Draft Report – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Visual Arts and Crafts

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Productivity Commission proposes new protections for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visual arts and crafts

Two out of three native-style souvenirs are inauthentic, with no connection to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In a draft report released today, the Commission calls for mandatory labeling of inauthentic products to warn consumers, an enhanced code of conduct and protections for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural expressions.

“Inauthentic products can mislead consumers, deprive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists of income and disrespect cultures,” said Productivity Commissioner Romlie Mokak.

“Mandatory labeling would steer consumers towards genuine products and place the burden of compliance on those making counterfeit products, not on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.”

“Overall, we consider this to be a more practical response than trying to ban inauthentic products,” Mokak said.

The Commission found that annual sales of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visual arts and crafts, including souvenirs, amounted to approximately $250 million. The visual arts and crafts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people support thousands of jobs – many in remote communities – and are a major draw for tourists.

But Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities face longstanding challenges to protect their cultures from misappropriation in visual arts and crafts.

“Communities have limited legal means to protect their sacred stories and symbols from unauthorized and out-of-context use,” Commissioner Lisa Gropp said.

“Our draft report proposes new legislation that would recognize the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to protect these cultural expressions,” Ms. Gropp said.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists engage successfully with art dealers, galleries and consumers, often through community-controlled art centers. But there are still examples of unscrupulous behavior towards artists.

The Commission also recommends strengthening the supports available to artists through the Indigenous Art Code and reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of government funding, to ensure it aligns with community priorities and supports the future growth capacity.

People can find the draft report and provide a comment or submission at www.pc.gov.au.

Media inquiries

Michelle Cross, Acting Director – Media, Publications and Web – 03 9653 2244 / [email protected]

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