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Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs
Growing presence of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 'style' art and craft products and merchandise for sale across Australia

BARNEY, Mr Gordon, Artist, Warmun Art Centre

CARRINGTON, Ms Betty, Artrist, Warmun Art Centre

CARRINGTON, Ms Sadie, Artist, Warmun Art Centre

DAYLIGHT, Ms Bessie, Artist, Warmun Art Centre

JULI, Ms Mabel, Director, and Artist, Warmun Art Centre

JULI, Mr Ralph, Director and art worker, Warmun Art Centre

MALAY, Mr Lindsay, Director, and Artist, Warmun Art Centre

MUNG MUNG, Mr Patrick, Artist, Warmun Art Centre

NODEA, Mr Gabriel, Chairman, Warmun Art Centre

NODEA, Mr Mark, Artist, Warmun Art Centre

NODEA, MS Nancy, Artist, Warmun Art Centre

NULGIT, Ms April, Director, and Artist, Warmun Art Centre

PETERS, Mr Rusty, Director, and Artist, Warmun Art Centre

PURDIE, Ms Shirley, Artist, Warmun Art Centre

RAJALINGAM, Ms Stephanie, Art Centre Manager, Warmun Art Centre

THOMAS, Ms Mary, Vice Chairwoman, and Artist, Warmun Art Centre

THOMAS, Ms Phyllis, Director and Artist, Warmun Art Centre

YALUNGA, Ms Jane, Artist, Warmun Art Centre

Committee met at 15:00

CHAIR ( Mrs Sudmalis ): To the good people of Warmun community and the chairman and leader of this community, chairman Gabriel, thank you for your very beautiful welcome to country. Thank you for welcoming us and making us part of your community for this moment in finding out what you do. Thank you for that welcome to country.

We have some words for parliamentary process that are a little similar to your welcome to country. Let me first explain: we are looking to protect your art from people who copy your art. This is an investigation into what is important to you and how the government can help you to do that. The special words that we need to say are: I declare open this public hearing of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs—we're a part of that committee—for the inquiry into the proliferation of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander style art and craft. We're looking into the fake art that's being sold in Australia.

I'd like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of Warmun and show my respect to elders past and present; those who took us during ceremony that you communicated to; the custodians and guardians of the stories, culture and heritage of Kija country; and all Indigenous Australian people.

Ms CLAYDON: Thank you very much for welcoming us onto Kija country. I'm really honoured to be here. I live in Newcastle, just north of Sydney. It's a fairly big city, and it's on the traditional lands of the Awabakal and Wonnarua peoples in New South Wales.

CHAIR: The country where I live is part of the Yuin nation, where they speak only two languages, Dharawal and Dhurga. The two groups of people there are the Wodi Wodi and the Wandandian peoples.

I now call the representatives of the Warmun Art Centre to tell us why it's important that this inquiry should take place. It is especially important that we're doing it here on country. These proceedings are public and are being kept on record in the Hansard—that big book down in Canberra. If you wish to have some of the things that you want to say said in private, you can ask us and we'll make it private for you. If you're going to give evidence you need to know that it's going into that big book and it will be there forever, so you have to be truthful when you put it forward. If you don't want to answer a question at all, if it's private—like this morning when I asked one of the girls what glue she used for her material she said it was 'secret'—I will respect that. Anything that is secret to you we will respect. I will now ask Stephanie to make her opening statement and we'll go from there.

Ms Rajalingam : Around November 2017 Warmun art supported the Arts Law Centre submission to the Indigenous fake art inquiry. Arts Law are that mob who help us; they're our lawyers. We have lawyers through them. We supported them in this inquiry. Warmun art works with Arts Law, the Indigenous Art Code and the copyright agency—or Viscopy. We are in agreement that it should be illegal to sell or supply fake art in Australia. We agree that having that liar art, that copycat one, is no good and it harms culture. We've said that and we supported Arts Law when they said that.

We also agree that Australia, as a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, should respect and honour Indigenous peoples' right to maintain control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. We have a right to benefit financially from authentic expressions of culture. The artists here have a right to benefit from expressions of their culture. Fake art and products undermine the economic empowerment of our arts centre and the artists.

We support Arts Law's recommendation to change existing consumer laws to make the sale of fake art illegal and that proposed regulations should be done in consultation with Indigenous artists, arts centres and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. That copycat art should be illegal. But if they're going to change those laws maybe they should talk to artists, art centres and listen to you as well.

We think the Indigenous Art Code should be mandatory and better resourced. The Indigenous Art Code support us, and we support them. They do really great work but there are not many of them. I think there's one person—one woman Gabrielle with the curly hair—and she might need a bit more help to get the great work she does achieved.

Education and outreach on these issues aimed at both the national and international audiences—so tourists and also our local population—are needed. Also, we would like support and recognition for what Indigenous art centres already do, which is empowering communities by providing Indigenous artists and community members with economic opportunities, sustainable livelihoods, jobs, skills training, and a source of pride and value for unique cultural identities and expression.

CHAIR: I think you forgot one other thing that it does, especially for this community, and that is build resilience, because when you had the floods you still painted. I think that's part of the story as well.

Ms Rajalingam : Definitely. This arts centre does a lot for everybody. It's a good place. It helps people here earn their own money in their own way. It's owned by the people and it's for the people. So it's very important that the arts centre is recognised and supported.

CHAIR: Thank you very much for that introduction. If there are things that you would like us to explain we are happy to explain, but our aim is to get your story—to protect you in what you do. From what I understand, art work isn't a matter of what you do, it's actually who you are. And that's part of the story that needs to come into education. One of the most important things that are done for artists in art centres is a protection, a licence or an agreement. Do you have agreements, here, that stop me from buying your work and turning it into a bedcover? Do you have something, here, that protects you?

Ms Rajalingam : We have our certificates of authenticity and we work with copyright agent Viscopy and Copyright Agency Limited. We are very specific that people can't take pictures in our gallery, especially of one artwork, and it's all permission based—if someone wants to promote the art centre on Facebook they could take a general slice of the wall but not zoom in on any detail. We do work with our artists and the copyright agency and we educate people who come in our doors on what this art centre stands for.

CHAIR: So for a single artist the copyright law helps protect that artist against somebody else. Do you have any works where more than one person works on the art?

Ms Rajalingam : I'll have to ask the artists but, to my knowledge, not that I'm aware of. There could be, but it's not very common here.

CHAIR: The copyright laws that are there now work for you because it's a single artist.

Ms Rajalingam : Yes. What we do with our artworks, here, whatever's sold, the rights are still with the art centre. So the artist maintains the copyright of that artwork so it can't be reproduced elsewhere.

CHAIR: Does the purchaser sign an agreement on purchase?

Ms Rajalingam : No, they don't. They just get the certificate of provenance. One of those certificates shows the work is authentic, but then if they're going to do something else down the track we don't normally find out about it until—

CHAIR: After.

Ms Rajalingam : Yes, something like that.

CHAIR: Do you understand what my question is going towards—that is, when a person buys your painting they're buying the painting only, not the pathway to make cards.

Ms Rajalingam : They're not buying a licence, yes.

CHAIR: They're not buying the painting to take a picture and print it on material; it's just for the painting. So the art centre has an agreement with you. There's a certificate that says, 'Bessie painted this,' or 'Betty painted this,' or 'Patrick painted this.' That protects you and the purchaser. But what we really want to do is make sure the consumer, the person who buys your painting, does the right thing. That's very important, for us to help you. If you have any ideas, we have a microphone for you to speak. You don't need to be shy. We're more than happy for you to speak on any matter. Do you have a question there, Sadie?

Ms Carrington : How do we know if a consumer buys the painting and takes it away? How do we know they might be doing such things?

CHAIR: That's the problem. You don't know until, all of a sudden, somebody's advertising a house full of cushions—and it's your design. You don't know. Then you have to have a legal fight to get your ownership established. We're really trying to work out a way of stopping that happening at point of sale. At the time you sell, maybe the person who buys signs a contract or an agreement—not as the maker but as the person who is buying. This says: 'This is just for me, and I cannot make any arrangement to get money from it, unless I come back to the arts centre and talk to them and to you about getting some money coming back to you.' That's part of what we're thinking and trying to look at doing.

Ms Carrington : In general also it can be distributed through personal sales to other buyers in a personal sense.

CHAIR: Do you mean buy here and sell to somebody else?

Ms Carrington : No, no. Say if someone came and bought one of those paintings and then later down the track they decide to sell it.

CHAIR: You're covered right now. Provided you're registered, there's a royalty register that's for any work painted after 1985, I think. I'd have to check on the year.

Ms Carrington : There are royalties.

CHAIR: Any artist in Australia—Indigenous, any artist here—if your work is registered and it's onsold, you get another payment from the second sale.

Ms Carrington : Right. That's what I wanted to say.

CHAIR: Is that good? Thank you for that question.

Ms Daylight : What if a person buys a painting and legally that's their painting? Later down the track they decide to make copies of it—

CHAIR: That's the problem: it's not their painting, it's your work. You own that work, and the centre is looking after you. The person who buys the painting should come back to you to say, 'I would like to make copies of this,' and you can say, 'No, you can't do that.'

Ms Daylight : It's already happening. Somewhere in Melbourne or Alice Springs a person wants to buy Aboriginal artwork and gets them to sign a contract and do a whole lot of clothing. It's already happening.

CHAIR: How do you feel about having some sort of legal or digital code on your artwork that's unique to you and nobody else can have that unique mark? A person buying your work knows that it's real and has an authentic story. It means that copying can't happen. To stop the fakes coming in from Indonesia and China and all those other countries we need some way of saying, 'This is liar art'—liar art is what you're calling it, isn't it?—'It's not fair because what I make is real art.' That's the problem we have.

Ms Daylight : If someone buys my artwork and uses the design for clothing or something, if they go and sell it and have a big success, I would personally like to get some—

CHAIR: Absolutely. This is part of where we're coming from—to have agreements in place for the buyer to say, 'If I want to make money from this, I have to come back to you, the artist, and you get money.'

Ms Rajalingam : Currently we don't have anything like that. When someone buys your artwork, we don't have a little piece of paper that says, 'Do not copy this artwork or you will be penalised' or anything like that. But we do have a lot of people who want to come and reproduce your art on a T-shirt or something. They usually come through Viscopy or us, although we had one case where it happened retrospectively. It was the exact thing you are talking about. Someone did use a design that was a fashion label in France with a factory in, say, China. I don't know the exact details, but it did happen and then Viscopy worked to retrospectively get a fee for that. Obviously it's not ideal. It is less than ideal.

CHAIR: We will have more questions and you can talk to us too. Right here, we are friends. We are getting information from you to make the system better.

Ms CLAYDON: I would be interested to know about your experience of working in this art centre and how you feel it looks after your interests. I also want to ask Stephanie a follow-up from her opening statement, where she made some reference to the need to better support centres like this one. I'd like to better understand what kind of support she is talking about there. So it is a question to Stephanie but also a question to each of the artists about why it is you think it's worth having an art centre—how it helps you and your practice as an artist and, importantly, how it helps you make some money from your art.

Ms Carrington : Could you make a law, sort of secure our artwork—like what Stephanie already has now. If you could put something to make it more secure so that, if someone buys artwork here and, say, 10 or 15 years later down the track, if our artwork pops up somewhere—like on a piece of clothing or anything—if we could make a really—

Ms CLAYDON: Really strong.

Ms Carrington : a strong law. I am talking for myself, if that happens to me. If I've passed away and if my kids recognise my artwork somewhere, that money can still come back here to the art centre and my kids can benefit from it—any of my family members who are still living—even though I won't be around.

Ms CLAYDON: There are some laws around—I am not a lawyer; I say that up-front. But my understanding of copyright law is that that copyright rests with you regardless of whether there's an agreement or anything in place. Any artist that produces a mark, it is protected. There are still problems in that people do what you're saying—that is, they don't ask you about using it and they just go ahead and use it somewhere. You can use that law then to try and get remedy and get proper payment or acknowledgement for that. We've taken a lot of evidence from different people all across Australia, and some are saying that those laws are not strong enough, like you're suggesting now. There are a couple of other laws that they use around what they call intellectual property law and heritage law. It's a Western Garadjeri law system, so it doesn't always translate well to different ways of thinking about rights and ownership. A lot of people are talking to us about that law needing to be strengthened and also to be made a bit more flexible so that it fits other situations. What does belonging to Warmun Art Centre mean for you as an artist?

Ms Carrington : This place is my livelihood. It's everybody's.

Ms CLAYDON: A gentleman behind you is wanting to speak.

Mr Malay : [Inaudible]

CHAIR: We're happy to take your suggestions, because we're doing a national study—

Ms CLAYDON: No, he's asking if it is being broadcast—

CHAIR: Broadcast? No, not today.

Mr Malay : Is this information that you can probably use within each art centre around—

CHAIR: I'm sorry?

Ms CLAYDON: Will the other art centres know what you're saying?

Mr Malay : Or can the information that we give be used with the stuff that you want to do to try to protect us? Or will it—

CHAIR: Yes. Any suggestion that you make will be added to all the suggestions coming from this group, from KALACC earlier this week and from a whole stack of different organisations. Everybody is bringing ideas and we're trying to put it all together. We're not saying no to any idea, so if you have—

Mr Malay : If you're looking at us, if we could try to get a system that works within Warmun Art Centre's groups or the artists themselves, assembling—

Ms CLAYDON: It's a bit hard, because we are a national government. Most of the recommendations we will make will be quite broad, but hopefully when it comes to making agreements or putting forward particular ideas, they are able to be useful for each different centre. So ideally you would be in a place where you would make recommendations that, say, strengthen particular laws but enable different art centres to find the best way for that to work for them.

Mr M Nodea : I'll just explain a little bit here about my own people. What they are talking about, the art, at the gallery—the tourist buys yours. He might have them for a couple of years at home. Then he went and moved to another country—or move to the city from country. He put them up for sale. Now you might even come here and buy that art for $300. When he buys them from this gallery and takes them back to his country and he wants to move or get rid of that painting for yours, he sells them your little painting. You can get it for $300. Over there, you can sell them for $1,500. See? But that's your art, your design, your work. We are trying to find a way to stop them.

I do get a little bit of money from art. I've been painting for 20 years. I'm 47 years of age now. My art, when they buy mine, it was sold from this gallery 10 years ago. That person looks at my art and wants to get rid of it: 'Now I'm going to go to another country or another state. I can't take this with me, so I'll sell it here in this local place, where I'm from.' So he'll go sell it. He can buy it here for maybe $500. He will want more, enough for his travelling. These are dodgy people, like those boat mob coming in, smuggling in—how to stop them. It is the same with the money. Same with our art. Who can help us? We have been here first time—generation after generation, from the past, a long time ago. You have probably heard of Rover Thomas, Queenie McKenzie—they leave it up to those elders? There's a next step. From there he came to us, the middle people; we are the next step. He passed on and on and on and on—to that art dealer and that painting. They came here and paid big money—five, 10, 15 years ago. Nowadays, we have got technology. They advertise on Facebook that so-and-so's painting from the Warmun community is being sold for a quarter of a million dollars—and we get a different manager every year.

CHAIR: You are now protected by law, but I don't recall the year—we will come back to Stephanie. If it was painted after that year, you are entitled to a royalty from the second sale, the third sale, the forth sale and the fifth sale—for many, many years. If it was painted before the cut-off year, you can't get the royalty on the sale. I don't remember the year, but we will come back to Stephanie with that.

Mr G Nodea : My work got sold only a couple of years ago, and they call it a royalty. They have got my board—they probably copy them and sell them for bigger money—

CHAIR: The copying is what we're worried about.

Mr G Nodea : and the royalty I get is probably $25. That is the new rule they have got now in the system. We get that small cheque.

CHAIR: That is why we think there needs to be something at the source of sale—a contract of sale for personal use or for on-selling for a distribution chain. That is all part of us trying to protect culture, heritage and your story, your dreaming, because that is what is on the canvas.

Mr G Nodea : I explain it to these ones. Where they come from, they can't understand news. So I'm here to stand by them.

CHAIR: Thank you. Shirley.

Ms Purdie : They picked a painting the same with my husband they did on that bus there. They picked a painting painted on a Mitchell truck. They wouldn't copy that one and keep using it?

Ms CLAYDON: You did a painting on a truck?

Ms Purdie : Yes, they did.

CHAIR: Was that a long time ago?

Ms Purdie : A long time—three years down the track after we got this art centre.

Ms Rajalingam : It was about the year 2000, I imagine.

CHAIR: And they are still using it?

Ms CLAYDON: No. She is worried about whether someone would attempt to re-use it.

Ms Purdie : I don't know where that truck went, see?

Ms CLAYDON: Yes. It is an interesting question. Your artwork, being on a truck, is very mobile; it moves around everywhere. But that copyright law is still with you always. But, like a lot of other people, you are trying to find out where your artwork has gone to and how it is being used now. What we are all struggling with is how you keep track of your artwork when it leaves you and make sure it is still being used the way you intended it to be used.

Ms Purdie : A lot of people were giving us the payment before. That was my understanding when the boy was talking and explained it to us. They got us to do a lot of painting before. I don't know if they gave copyright for those paintings.

Ms CLAYDON: You're worried about that big body of work that you did early on that might not be protected in those resale laws that have come in.

Ms Purdie : Yes.

Ms CLAYDON: I understand.

CHAIR: It is still, as Sharon said, protected by copyright, so somebody can't copy your work. That's still illegal, but you might not get royalties from it.

Ms CLAYDON: What I am hearing a little bit now is that that is still something that worries you, about that painting or that motor car being sold and moved on again and again, so you lose track of that. You want to be able to be sure that any money or economic benefit is coming back to you or maybe your children, whoever you want. We are taking a note of that as something that is still worrying people and as to whether that law is strong enough now.

Ms Daylight : I've been thinking what about wills. What happened in the past is that some of the old people wrote up their wills. When they did their will, we had some very dodgy managers here. What happened was some of those old people did artwork and they wrote up wills. Some of them did two wills. What happened is our old people, when they get that old, they lose memory and some of them don't know what they are doing. Some of their managers just go and tell them, 'Sign this,' because they were old people. Aboriginal people—we trust. We have so much trust with people. This is what happened anyway in the past. Most of the old people who did artwork used to sell a lot of paintings and they used to get heaps of money.

CHAIR: I am just thinking, as you are talking, that this isn't something that has come before us before. But the Indigenous Art Code are a very good organisation. If they grew and, working with the Arts Law Centre, were able to have register of wills, they would be able to check to make sure that they were good documents, not cheating documents. That could be something that we could explore further to make sure that wills come under the ownership of the work as part of what we do.

Ms Daylight : How long can you have a will and how often can you change it?

CHAIR: You can change your will every two weeks if you want to, but there would be some mechanism to help you to do that.

Ms CLAYDON: On that: those people who were maybe coming here, visiting the community and getting people to sign bits of paper that they didn't understand, were they art dealers or were they just tourists coming off the road? What kind of people were they?

Ms Daylight : Managers.

Ms CLAYDON: So, by signing this document, they've locked you into an agreement you didn't understand.

Ms Daylight : Yes, I know some old people who did that.

Ms CLAYDON: It takes a lot of effort to challenge those agreements. People are still worrying about what happened when there were some other managers who didn't behave very ethically, as we would say—dodgy managers, maybe.

Ms Daylight : Us Kija people, before we had another little art centre. Some of the old Kija people painted under the Jirrawun Arts centre and some painted here. Those old people got ripped off there in the past.

CHAIR: We'll look into that as part of this protection of real Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander art. We will definitely follow that up. Thank you, Bessie. Rusty, you wanted to say something?

Mr Peters : All these painting here, when we do them, they make we worry. We sell paintings of our whole country from Ngarranggarni side—Ngarranggarni means the Dreamtime story for us. Everybody's painting that old story—what we do is what makes me worry. Some blokes can copy from the things in the paintings. They can get a painting from the old fellas in Melbourne and make a copy of it. I don't like that. No matter when you do two paintings, it made me worried when I was in Melbourne. I saw that we got copied from the paintings of the old fellas—from everybody, from the old people. This painting here has got a story no matter where. So white people, when they do a painting, I don't know what story they've got. But for Aboriginal people—us mob here—every painting has a story. That's what makes we worried: we're selling our own country.

My paintings have been sent over to Italy—that one big painting, that Waterbrain. It went to Sydney and then they sent it to Italy. That painting, when they buy it, they take the country away from here. They make me worried. Us mob, no matter who, we're painting here. Another way—I'm proud of how Aboriginal way is different, I can't talk but it's hard for you mob and us mob. I can't talk about it.

Some old people might say, 'You do that painting. That's no good.' I'm frightened for me—not for me but everybody when we are painting. Some other people say, 'Oh, you did that painting in my country.' But we don't do painting like that. We paint our own countryside—us mob.

All these paintings have a story. It's from the old people and what they have told me. They've got the rock painting in my country, and they have got stories there when you paint it on my country. It's every year and every place, that's why this is for the young people. I pride myself on that. Some other people paint the country from all over the place when they do a painting—the countryside, everywhere. It might be a good painting, but Aboriginal way is different. They don't really know what I know. We are pulling the country away when a lot of the paintings go overseas; they take the country away from us and the spirit from us—the Ngarranggarni, the Dreamtime, you know. I'm frightened. That's why I'm thinking about what the old people do. But I'm worried.

I don't know if it's true.

The white people when they do a painting, I don't know if it's got a story. Every painting here is a story from the Dreamtime—we got them from the old people and old people's country. We want to paint our own place, our country. We do a painting here. I worry a lot for country. They buy it and send it overseas. They take the country away from us. The white people don't know what we do. We really do a good painting. It might be a good painting. They take the painting for money. Money is nothing for the country. That's what I think. I get money, but I worry for the countryside, for us mob. The white people took paintings of old stories. They say it's a good quality painting and buy it. The important thing for us and all the painters here, for us mob—that's my feelings. One painting went to Italy—eight panels. It makes me worry. I worry about the countryside—everybody, not just me, when we do painting. Us mob we've got to be careful Aboriginal way, I can tell you. That's all I can say.

CHAIR: Rusty, thank you for that. We entirely respect that this is story, this is Dreamtime. As I said before, this is not just what you do; this is what you are. This is you on canvas, and imitation is very poor form. I think the majority of people don't fully understand that. That is part of what Stephanie was saying before. There needs to be more education as to the true meaning of Indigenous art. That is why your chairman before took pains to explain to us what the different imagery was, what it meant, trying to make us feel part of country. It's very important.

Ms Thomas : I'd like to say with that crocodile art, they never sent me any money or anything. They didn't put my name—nothing.

CHAIR: But they've taken some of your artwork?

Ms Thomas : Yes. They never put my name.

CHAIR: We personally can't fix that, but Stephanie can work with you and go to Arts Law and follow up for you.

Ms Thomas : Like for the Dreamtime, they come out from mine, and we heard from my dad's place and my mother's place.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mary.

Mr Nodea : I'm a bit similar to that woman who just talked. Rusty was talking earlier about the art. He is worried because, when the old people do their art, they do it not from the head; they do it from the heart. Do you know what I'm saying? When its gets sold, there is copyright. That's my art. They look at that art; that's my country and it makes artists worry and hurt inside.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Ms CLAYDON: That's a really big issue if an artist wants to sell work. How do you try to stop that sense of loss or worry about where that artwork might go?

As I understand it, most people here want to—there's good feeling about selling your work as well, that people like it. I spoke with one of your young artists, April, before. I saw her work showing last weekend in Perth. All of it has sold. That probably makes her feel pretty good, I reckon—and she should feel good. But it's a situation for all artists—you get to keep that copyright law, but you don't know where it ends up going a lot of the time. You don't always get to meet the person who buys it and know whether they're going to keep it. Maybe they're going to give it to their daughter somewhere else. You don't know. It's a tough feeling to work with, when you worry. I understand you've got that Ngarranggarni story that you're trying to follow, make sure it's being treated respectfully. Yes, I can see how that is a big worry for people, how you do that. Have you got any ideas how you would like to keep track of where that painting goes? Would that make you feel less worried?

Ms Carrington : Ann, you were talking about the code.

CHAIR: The Indigenous Art Code?

Ms Carrington : Yes. Are we in that system? Yes. But my main concern is that when buyers come, because the whole world right now is computer literate, technically literate, we wouldn't know what's happening out there.

Ms CLAYDON: That is true, but sometimes that's how we catch people as well. We find that the artwork suddenly appears in a hotel on the other side of the world. They might have manufactured curtains or carpets using your design, and they put it up on their ads on the internet, on computers. So some people have been caught as well, through being able to track, via the internet, where their work is going.

Ms Carrington : Not a majority of them, just a minority.

Ms CLAYDON: Probably a minority, yes.

CHAIR: Sadie, I think that part of the story here is to try to develop a contract of agreement before it is sold, somehow, to make sure not just your copyright is protected but the purpose of the goods is protected. So it's all part of the story, but it's good to get that feedback from you that this is a worry for you.

Mr Mung Mung : Like for me too. For my father's painting, I was still out in the country working. They were painting here, you know? I don't know what he'd been painting—all the carvings and a bit of board. When I came in from the station, I joined them here, because my old people were still here painting. When dad passed away, Mum was still here. We were asking things about Dad, you know? All that money. They said to me, 'He never put any report in for you. You're not his son.' And I was thinking, 'Why?' It hurt my feelings, and he only got a little bit of money, only $300, from all that time Dad done everything. That's all I want to talk about.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Mr Mung Mung : I was asking them if I can get money. 'Well you've got to be his son,' they told me. That will—he never did that, but Dad maybe went out of his mind. I'm not blaming Dad, but, you know, the way that will should come back to me—me and my two sisters. But we got nothing out of it.

CHAIR: That is something that arts law will need to get involved in. That is a very important part of what you do.

Mr Malay : I have a personal story, coming back from Victoria. I went to Victoria for four years. What I learnt was that culture was one of my biggest issues. I have not had it; I was doing other work. While I was in Victoria, I thought I would play a part with my children at school. The culture side of that wasn't there. I've been a bit selfish by not bringing them back or wanting to educate them—going back to learn about myself, my people and where I come from. Coming back home and going to my father's country first—the arts centre there—didn't fit with me. It didn't seem right. Then I went to my mother's country and connected pretty smoothly. At this stage, I've been with the Warmun Art Centre for a year and a half. I am really enjoying working with the old people here. I've learnt a lot from these good people since I've been here. Being part of this team is a very rewarding place for me. The artwork that I am doing there is very personal. It's about connecting to country. Like the old fella mentioned, everything comes from within here. I don't want anything like that to go another way and give people a different message about how we feel about our art.

CHAIR: That's a great contribution. Thank you.

Ms CLAYDON: Lindsay, if you had a magic wand and you were able to give this centre any additional support, what are the things you still need to make your job and the work of artists here even better and stronger?

Mr Malay : I reckon that we could get more support in getting opportunities for our younger ones. Keep doing what we're doing, I guess.

Ms CLAYDON: I don't know whether April wants to talk to us at some point, but she's obviously one of your young and emerging artists. It would be good to know what you need out of your arts centre.

Ms Nulgit : I agree with Lindsay. Get more young people involved. As far as I know, I'm the youngest one here who paints. We need to get them involved. I'd like to see more young people painting and learning language.

Ms CLAYDON: What kinds of things would be helpful to bring more young people in?

Ms Nulgit : These old people, I reckon. When I was young, I used to just go out with the old people. They're the ones I knew—going out bush. If they hang out with the old people more, they could take them out bush in the way that I grew up and the way I learnt. It's really good.

CHAIR: That's very special.

Ms CLAYDON: Great. Thank you and congratulations on your great success at the Revealed Exhibition last week.

Mr G Nodea : It's like a boomerang. Old people had land rights, like my own family tree, the Gija side. There's the Gija family tree and we learn from them. We learn from our own family tree. We learn from our old people. They pass it down to us. It's the same with the other young people. They learn from their old people. It's handed down from them and they take up bush painting. We don't copycat. We don't steal from somebody else. We do it the right way. The right way—how we make a boomerang in order to survive. It's the same way with painting.

I strongly support Gabrielle on that art law. Warmun Art Centre strongly supports that law in order to protect our rights. I recommend that she should have more staff working for her, or they could build a big organisation or corporation in Australia to let the rest of the world know that we have an art law here in Australia. We have the best government assistance throughout the whole world to establish that, to stop overseas mob—foreigners—making fake art. But I need more time to write it out.

CHAIR: We're quite happy to have a letter from you later.

Mr G Nodea : I'll get back to you.

CHAIR: We welcome that, thank you.

Ms CLAYDON: Thank you. Mary?

Ms Thomas : I'd like to say something about my heart. If it's a rock or tree like dreamtime that's something , I don't put myself in it. That's the law for us—blackfella law—not to put myself in when I can't take that story from other people. That's not right for me. I use my own story

CHAIR: I think that is the most important part. Non-Indigenous people don't understand that it's a story. Mabel Juli?

Ms Juli : I started painting when I was young. With my children, with schooling here—the ground they used for painting, and reading on the ground for all my kids. No houses were here, and no school was here. We had a bough shed. There was reading on the ground. From there, we worked in the school, doing watering—watering the lawn and all that—and collecting the rubbish. Me and Shirley used to take all the kids out into the bush, show them bush tucker, teach them bush tucker and bring it back and tell them about stories, talk in story language. In Kija, we say 'Jarrak', which means talk. We used to talk with them.

From there, I was working in the school, and Auntie Queenie McKenzie used to ask me to do painting. I didn't know anything about painting. Auntie told me, 'You can try. You try. You might get something good—make it good for yourself.' I started painting. We didn't have any help. We had the one school and the boat out from Beagle Bay. We had one—that's where they went out. From there, I was painting all the time. All my kids then went to school, high school and all of that. I was still working—doing painting all the time when I was young.

I'm getting old now. I'm still painting every day and working, coming here every morning and working, and I know nothing about it for my painting. I do all my painting for my dream, of my mother and father, and my grandfather and my grandmother. All that painting I do. I don't do painting for anybody else. I don't go and copy anybody. I do my own painting. I think about it in my goongoorloon. I do painting; that's what I do. I want to do painting for my mother, for my father and for my grandpa and my granny and my uncle, all that painting. That's with the Dreamtime. They used to tell me about it when I was a little girl. They used to take me out in the bush. That's when I used to think about all the painting. I used to do painting every day, for my mother and father, for my dad and my gran. That's all I can say, thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Ms Rajalingam : Could we have just one more person speak?


Ms Rajalingam : Jane is Rover Thomas's daughter but she has something to say about—

CHAIR: Thank you.

Ms Yalunga : I'm an artist and a daughter of old Rover Thomas. His painting got copied, and it's really hurt me. Like with Stephanie, I'm still working with her—that old man who did that doesn't know the full Aboriginal story about my dad's painting.

CHAIR: I know about your dad's painting, but you're saying that there was some copy done of that work, is that right?

Ms Yalunga : Yes.

CHAIR: I don't know that story.

Ms Yalunga : My dad didn't leave a will to me. I just get a little bit of copyright money from Viscopy. With that painting I saw early this year, my dad's one, that Aboriginal who copied that painting—it makes me feel bad.

Ms CLAYDON: Where did you see that?

Ms Rajalingam : It's been a recent case.

Ms CLAYDON: Is it with Arts Law?

Ms Rajalingam : Yes.


Ms Yalunga : From Brisbane.

Ms Rajalingam : But it's hurt Jane, obviously.

Ms CLAYDON: I'm sorry you had to experience that, and I'm very glad to hear it's a case now being fought with Arts Law's assistance, I understand.

Ms Yalunga : Yes. That's all I wanted to say.

CHAIR: It's good to know that you can catch them, but it would be much better to be able to stop them doing it, in the first place, and you got proper royalties coming down. I do want to say thank you to each and every one of you for being here this afternoon. Chairman, if you want to write to us with more, more story, we'd be happy to accept that. If you could get that to us by 1 May or 2 May, that would be fantastic.

Once again, thank you so much for the warm welcome to country and the stories that you have told us and shared with us about your work, about the history and, hopefully, new steps, going forward. I will be closing the meeting now, to say thank you. There being no further witnesses coming forward we'll be moving to adjourn the meeting.

Ms CLAYDON: I'm happy to move that way, Madam Chair.

CHAIR: Thank you. That's the formal language we have to use, but thank you so very much, from my heart to your heart.

Committee adjourned at 16:09