Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt is now in talks to buy the rights to the Aboriginal flag, and honestly, we couldn’t be more excited.
Wyatt is now reportedly in talks with Indigenous artist and copyright holder Harold Thomas, designer of the flag in 1971, as well as the non-Indigenous company that currently owns the commercial licensing rights.
“I commit to doing everything I can to bring about a resolution that respects not only the artist of the flag but a resolution that respects the rights, enterprise and opportunity of all Australians,” Wyatt said on Friday.
Writing in the @australian I commit to doing everything I can to bring about a resolution that respects not only the artist of the flag, but a resolution that respects the rights, enterprise and opportunity of all Australians.https://t.co/gb3Jxd7ZaP
— Ken Wyatt (@KenWyattAM) September 3, 2020
Here’s a quick explainer as to who owns the flag currently:
Despite what you might think, the flag isn’t currently in the public domain. Under current laws, the emblem won’t be totally free to use until long into the future.
In 2018, Harold Thomas (the flag’s creator) granted exclusive worldwide copyright license to produce the flag onto clothing to a company named WAM Clothing Pty Ltd, which is a non-Indigenous company. Because of this, WAM now controls the use of the flag on clothing and its reproduction worldwide. Thomas earns royalties every time the flag is licensed through WAM.
So today, Ken Wyatt took to writing a piece in The Australian to detail just why reclaiming the Aboriginal flag back would be a huge step forward for all Australians.
“The abhorrent practices undertaken by those who produce fake Indigenous art unquestionably erode Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and diminishes economic opportunities for our people,” he wrote.
“We must delicately balance the wishes of all Australians for free use of the Australian Aboriginal Flag with the law of our land, designed to uphold and protect the intellectual property of every Australian.
“But we have an opportunity before us to again unify our nation. The flag is more than a symbol, and it is more than a piece of art. It is who we are — both as individuals and as a nation.”
The long-running issue of who has rights to the flag recently resurfaced after the AFL was denied use of the Aboriginal flag during its Indigenous round.
For some time the minister has held private conversations with Thomas to buy the intellectual property rights. Until now, all offers have been turned down.