Leichhardt Council is about to host a panel discussion on ethical trade of Aboriginal art. It comes after a pop-up auction house offering Aboriginal art with questions around provenance (reported by Amos Aikman in The Australian) began renting space in the area, and pressure from local galleries was brought to bear regarding the need for wariness on ethics around Aboriginal art. And the idea for a forum was born.

It has expanded to include input from the Indigenous Art Code, along with the Eastern Region Local Government Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Forum (or ERLGATSIF as rather helpfully conveyed in the press release), a big area in Sydney which takes in the councils of Leichhardt, City of Sydney, Randwick, Botany, Woollahra and Waverley.

Rochelle Porteous, Mayor of Leichhardt, is passionate about the commitment she has given to the cause, particularly to helping local galleries. “Local government can, and should, take a position in this discussion and help to promote ethical practice as best practice,” she said. “We want to make that conversation accessible and discuss how the relationship between artist, dealer and gallery actually works.”

For Indigenous Art Code CEO, Gabrielle Sullivan, it is also a way to, “Celebrate the diversity of Indigenous visual arts practice and address the ongoing issue of unethical trade.”

Being moderated by art collector, Jane Caro (of Gruen fame), the composition includes 6 panellists – 4 of whom are from outside Sydney. We’ve been told Bronwyn Bancroft, a prominent local Aboriginal art identity who is on the board of the Copyright Agency and whose studio is located in Leichhardt, was not available. And one of Sydney’s most influential people on the art scene, Hetti Perkins, was also approached.

But that aside, the panel, which includes two art dealers, one curator, a collector, an Aboriginal artist and an ethicist (namely, Adrian Newstead, Chris Hodges, Franchesca Cubillo, Geoff Hassall, Elizabeth Marrkily Ellis and Christian Barry) is a good mix. And it’s a discussion which is being promoted as “lively”.

News of the forum has been well received by the local galleries, including Di Stevens of Tali Gallery who participated in a similar forum during Art Month a couple of years ago. “It is a conversation that consumers need to be made aware of, to fully understand the ethics and authenticity behind buying paintings,” she said.

“Starting the Conversation: Ethical Trade in Indigenous Art” will take place at Leichhardt Town Hall on Thursday, 17 September at 6.45pm and is open to all.

For further information or any queries, please contact the Leichhardt Municipal Council.