The Australia Council for the Arts today welcomed the decision by the Australian Government to hold a parliamentary inquiry to examine ways to strengthen the Indigenous visual arts and craft sector.
Australia Council chairman James Strong AO said: ‘Issues surrounding the value of Indigenous art to the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians and to our national culture have reached a critical point. The Australia Council has already expressed its concern about strong evidence of appropriation of traditional imagery and design, and we will present this and other material to the inquiry.’
The Australia Council today launched a report – Indigenous cultural and intellectual property: the main issues for the Indigenous arts industry in 2006 – highlighting areas of concern, including exploitation of Indigenous artists’ works, failure to recognise communal moral rights, unethical practices among some galleries, cheap fakes and other copyright infringements. The report will form part of the Australia Council’s submission to the inquiry, run by the Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Legislation Committee.
Australia Council CEO Jennifer Bott said the Australia Council for the Arts and its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts board had fought hard for many years to keep Indigenous culture strong. To protect copyright and cultural ownership, the board has published five Indigenous protocol guides in free booklet form, covering song, new media, performing, visual arts and writing. It has also helped to establish ‘Artists in the Black’, the first national legal advice and support service for Indigenous artists.
Ms Bott applauded the Australian Government’s announcement that the inquiry would look to make recommendations on unscrupulous and unethical conduct in the sector. ‘Our efforts to support these cultures as part of the contemporary experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and a source of pride for all Australians has met with great success in recent years – most spectacularly with the Australian Indigenous Art Commission at the new MusÈe du quai Branly in Paris – but troubling issues surrounding royalties and copyright remain.’
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