• Michael Connolly is asking fro the Government to make laws to help stop and regulate the selling of fake Indigenous art. Image Source: Dreamtime Kullilla Art. (Supplied)
Indigenous artists are urging the new Coalition Government for an immediate change to the laws that allow the sale of fake Indigenous art.
By
Brooke Fryer

Source:
NITV News
21 May 2019 - 6:45 AM  UPDATED 21 May 2019 - 6:45 AM

The Coalition is expected to address laws to help stop and monitor the sale of fake-Indigenous art in Australia later this year; something First Nations artists are urging needs to be addressed immediately.  

Indigenous artist Michael Connolly, a Kullilli and Murruwari man from south-west Queensland and northern New South Wales, told NITV News the Government needs to act now in setting laws to help regulate phoney art.

“Companies are getting away with it because there is no law,” he said. “There has to be a law to cease copying of the Aboriginal art and the artefacts.”

In December last year, the Coalition Government commissioned a report that made recommendations on how the Government could stop and monitor the sale of "rip-off" Aboriginal art.

The report said, “Art and craft is integral to the cultural identity, stories and history of First Nations peoples and communities”.

It also said the recommendations were intended to “start an earnest conversation among both Federal and State policymakers about the harm caused by inauthentic Indigenous art and craft”.

One key recommendation urged the Australian Government to provide an information guide on authentic Aboriginal art to all arriving tourists at every airport and every port of entry.

Since this report was released, no recommendations have been acted on but the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs told NITV News the Government will respond to the recommendations later this year.

Gamilaroi artist,Stephen Hogarth, echoed Mr Connolly telling NITV News that jobs are being robbed from Indigenous artists, leaving them unemployed.

“I used to hand paint boomerangs for a souvenir company… [With] all the importation of Indonesian hand painted stuff, I stopped painting boomerangs,” he said.

“Why pay an Aboriginal artist a certain amount of money when they can get it from Indonesia when they can pay someone 20 to 50 cents to do one. I went from being employed to having no job.”

Mr Hogarth said companies that are importing fake Indigenous art are exploiting Australian Indigenous culture and artists.

“As Indigenous artists… we do want to get out there and share our culture with tourists and even Australians, and this has just taken away our identity basically,” he said.

The Arts Law Centre of Australia estimates that 80 per cent of Indigenous art on the market is fake, with great numbers being imported from Indonesia and China, a lot of which is found in major cities and popular market places.

Mindil Beach Sunset Markets' general manager Peter Ayre told NITV News he welcomes any new laws that would regulate phoney Aboriginal art.

“In recent times I’ve made an extra effort to take a look around [for fake Indigenous art and if I found it]… I would encourage them to source authentic art,” he said.

Mr Ayre said that fake art takes away the rightful attention on the Indigenous artist.

“There’s so much time spent on each piece and to have people mass producing it, it should be against the law really,” he said.

Although it is not illegal to sell fake Indigenous art, it is against federal law to sell misleading products to consumers with an "Aboriginal" art company coming under fire late last year. 

In October 2018, the Federal Court found the “souvenirs and Aboriginal” art company Birubi Art Pty Ltd broke federal law by misleading consumers in believing they were buying genuine Aboriginal art when in fact the products were mass-produced in Indonesia.

The outcome of the case will be handed down next month.

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