Reform of the Biodiscovery Act 2004

Biodiscovery involves the collection and analysis of native biological material (e.g., plants, animals, and other organisms) for commercial applications, such as pharmaceuticals and insecticides. The Biodiscovery Act 2004 (the Act) establishes an access and benefit-sharing framework for biodiscovery in Queensland.

Reforms were completed in August 2021 to introduce protections for the use of First Nations peoples’ traditional knowledge in biodiscovery.

The reforms were designed to:

  • Recognise the rights of First Nations people with respect to traditional knowledge and support them to decide how their knowledge is used and to gain fair benefits from its use in biodiscovery.
  • Improve alignment with international standards such as the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing, which promotes the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of genetic resources.
  • Ensure Queensland continues to be a leader in scientific discovery in Australia and internationally in a way that supports First Nations peoples’ cultural rights and self-determination.
  • Support biodiscovery entities to collaborate internationally and access markets, creating job opportunities and supporting First Nations people to benefit in the process.

The reforms and supporting resources were developed following extensive consultation with stakeholders, including an independent statutory review, public consultation on an options paper, workshops with key stakeholders representing biodiscovery entities and First Nations peoples, and public consultation through parliamentary committee consideration of the Biodiscovery and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019.

Learn more about the traditional knowledge obligation, and view the Traditional Knowledge Code of Practice, Traditional Knowledge Guidelines and Capacity Strengthening Toolkit.

Reform timeline

Current stage:

  • 27 August 2021—Commencement of the Traditional Knowledge Code of Practice (PDF, 1.8MB) (Code) and the release of the Traditional Knowledge Guidelines (PDF, 734.4KB) (Guidelines) and Capacity Strengthening Toolkit.
  • The Code aims to assist biodiscovery entities seeking to use traditional knowledge in biodiscovery meet the traditional knowledge obligation under the Act.
  • March–August 2021—Development of a capacity strengthening program with PricewaterhouseCoopers Indigenous Consulting (PIC).
    This program aims to raise awareness about the traditional knowledge obligation and support First Nations people to participate in and initiate biodiscovery projects. It included the development of a Capacity Strengthening Toolkit to be released through a phased approach.
  • April–May 2021—Public consultation on the Code and Guidelines.
    The results of this consultation are available in the Traditional Knowledge Code of Practice and Guidelines Consultation Report (PDF, 650.6KB) .
  • November 2018–May 2021—Targeted stakeholder consultation on Act reform options and development of the Code and Guidelines.
    Consultation undertaken with key stakeholders including the department’s Traditional Knowledge Roundtable which includes First Nations peoples’ and experts in traditional knowledge, and representatives from biodiscovery entities.
  • 30 September 2020—Amendments made to the Act by the Biodiscovery and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020 commenced.
    The Act introduced the traditional knowledge obligation, which requires biodiscovery entities to take all reasonable and practical measures to only use traditional knowledge for biodiscovery under an agreement with the custodians of the knowledge. Other amendments included changes to simplify the approvals process for biodiscovery and to clarify how the Act requirements align with other international access and benefit-sharing instruments.
  • 11 August 2020—Biodiscovery and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020 passed.
  • November 2018–February 2019—Pathways to reform: Biodiscovery Act 2004 Options paper (PDF, 1.5MB) consultation. The options paper built on the 2016 statutory review of the Act, the government response and feedback received through previous consultation.
  • April 2018—Statutory review of Biodiscovery Act 2004 (PDF, 2.1MB) and Queensland Government response (PDF, 765.8KB) released.
  • April 2016—Statutory review of the Act completed.
  • April–May 2021—Public consultation on the draft Traditional Knowledge in Biodiscovery Code of Practice and Guidelines has now closed. All submissions received will be considered before finalising the Code and Guidelines.

Previous stages

Legislative amendments

Amendments to the Act commenced on 30 September 2020, including:

  • Introduction of the traditional knowledge obligation, requiring that a biodiscovery entity take all reasonable and practical measures to only use traditional knowledge for biodiscovery with the agreement of the custodians of the knowledge.
  • Removal of the Biodiscovery Plan requirement to simplify the approval process for biodiscovery entities.
  • Exemption of plants subject to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Treaty (FAO Treaty).
  • Updating provisions to reflect changes to other legislation, such as on executive liability offences and protecting the Minister from liability.

View the Biodiscovery and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020 on the Queensland Parliamentary website.

Options paper

The Queensland Government released an options paper (PDF, 1.5MB) for public consultation between November 2018 and February 2019. The paper detailed options for reform of the Act and built on the statutory review of the Act undertaken in 2016, the government response to this review and feedback received through previous consultation. The statutory review and the government’s response were released in April 2018.

Key areas of reform outlined in the options paper included:

  • The extent to which Queensland’s biodiscovery framework should be amended to be consistent with the Nagoya Protocol, including:
    • the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people regarding the use of resources and traditional knowledge for biodiscovery
    • the scope of the Act regarding private land, land with exclusive possession of native title, and non-commercial research.
  • Clarifying key terms in the Act that may currently cause confusion, such as the definition of commercialisation.
  • Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the permitting and contractual framework.

Biodiscovery Act review and government response

On 26 April 2018, the Queensland Government released an independent Statutory Review of the Biodiscovery Act 2004 (the Review) (PDF, 2.1MB) and a response (PDF, 765.8KB) to the 45 recommendations that the Review contained.

Consultation on the review and government response was undertaken until 8 June 2018, and included inviting written submissions, holding information sessions and one-on-one discussions with stakeholders. Written submissions were received from academic and research institutions, industry and individuals.

Two of the review’s recommendations (21 and 23) relating to downstream contracting arrangements were identified as critical by industry. In response, the Act was amended through the Gasfields Commission and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017 No. 35.