Intellectual property of First Nation people need protecting

22 Jul 2020

Posted February 21, 2019

A parliamentary report recommending a range of measures to curb overseas rip-offs of Aboriginal and Torrens Islander art has been welcomed by the Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie.

In particular, the Centre Alliance MP is urging the Government to take up the recommendation to draft legislation to protect Indigenous cultural intellectual property.

Two years ago Rebekha seconded a Private Member’s Bill by Queensland Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, which sought to stop non-Indigenous people from cashing in on Indigenous culture.

“This Private Member’s bill would have reversed the onus of proof of authenticity from the artist or art centre to the trader, preventing that enterprise from selling Indigenous art, souvenir items and other cultural affirmations that could not be sourced from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artists who were recognised by the community with whom they identified,” Rebekha said.

“It would have allowed consumer affair authorities and Indigenous communities to take legal action against those who did not identify with First Nation peoples but who sought to profit from the enormous consumer interest in Indigenous art and craft.

“It’s taken two years of advocacy, but I commend the Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs for their report into inauthentic Indigenous art and its impact.

“It is widely appreciated by those involved with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art that we have a problem with inauthentic Indigenous art in Australia and we need an urgent solution.

“I urge the government to act upon the report and its recommendations, especially the urgent introduction of legislation to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from cheap, fake imports.”

The report by the Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs found the vast majority of Indigenous-style souvenirs sold in Australia were not authentic and buyers were “probably unaware” they were fake.

The committee also found that when non-Indigenous people copy an artwork without permission or attribution, it had a “profound and harmful effect on First Nations peoples and cultures”.

You can read Rebekha’s February 2017 press release on the Private Member’s Bill here.

The Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs began its inquiry into the growing presence of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘style’ art and craft products and merchandise for sale across Australia back in August 2017.

The final report was tabled in late December 2018 and was raised in Parliament last week. You can read Rebekha’s speech in Parliament here.

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