Unethical galleries and dealers will be named and shamed under the Indigenous Australian Art Commercial Code of Conduct.

The voluntary code has been introduced after a Senate report found some Indigenous artists were exploited, bullied and harassed.

The code allows reports of unfair practices in the industry to be be investigated and publicised.

But some art centres are concerned because agreeing to the code is not mandatory.

Chairman of the code’s board Ron Merkel QC says if industry does not get behind the code, government imposed legislation is the next step.

But he does not think that would be in the interests of industry.

“It means that you’re starting to approach every breach with the sledgehammer of the law, rather than with the gentler approach that a code compliance committee based on industry sources and representation can bring,” he said.

He also rejects critics who have called the code a toothless tiger.

“By having this power to name and shame, to say people are acting in breach of the code and not be intimidated by those people who in the past have been able to get away with it by intimidating anyone who complained against them, is going to make the public more confident that the Aboriginal art they’ve got is more likely to be ethically sourced.”