Examples of Fake and Authentic product. Image: Gabrielle Sullivan Indigenous Art Code

Background

‘Fake Art Harms Culture’ is a campaign to lobby the Australian Government to address the proliferation of fake Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and art products. This includes lobbying the government to introduce legislation to stop the production and sale of artworks and artefacts appropriating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and designs.

The campaign was created to address widespread concerns about the sale of artworks that ‘look and feel’ like Indigenous art but have no connection to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture or communities.

These commercially-produced goods – mostly aimed at the tourist market – are often made from non-traditional materials and feature inauthentic and culturally inappropriate designs. They range from bamboo didgeridoos to key rings to paintings.

“The ecosystem, the environment we live in is full of natural resources. Our art is our resource, it belongs to us, we use it in a ceremonial context; it is a resource for our survival. If control of that resource is taken away from us, we cannot meet our cultural obligations; we cannot use it for our families’ benefit. Exploiting our resource needs to be negotiated on our terms, we need to have control of how that’s done”

Banduk Marika, Yolngu (Artist)

Why is fake art growing?

The profile of Indigenous art has grown tremendously in recent decades, creating earning and income opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and contributing to the preservation and dissemination of culture.

However, the increased awareness, reputation and value of Indigenous art has also grown the market in fake art products and merchandise; the production of which has a significant negative impact in at least four ways:

  1. It misappropriates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and undermines the role of communities;
  2. it denies Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists economic and other opportunities;
  3. it deceives and misleads buyers; and
  4. it disadvantages ethical businesses who take a culturally empathetic approach to indigenous art sales.

The campaign

Proposed new legislation

Since its launch in Darwin in 2016, there has been widespread interest and support for the ‘Fake Art Harms Culture’ campaign including extensive media coverage.

The most significant achievement, however, has been the introduction of a Private Members Bill by Mr Bob Katter MP, Member for Kennedy. It proposes new legislation to help prevent the exploitation of Indigenous culture and the deception of consumers regarding the authenticity of arts and craft goods they are buying.

In February 2017, to coincide with the introduction of the Bill, a delegation of artists and representatives from advocacy organisations met with the Coalition, Labour and Independent MPs.

Details of Bob Katter’s proposed legislation can be found here

For more information see the Fake Art Harms Culture Discussion Paper

Inquiry into the growing presence of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘style’ art and craft products and merchandise for sale across Australia. The inquiry was referred by Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion.

The Committee invites interested persons and organisations to make submissions addressing the terms of reference by Friday, 3 November 2017

Terms of Reference

Inquire into and report on the growing presence of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘style’ art and craft products and merchandise for sale across Australia, including:

  • the definition of authentic art and craft products and merchandise;
  • current laws and licensing arrangements for the production, distribution, selling and reselling of authentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and craft products and merchandise;
  • an examination of the prevalence of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘style’ art and craft products and merchandise in the market;
  • options to promote the authentic products for the benefit of artists and consumers; and
  • options to restrict the prevalence of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘style’ art and craft products and merchandise in the market.

Committee Secretariat contact

Committee Secretary
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs
PO Box 6021
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: (02) 6277 4559
Fax: (02) 6277 8461
IndigenousAffairs.reps@aph.gov.au

Thank you

The Fake Art Harms Culture campaign was launched at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair in August 2016. It is an initiative of the Indigenous Art Code with Arts Law and Copyright Agency|Viscopy. Special thanks to our campaign partners Desart, Association of Northern Kimberley Arnhem Aboriginal Artists, Indigenous Art Centre Alliance, Aboriginal Art Centre Hub WA, Ananguku Arts, Gab Titui Cultural Centre, UMI Arts and creative agency Behaviour Change Partners for their help in executing the campaign.