Dear Readers,

As you are the most expert people in the matter of authenticity in the matter of Indigenous art and craft, may I remind you that June 15th is the closing date for you to advise the Government on the matter. Not, of course, on Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property, which is properly a matter for First Nations people alone. But on the fact that a minute amount of Aboriginal or TSI art is faked, and that much of the craft for the tourist market is imported cheaply.

Here’s what I wrote when the consultative process started:

“Seeking views on new laws to tackle fake Indigenous-style art” shouts the headline on the Federal Office of the Arts (NOT a Ministry) press release – once again perpetuating the furphy that ‘fake art’ is a problem. As I’ve written many times before, fake art barely exists – though white hands on black art may do. In the near future, AI is certainly going to throw up things that an idiot might take for Aboriginal art. But the serious problem is the tourist tat that seems to form a large proportion of the industry. Of that, some two-thirds is fake.

Much of this comes from the Productivity Commission, whose 2023 report came up with the pathetic solution that the $54m-strong inauthentic craft side of the business should be clearly labelled ‘Fake’! Can you see that happening?

So, Arts Minister Tony Burke and his Office are seeking the views of communities and organisations across the country to inform the development of new laws to address the harm caused by “fake art, merchandise and souvenirs”. And the whole process is actually underway in Tasmania – with an engagement session on Monday 4 March between 10 and 1pm, moving to Victoria on Friday.

Get your thinking caps on!

As far as I can tell, anyone interested can participate in these 38 sessions – some dealers, for instance now have 40 years of valuable experience in this field. But Burke emphasises that “The legislation will be developed through a First Nations-led process, with any solution to be informed by—and address the needs of—First Nations peoples”. So the process ends with an Expert Working Group “comprising First Nations representatives, appointed by the Office of the Arts. Expressions of Interest to become a member of the Expert Working Group will open in May”.

That’s short-sighted – though it’s clearly appropriate that the intention to “Introduce stand-alone legislation to protect First Nations knowledge and cultural expressions (ie Intellectural Property)” should be given exclusive First Nations attention.

Written submissions will also be accepted through the Office for the Arts’ Have your say page until 15 June. Then three additional online sessions will be held in June, offering those who were unable to attend in-person sessions the chance to have their say.

Here’s a more detailed examination of the Productivity Commission report:


2024-05-10T13:35:23+10:00May 10th, 2024|Blog, Feature, Industry, News|0 Comments

About the Author:

The mainstay of the News is Jeremy Eccles, an ex-BBC political correspondent, and head of English Radio for Radio Television Hong Kong. Jeremy has written about Indigenous art, theatre, dance, film and literature in most Australian newspapers, the Sydney Review and local art magazines – particularly the Art Market Report, Eyeline, Artist Profile and Art Almanac – and overseas in Asiaweek and The Financial Times. On Aboriginal Art Directory he has contributred almost 700 commentaries. His opera reviews appear on the Bachtrack website. His 1998 documentary film ‘Art from the Heart?’ was shown three times on ABC TV and at international film festivals. Jeremy Eccles is an elected member of the International Association of Art Critics. He has recently been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW for his consistent support of First Nations art and culture.

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