New laws seek to ban fake Aboriginal products

19 Jul 2020

Posted February 13, 2017

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie is backing proposed new laws to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and their customers from the cheap fake Indigenous art and craft flooding Australian souvenir shops.

Today the NXT MP seconded a Private Member’s Bill put forward by the Queensland Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, which seeks to stop non-Indigenous people from cashing in on Indigenous culture.

“According to the Arts Law Centre of Australia, up to 80 per cent of the so-called Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island products sold in shops in our capital cities are fake imports, usually mass-produced in Asia,” Ms Sharkie said.

“This not only cheats the tourist and the Australian seeking to buy the genuine article, this cheats Indigenous artists and their communities from potentially millions of dollars in much-needed income; and it cheats Indigenous culture.

“This is the theft of intellectual property from communities who more than many other sections of Australian society, should be able to profit and support themselves from the uniqueness and beautiful variety of their own cultures and traditions.

“My electorate of Mayo is home to some amazing artists, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and my communities embrace the authenticity of locally produced art.

“When overseas and interstate visitors come to my region and stroll along the Main Street of Hahndorf or browse through the shops on Kangaroo Island, I want them to buy authentic Indigenous paintings and crafts made by Kaurna, Peramangk and Ngarrindjeri artists; not fake boomerangs made in Bali.

“At the moment the fake art is so sophisticated it’s hard to tell.”

Ms Sharkie and Mr Katter are now seeking Government support for the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Exploitation of Indigenous Culture) Bill.

The Bill essentially reverses the onus of proof of authenticity from the artist or art centre to the trader, preventing the enterprise from the selling of Indigenous art, souvenir items and other cultural affirmations that cannot be sourced from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artists who are recognised by the community with whom they identify.

At present Indigenous artists rely on the National Indigenous Arts Advocacy Association (NIAAA)’s Label of Authenticity, a trademark process to encourage people to buy authentic artwork.

“The average visitor, indeed the average Australian, probably doesn’t know about the Label of Authenticity,” Ms Sharkie said.

“By reversing the onus of proof onto the seller, it allows consumer affair authorities and Indigenous communities to pursue those people who do not identify with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander cultures who seek to profit from the enormous consumer interest in Indigenous art and craft.”

Youtube clip of press conference can be accessed here:

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