HomeInternationalAustralian government buys rights to Aboriginal flag for $14 million

Australian government buys rights to Aboriginal flag for $14 million

Australia’s government has purchased the copyright to the Aboriginal flag, making it freely obtainable for public use and ending a longstanding battle over the design.

In a deal price greater than 20 million Australian {dollars} ($14 million), Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government secured the rights from Indigenous artist Harold Thomas, who created the flag over 50 years in the past.

The settlement means the flag can now be reproduced on clothes, merchandise, sports activities jerseys or artworks — with out permission and freed from cost. In an announcement, Morrison stated the flag had been “freed,” including that his administration had “sought to protect the integrity of the Aboriginal Flag, in line with Harold Thomas’ wishes.”

The crimson, black and yellow design has been acknowledged as an official flag of Australia since 1995. But it turned the topic of a industrial dispute when an organization that licensed the picture from Thomas started demanding cost from varied organizations utilizing it, together with a well being charity, a number of clothes manufacturers and Australia’s National Rugby League.

A 2020 parliamentary inquiry, which supported government efforts to purchase the rights from the artist, described the licensee’s actions as “heavy-handed” however “entirely legal.”

A man holds the Aboriginal flag at a rally in Sydney, Australia.

A person holds the Aboriginal flag at a rally in Sydney, Australia. Credit: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

A “Free the Flag” marketing campaign, based in 2019, referred to as for an finish to the unique licensing agreements. It gained help from a number of high-profile Aboriginal Australians, together with former Olympian Nova Peris.

In an announcement, minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, described the flag as an “enduring symbol close to the heart of Aboriginal people,” including: “Now that the Commonwealth holds the copyright, it belongs to everyone, and no one can take it away.”

Designed by Thomas forward of an indication in Adelaide in 1971, the flag has since change into an emblem for Aboriginal Australians and is usually seen flying from government buildings. The design’s yellow circle represents the solar and the black stripe symbolizes Indigenous individuals, whereas the crimson portion relates to each their blood and the earth.
Harold Thomas, designer of the Aboriginal flag, pictured in 1994.

Harold Thomas, designer of the Aboriginal flag, pictured in 1994. Credit: Craig Golding/The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media/Getty Images

In an opinion piece printed within the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday, Thomas described the flag as a “deeply personal” art work.

“When I created the flag, I created it as a symbol of unity and pride,” he wrote. “That pride we have for our identity that harks back to the birthing of our dreaming, to the present existence and beyond. And we humble ourselves and give homage to all that has been created and left for us.

“The flag was by no means meant to be a political platform. In the longer term, the flag will stay, not as an emblem of battle, however as an emblem of satisfaction and unity.”

Thomas also revealed he had minted a digital copy of the flag as an NFT, or non-fungible token. He said he intends to keep the digital token on “an ongoing foundation, on behalf of Indigenous communities.”

Ongoing questions

The deal was welcomed by the opposition Labor Party, with shadow minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, utilizing a TV look on Sky News Australia to specific her “monumental sense of aid” that the flag was “let loose.”
But others questioned the timing of the deal, which was announced the day before the country’s increasingly controversial national day, Australia Day. Writing on Instagram, Indigenous artist Rachael Sarra accused Morrison of “diverting the narrative so come (January) 26 he can declare to be a hero.”
The Aboriginal flag projected onto Sydney Opera House on Australia Day in 2021.

The Aboriginal flag projected onto Sydney Opera House on Australia Day in 2021. Credit: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Lidia Thorpe, senator for the Australian state of Victoria, meanwhile questioned whether the flag’s copyright should be held by the national government, rather than the Indigenous community. “This is a win for grassroots individuals who fought for our proper to use our flag, however I’m frightened that it is not going into group management,” she tweeted. “The Aboriginal flag belongs with Aboriginal individuals.”

Morrison’s office said in a news release that Thomas will retain “his ethical rights” over the design. And while the flag has been freed for personal use, the textile printing firm Carroll & Richardson Flagworld will “stay the unique licensed producer and supplier of Aboriginal Flags and bunting.” Royalties from those sales will go towards the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC), with the government also announcing a new 100,000 Australian dollar ($71,000) scholarship in Thomas’ honor.

In an email to CNN, the National Indigenous Australians Agency confirmed the multi-million-dollar figure includes both the fee paid to Thomas and “funds to the licensees for termination of their licenses.”



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