights and interests.  

  1. Applications should provide details of project and financial management.
  2. Proposed projects that involve audiovisual recordings must provide full details of any proposed use of the recordings.
  3. Any recording involving Aboriginal people or sacred sites, places or objects may only occur with the agreement of relevant Aboriginal landowners. Recordings of Aboriginal deceased persons must not be published without the permission of relatives of the deceased. Applicants must not broadcast, licence or sell any audiovisual recording without the agreement of Aboriginal landowners.
  4. Where appropriate, applicants are encouraged to provide opportunity for Aboriginal input into the content of broadcasts or publications of recordings. Collaborative projects or recordings of live performances may require an agreement in relation to copyright.
  5. Photography, Film and Recording
  6. Publication and Dissemination of Research Outcomes

Applicants must uphold the rights and interests of Aboriginal people regarding control over publication and other dissemination of project outcomes. Where known, applications need to provide full details of any plans for publication and dissemination, including any details of collaborative approaches to publication with Aboriginal people. For ethnobotanical publications, applicants need to provide for Aboriginal control over all material produced or collected or otherwise negotiate an appropriate licensing arrangement..

Professional Credentials

Applicants for research projects must provide details of registration of appropriate professional or industry bodies.