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Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Page: 7


Mrs SUDMALIS (Gilmore) (12:13): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs, I present the committee's Report on the impact of inauthentic art and craft in the style of First Nations peoples, together with the minutes of proceedings.

Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).

Mrs SUDMALIS: by leave—On behalf of the standing committee, I rise today to make a statement with regard to this report. It was presented to the Speaker out of session on 19 December last year.

I acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of this nation and the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia. I pay respect to ancestors and elders past, present and future and extend my thanks to all those who took part in the committee's inquiry. In addition, I have come to have a greater respect and understanding of guardianship of culture for our First Nations people. I especially love the work of the dozens of art centre products, some currently on my walls, but the brilliant printing expertise of the women of Nagula Jarndu, a women's art and resource centre, I am wearing today in their honour. You can buy the material and make your own clothing, as I have done.

First Nations art and craft is not simply a collection of design elements in some artistic media presentation. Rather, it is integral to their cultural identity, stories and history of the First Nations peoples.

So it has been alarming to learn that up to 80 per cent of souvenirs sold in Australia, seemingly representing our First Nations cultures, are fake. These imitation products have no connection to First Nations people or their culture and are often cheaply made imports.

And although the First Nations fine-art market is not affected by authenticity issues to the same extent, the committee heard some troubling reports of unethical practices in this market as well.

It is not surprising that First Nations artists and communities feel disrespected and cheated, while for consumers there is no reliable way of knowing if what they are buying is genuine.

The misrepresentation of First Nations cultures is unacceptable, so the committee makes eight recommendations to significantly reduce the prevalence of imitation products and create opportunities for First Nations artists and their communities. The key recommendations include:

increased funding for the Indigenous Art Code to foster responsible retail and supply practices

increased resourcing for First Nations art centres for capacity-building activities

analysis of the First Nations art and craft market to assess the lost revenue and opportunities linked to imitation products and identify potential economic opportunities for First Nations artists and their communities

and starting a consultation process to develop standalone laws to protect Indigenous cultural intellectual property.

There are individuals and businesses making outstanding contributions to safeguard Indigenous cultural expression. The committee is keen to support their efforts.

The Indigenous Art Code does an impressive code of getting businesses to adopt its voluntary code of practice, to behave ethically and responsibly when selling First Nations art and craft, but limited resourcing affects its ability to achieve its full potential.

We recommend increased resourcing for the Indigenous Art Code with a review after two years to see whether the voluntary code is affected or if a mandatory system should be considered.

As well, First Nations art centres provide opportunities for artists and communities to foster and preserve their heritage.

Unfortunately, centres struggle to keep qualified staff due to a lack of infrastructure, services and housing. Many would also benefit from greater access to business development expertise. So we recommend more support for capacity building through Indigenous business sector strategy funding. With many centres operating in remote areas, the committee learned about and was inspired by the art centre as businesses and community capacity builders. There are obvious social and economic benefits to growing them as self-supporting businesses.

Additionally, we believe it is important to better understand the impacts of inauthentic products and, for this reason, recommend that the Productivity Commission conduct a comprehensive analysis of the First Nations art and craft market. This will play a vital role in implementing effective strategies to combat the sale of fake art.

As to current legislation, consumer law allows the ACCC to take action where there is explicit evidence that consumers have been misled about inauthenticity—for example, by false labelling—but the absence of a consistent and recognisable labelling system for Indigenous art and craft products provides little protection for artists, communities or consumers.

Therefore, we recommend IP Australia, in consultation with stakeholders, develop a certification trademark scheme for First Nations art and craft.

Equally, copyright law is designed to protect an individual's artistic work over several decades, and it does this well, but these protections do not extend to the communal and enduring nature of First Nations traditional knowledge and cultural expression.

For this reason, we recommend the development of standalone legislation to protect Indigenous cultural and intellectual properties rights. This could be facilitated through the establishment of a national Indigenous art and cultural authority, which is being explored by the Australia Council.

First Nations people have been the custodians of their cultures for tens of thousands of years. It is an ethical and moral demand that we assist this guardianship into the future.

It's my hope that the committee's report and its recommendations will help foster and preserve authentic First Nations cultural expression for the benefit of all Australians.

In concluding, I'd like to acknowledge that this inquiry would not have been possible without the many contributions from First Nations artists and communities. For this we are extremely grateful. I also acknowledge contributions from industry peak bodies, Indigenous organisations, government agencies, academics and others. I thank the committee's deputy chair, Warren Snowdon, and other committee members for their commitment to this inquiry. I also acknowledge the complete dedication of the secretariat team including Mel Brocklehurst, Kilian Perrem, Louise Milligan, Joel Bateman and Ben Vea Vea and all of the other support staff from broadcasting, Hansard and IT. Without their efforts we would not have been so well able to capture the essence of the guardianship, the love of country and the significance of our Australian First Peoples' songlines. I commend this report to the House.