The campaign to create a new Aboriginal flag has gained momentum this week after Harold Thomas defended his decision to give exclusive merchandising rights to a company owned by the same man at the centre of the fake Aboriginal art trade.
Birubi Art was recently fined $2.3 Million dollars for selling imported fake Aboriginal art from Indonesia. The company flooded the national market with products labelled as authentic and made in Australia. The company effectively undermined Aboriginal artists around the country over a number of years.
Despite knowledge of this case which gained national attention, Harold Thomas, the designer of the Aboriginal flag, transferred the exclusive merchandising rights from Birubi Art to the new company WAM Clothing. The owner of WAM Clothing, who is non-Indigenous, was quick to start exercising his exclusive rights by sending cease and desist letters to any company that was selling products that was using the Aboriginal flag.
It’s important to note that Birubi Art had been sending cease and desist letters in previous years before the company was fined, but now Harold Thomas has been criticised and questioned more than ever as to why he would continue his business relationship knowing that the man he is dealing with undermined genuine Aboriginal artists. The decision has resulted in many people calling Harold Thomas a sellout.
In a recent interview with CAAMA radio, Thomas didn’t seem to understand the outrage his business decisions have created amongst our community. In his interview, he simply reminded people that he was the designer and copyright holder. Instead of discussing why he chose to continue his business relationships, he criticised those who are calling him out.
Despite stating that he wanted the flag to unite our people, he also hinted that the flag was mostly connected to Aboriginal Nations in Central Australia and he even questioned why no one fought for the Aboriginal flag to be owned by all of our people in the past.
So now the calls that have been ongoing for over a year to create a new Aboriginal flag are suddenly gaining a lot of momentum. The flag which was aimed at uniting our people, has been tainted by what many are calling greed.
There is now a campaign for Aboriginal flags to be held upside down throughout NAIDOC week activities and a plan for the flag to be retired and replaced completely on Invasion Day (January 26) 2020. Interestingly, the protocol around retiring a flag includes burning the flag in a respectful manner until it turns to ashes (as shown below).
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