South West artist fears cul­ture theft

South Western Times - - News - Sarah Ison

South West Wadandi artist San­dra Hill has said she feels her cul­ture is be­ing stolen and greater re­stric­tions are needed to pre­vent the “fake” prod­ucts do­ing more harm.

“A to­tal ban would give us the op­por­tu­nity to put our work out there,” she said. “Right now it feels like op­por­tu­ni­ties are be­ing taken from us and our cul­ture is be­ing be­lit­tled.”

Her com­ments come as the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Indige­nous Af­fairs is draw­ing to­gether ev­i­dence from its year-long in­quiry into in­au­then­tic Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der art and craft.

The com­mit­tee be­gan work last year and has been col­lect­ing sub­mis­sions on the pro­lif­er­a­tion of fake art, of­ten im­ported from over­seas mar­kets such as China, and the eco­nomic and cul­tural ef­fect on Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties.

About 160 sub­mis­sions have been made so far from artists and or­gan­i­sa­tions alike, some push­ing for a to­tal ban on im­ported “fake” art fill­ing tourist shops.

Ms Hill said she was fully con­fi­dent ex­ist­ing artists could fill the de­mand left by a po­ten­tial ban.

“I’ve not met many Abo­rig­i­nals who can’t paint or make things with their hands,” she said.

“It’s just some­thing they’ve got in them and it’s also very healing.

“What’s go­ing on now is pre­vent­ing that healing from hap­pen­ing.”

The Aus­tralia Con­sumer Law pro­hibits mis­lead­ing and false rep­re­sen­ta­tions, in­clud­ing the sale and mar­ket­ing of indige­nous art.

But the Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion ad­mit­ted in its sub­mis­sion there were chal­lenges in reg­u­lat­ing the space ef­fec­tively.

Cul­tural Min­is­ter David Tem­ple­man said the Gov­ern­ment wanted to see au­then­tic Abo­rig­i­nal prod­ucts with clear prove­nance for lo­cals and tourists alike and the fake art was of se­ri­ous con­cern.

“The is­sue of in­au­then­tic Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der style prod­ucts con­tin­ues to be one of con­cern for Western Aus­tralia, in­clud­ing the arts, tourism and re­tail in­dus­tries,” he said.

“The 2017 In­quiry by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Indige­nous Af­fairs into the grow­ing pres­ence of in­au­then­tic art and craft prod­ucts and mer­chan­dise for sale across Aus­tralia is yet to re­port.

“When it does we will look at the op­tions avail­able to us to en­sure that the right com­mu­ni­ties ben­e­fit from the work they pro­duce.”

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