The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission has launched legal action against Aboriginal art products and Australiana souvenirs wholesaler Birubi Art for allegedly selling fake art made in Indonesia and passing it off as authentic Indigenous work made locally.
Concerns have been raised in various Facebook groups and across social media for more than a year about the company with many, including Indigenous artists, calling for action against the Queensland based wholesaler.
The ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said that the art dealer had breached Australian law by making false and misleading claims about the origin and manufacture of a number of products including boomerangs, bullroarers, and didgeridoos.
“We allege that Birubi’s conduct is damaging as it is likely to mislead consumers into thinking they are buying genuine handmade Aboriginal art when they are not," Commissioner Court said in a statement.
"This has the potential to undermine the integrity of Aboriginal art and negatively impact Indigenous artists, including by undervaluing their authentic works."
Commissioner Court also expressed concern about the trade in fake art ahead of next month's Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.
“We allege that over 18,000 of these Birubi products were sold to retail shops in key tourist spots around the country," she said.
"In the lead up to the Commonwealth Games in Australia next month, with tens of thousands of tourists visiting Australia, this action by the ACCC is a timely reminder to traders to ensure that products they are selling as Indigenous cultural objects or art are authentic.”
Claims that fake art is taking away the culture and livelihoods of Indigenous artists has been a growing community concern, with federal independent MP Bob Katter leading a push to ban imported 'Aboriginal-style' art.
Earlier this year Aboriginal artist Michael Connolly was fined $126 after confronting a Queensland newsagency owner over the authenticity of the store's boomerangs, advertised as 'bent sticks'.