- Products produced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) artists are intrinsically connected to the creative expression of culture, connection to community and respect for Country.
- The unique qualities of ATSI products attracts significant domestic and international market demand with shopping activities (including gifts and souvenirs) representing 12%, or $16.3 billion of total visitor consumption spend in 2016-17 (Australian Tourism Research).
- The scale of this economic opportunity has led to the misappropriation and misrepresentation within the ATSI arts and crafts industry and unethical practices dating back to the 1800s.
- This is an issue that is widespread throughout Australia and is an issue of national significance. It undermines Australia’s efforts to champion ATSI culture as a unique selling point of visiting our country by undermining the human rights of ATSI people to commodify culture for social and economic advancement.
- In 2016 the ‘Fake Art Harms Culture’ campaign was launched collaboratively by Indigenous Art Code, Arts Law and Copyright Agency, to support ATSI artists to lobby the Australian Government to address the proliferation of fake ATSI art and craft products. This included lobbying the government to introduce new legislation to prohibit the sale of art and artefacts misappropriating ATSI culture and designs.
- In February 2017 Mr Bob Katter MP, Member for Kennedy introduced a Private Members Bill proposing new legislation to help prevent the exploitation of Indigenous cultures and the deception of consumers regarding the authenticity of arts and craft goods they were buying.
- Following the proposed Bill, in August 2017 the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs adopted an inquiry into the growing presence of inauthentic ATSI art and craft products and merchandise for sale across Australia. Over 160 video and written submissions were made to the inquiry, representing the concerns of ATSI artists, peak bodies, arts and cultural organisations, art dealers, galleries and souvenir and product business and key government agencies. The inquiry considered the following:
- the definition of authentic art and craft products and merchandise;
- current laws and licensing arrangements for the production, distribution, selling and reselling of authentic ATSI art and craft products and merchandise;
- an examination of the prevalence of inauthentic ATSI ‘style’ art and craft products and merchandise in the market;
- options to promote the authentic products for the benefit of artists and consumers; and
- options to restrict the prevalence of inauthentic ATSI ‘style’ art and craft products and merchandise in the market.
- At the conclusion of the Parliamentary Inquiry the Australian government released its findings in December 2018. The report was made public and concluded that evidence provided supported the extraordinary statistics stated by the IAC, with evidence concurring that 80% of the souvenir sold in Australia are fake or imitation products. The Committee witnessed this firsthand undertaking their own coordinated visits to gift shops in popular tourist areas of Sydney where they saw firsthand the overwhelming amount of imitation product being sold within the market.
- Key creative practitioners, stakeholders, art centre representatives and artists collaboratively supported the establishment of the Product Development Project at the Pilbara Creative & Cultural Forum held in Newman in September 2018.
- In April 2020 the report of Senate’s Environment and Communications Legislation Committee on Competition and Consumer Amendment (Prevention of Exploitation of Indigenous Cultural Expressions) Bill 2019 was tabled in Parliament with key recommendation being “that the Commonwealth consult Indigenous artists, organisations and communities to develop legislation to prohibit the sale of inauthentic Indigenous products sold as souvenirs, either through amendment of Competition and Consumer Act 2010 or through another mechanism”.
- In September 2020 Minister Wyatt announced that the Federal Government for the first time was taking steps forward to protect genuine Indigenous art, announcing it was considering legislation that would crack down of the fake souvenir and merchandise market.
ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER (ATSI) PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT PROJECT (PDP)
The ATSI PDP is a first of its kind pilot project attempting to disrupt an existing market and reset the parameters of best practice through the creation of frameworks and subsequent resources that help realise the current opportunity to capture demand for ATSI art and product through the participation of ATSI artists and art centres in Australia’s merchandise and souvenir market. The objective of the PDP is to provide greater opportunities for ATSI artists within the industry to have greater claim in the market financially whilst reclaiming ownerships and authority over the products entering the market, ultimately ensuring the market values and respects ATSI culture.
The ATSI PDP commenced in July 2020 and is consistent with the 2017 Parliamentary Inquiry recommendations.
STAGE 1 RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Undertake foundational research to demystify and de-risk the project, whilst informing and refining the cultural and commercial viability of the project. (Item 2 and 3 of Inquiry) through:
- Supply Chain Analysis
- GS1 Barcoding Feasibility
- Qualitative and Quantitative Research
STAGE 2 CULTURAL PROTOCOLS AND PRODUCT IDENTIFICATION AND SUPPLY CHAIN ANALYSIS
Pioneer a new way of selecting and designing ATSI products and licensing opportunities. This will be achieved by focusing on the makers – ATSI artists, art centres and their communities and investigating:
- Cultural Protocols and Product Identification
- Supply Chain Analysis
- Strategic Procurement Framework
STAGE 3 KEY MESSAGING & EDUCATION, SUPPLY CHAIN COMBINATIONS AND LICENSING/CONTRACT MODELS
- Key Messaging & Education
- Supply Chain Framework
- Licensing & Contract Models
STAGE 4 PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT AND LIVE TESTING
- Product Development
- Supply Chain Framework Testing
- Licensing and Contract Model Testing
The objective of the PDP is to develop a framework and subsequent resources that help realise the current opportunity to capture demand for authentic ATSI art and product through the participation of ATSI artists and art centres in the Australian merchandise and souvenir market, guiding artists and art centres through the process of product development and licensing.
Whilst it is not within the remit of the ATSI PDP to introduce legislative change preventing the sale of fake and inauthentic ATIS product and souvenirs, the long-term objective is to support the Federal Government Inquiry into the growing presence of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘style’ art and craft products and merchandise for sale across Australia and continue to advocate through the Fake Art Harms Culture and Art is our Lifeline campaigns to demonstrate the pervasiveness of exploitation of ATSI cultures for financial gain by non-Aboriginal people.
In supporting legislative change, the ATSI PDP will deliver the following:
- foundational research on retailer/consumer requirements,
- options for an education campaign to inform the public about the importance of promoting and purchasing authentic ATSI product and merchandise
- strategies to allow consumers to make informed decisions about their purchases and give a confidence and clarity of provenance
- protection over intellectual property and greater control over the type of licensing arrangements that the artists work is used in, opportunities to earn additional income and negotiate different rates for different circumstances