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Byron Shire
August 20, 2022

Protections for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visual arts and crafts proposed

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Did you know that two in three Indigenous-style souvenirs are inauthentic, with no connection to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?

In a draft report released today, the Productivity Commission is calling for mandatory labelling of inauthentic products to warn consumers, a strengthened code of conduct, and protections for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural expressions.

Echidna and Platypus by Gilbert Laurie

‘Inauthentic products can mislead consumers, deprive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists of income and disrespect cultures,’ Productivity Commissioner Romlie Mokak said.

‘Mandatory labelling would steer consumers toward authentic products and put the compliance burden on those producing fake products, not Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

‘On balance, we consider it is a more practical response than trying to ban inauthentic products.’

The Commission found that annual sales of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visual arts and crafts, including souvenirs, were about $250 million.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visual arts and crafts support thousands of jobs — many in remote communities — and are a major drawcard for tourists.

But Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities face longstanding challenges in protecting their cultures from being misappropriated in visual arts and crafts.

‘Communities have limited legal avenues to protect their sacred stories and symbols from being used without permission and out of context,’ Commissioner Lisa Gropp said.

‘Our draft report proposes new legislation that would recognise the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to protect these cultural expressions.’

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists engage successfully with art dealers, galleries and consumers — often through community-controlled art centres. But there are still instances of unscrupulous behaviour towards artists.

The Commission also recommends strengthening the supports available to artists through the Indigenous Art Code, and reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of government funding, to ensure it aligns with community priorities and supports capacity for future growth.

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  1. About time!! Use of dot dot paintings out of context and without permission is such an insult to the women of the Western Desert. Sadly, too many people who profess Aboriginal heritage are guilty ( seen round Mullum).


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