Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair. Picture: SHANNON BRETT
Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair. Picture: SHANNON BRETT

Fake art peddlers ‘should be fined’

THE organisers of the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair have told a parliamentary inquiry profiteering from fake indigenous art should be a criminal offence.

The federal inquiry into "the growing presence of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 'style' art", held two days of hearings in Darwin as the DAAF kicked off on Friday.

In its submission, the DAAF Foundation said the new law targeting rip-off merchants would be "a meaningful step towards stopping a very public and damaging form of exploitation".

Foundation executive director Claire Summers said the fair generated $20 million in revenue for indigenous artists last year, but this was only possible "if there is a clear agreement negotiated for the artist".

"Sadly, there are still too many designs that are being replicated without permission," she wrote.

"Much ATSI knowledge and cultural expressions are not protected under Australian copyright laws which only protect individual artistic creations."

Ms Summers said "gaps" in current laws were "facilitating the widespread production of inauthentic objects and their distribution to unknowing consumers".

In a separate submission from the Maningrida-based Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation, general manager Michelle Culpitt called for fines to be imposed for those caught flogging the cheap knock-offs.

"Aboriginal style products that undermine and undercut artists and cultural custodians are widely available," she wrote.

"Cheap textiles didjeridus, clap sticks, boomerangs, generic dotting and souvenirs and merchandise made and manufactured by non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be banned and fines imposed for misrepresentation and misleading consumers."

The inquiry will move to Canberra for further hearings next week.