South West artist fears culture theft
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.”