Guide for Indigenous Editing and Writing

When should you apply this guide?

This guide responds to standards of practice in the Australian and international writing, editing and publishing industries regarding Indigenous cultural material and heritage. As a publisher, we adhere to the Ethical Publishing Guidelines developed by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).

Contributors of creative works such as poems, artwork and multimedia texts, are expected to take individual responsibility for the management of Indigenous cultural material in their texts. We encourage creative contributors to use the Australia Council for the Arts’s Protocols for Working with Indigenous Artists as the industry’s guide to best practice.

Indigenous people and their cultures have been depicted widely in Australian literature. Some of what has been written about Indigenous people has served to develop stereotypes that do not adequately reflect the diversity of Indigenous people and their culture. Writers need to be aware of these issues about the use of Indigenous cultural and intellectual property within their works. Attention must be paid to the cultural accuracy of using Indigenous knowledge, cultural information and stories. Questions of authenticity and appropriate cultural protocols require thought when writing down Indigenous cultural information. – Protocols for Working with Indigenous Artists

The guide is intended for use by Cordite Publishing Inc. editors and journal and book authors, specifically, non-Indigenous contributors whose submissions engage substantially with Indigenous writing and culture. We can’t claim to be experts in the articulations of Indigenous cultural life. As such, Cordite practices the policy of having all writing on Indigenous literature adjudicated and commented upon by a senior Indigenous scholar in the required area. Cordite practices the policy of having all writing on Indigenous literature adjudicated and commented upon by an Indigenous writer. This is to assure that historical accuracy, cultural practices, law and lore are respected and treated as sovereign, assuring that those that write for Cordite gain and hopefully share a developing knowledge with our readership. Typical instances are reviews of Indigenous authored titles by non-Indigenous authors; and scholarly or feature essays engaged with Indigenous writing or culture. In other words, this guide applies mainly to critical content that is editorially commissioned.

We also value the opportunity for Cordite to be a site of development for Indigenous editing and editorial culture. The editorial / advisory role may contribute to commissioning decisions and to the editing of critical submissions by Indigenous authors.

For editors

As of 2018, Cordite will put all commissioned critical work engaged with Indigenous cultural material and heritage through a consultative peer-review process. This adds an extra layer to the usual editorial process.

  1. Writing is commissioned by a Cordite editor. The editor confirms the availability of a member of Cordite’s Indigenous Advisory Board.
  2. Content is submitted to the editor, and the editor forwards submissions to the appropriate Indigenous advisor.
  3. The Indigenous advisor reads and responds to the submission as relevant, and returns markups or a report to the editor.
  4. The editor forwards these to author for revisions along with a deadline.
  5. The author submits revised content to the editor. The editor makes their structural and copy edit markups and suggestions, and returns these to the author.
  6. The author reviews editorial suggestions, and returns final draft to the editor.
  7. The submission is ready for publication as deemed by the tditor and/or the managing editor.

It is the editor’s responsibility to liaise with the Indigenous advisor on behalf of the author. It is the editor’s responsibility to ensure that the author responds adequately to the advisor’s recommendations, including seeking clarification of any points if required.

The Indigenous advisor is not expected to produce editorial markups or suggestions on the submission’s structure or copy; this is the task of the commissioning editor and should be produced following the consultative revisions.

We recommend the editor adds a short statement at the start of the final draft, acknowledging that the content has been reviewed by Cordite’s Indigenous Advisory Board, e.g: ‘This review has been subject to consultative review by a member of Cordite Publishing Inc.’s Indigenous Editorial Advisory Board.’ Alternatively, the author may wish to acknowledge the advice in the body of the text.

For authors

We encourage creative contributors to use the Australia Council for the Arts’s Protocols for Working with Indigenous Artists and Anita M Heiss’s Dhuuluu-Yala: To Talk Straight as the industry’s guides to best practice. Using these materials will help to minimise the work required of the Indigenous advisor, editor and author.

Types of advice that authors receive on their submissions may include:

  • respect for how Indigenous people and cultural material is represented and acknowledged in its diversity and specificity;
  • ensuring that Indigenous control has been exercised over relevant intellectual property or collaborative contribution, including attribution of sources and consent;
  • respect for confidentiality or secrecy; and
  • understanding the continuing nature of Indigenous cultures in the way they are described or referenced.

Authors may seek their own informal peer readers during the writing process. If Indigenous consultation has been sought at this stage, this should be clearly noted to the editor (and therefore the advisor) early on. This helps everyone negotiate differing advice and responsibility for it. After all, Indigenous cultures and communities are not homogenous: ‘Consultation is an ongoing process. Cultures are dynamic and evolving, and the protocols within each group and community will also change.’

Authors should expect to be challenged; this is the value of the consultative process. They may also wish to raise questions for the advisory editor, however, it is the author’s task to work with the commissioning editor on finding their own way to revise or strengthen their work in response to feedback.

Ultimately, the author has the final say on the content of their work, but the decision to publish and responsibility for the public representation of the content is held by the journal.

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