A court has found this week that a souvenir wholesaler broke federal law by selling thousands of boomerangs and didgeridoos which were mass-produced in Indonesia while giving customers the impression they were handmade in Australia by Aboriginal people.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) took action in March against Birubi Art Pty Ltd, a “souvenirs and Aboriginal art” company based in Queensland, claiming it sold 18,000 such products between 2014 and 2017.
Court documents identified five types of problematic items: loose boomerangs, boxed boomerangs, bamboo didgeridoos, message stones and bullroarers.
Despite being made overseas, the products carried labels including “Aboriginal Art”, “genuine” and “Australia”.
At a hearing in Sydney on Tuesday, the Federal Court of Australia concluded that Birubi Art misled consumers through deceptive labelling.
“The artwork, images and statements used by Birubi suggested a relationship between Australian Aboriginal people and the production of the products which did not exist,” ACCC commissioner Sarah Court said.
The ACCC said the wholesaler’s conduct was “unacceptable” and undermined the value of genuine Indigenous art.
“The ACCC will not hesitate to take further action against traders who mislead consumers about the nature of their products, in order to ensure confidence in the Indigenous Australian art industry.”
Penalties will be set at a later hearing.