The Aboriginal flag is a national symbol, but it’s not being treated like one said the Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters.
Labor has announced that they will introduce a private members bill to compel the Government to negotiate with all rights holders so the Aboriginal flag design can be used freely by the community, similar to the Australian flag.
“WAM Clothing who now holds a license to produce items using the flag’s design has recently introduced restrictions on the use of the Aboriginal flag. These actions are unacceptable and heartbreaking,” said Ms Chesters
“This is a national flag and the Government has to make sure that it is freely available to all Australians.
“The Morrison Government has the power and the resources to fix this.”
“The Morrison Government should come to an arrangement with WAM clothing that respects the copyright of Harold Thomas and frees the flag so it can be used without restrictions.
“If Government fails to do so, Labor wants the parliament to make them.
“Lots of locals have contacted me about this issue. Many in our community are shocked that a design so significant to so many is being held hostage to commercial exploitation.”
“I’ve provided dozens of aboriginal flags to schools, sporting clubs and organisations in the last 12 months alone. Every year, the NADOC Week Flag Raising Ceremony is one of the most significant and moving events in our community.
“It’s outrageous that a private company is holding this symbol of incredible strength for its private profit.
“This flag is a symbol of our First Nations people and therefore, it must be treated with the respect other flags of significance are,” said Ms Chesters
“All Australians should be able to display the flag with pride.”
The flag, designed by Luritja artist Harold Thomas in 1971, has since become a symbol of national identity and in 1995 was made an official “Flag of Australia”.
In 1997, the Federal Court recognised Harold Thomas as the creator of the Aboriginal Flag and granted him the copyright.
WAM Clothing, a non-Aboriginal company now holds a license to produce items using the flag’s design. This company has been seeking to enforce its exclusive right to use the Aboriginal flag on clothing by sending cease and desist letters to Aboriginal organisations, sporting codes and Aboriginal health services.
By comparison, the copyright of the Australian Flag is held by the Commonwealth and the copyright of the Torres Strait Island flag is held by the Torres Strait Regional Council.