• Media Release

On the back of a number of legal stoushes that have seen Aboriginal organisations charged or served with Cease and Desist notices for reproducing the Aboriginal flag, Labor has called on the Morrison Government to find a solution.  

Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon spoke in the Federal Parliament on the issue yesterday, saying that Aboriginal people and organisations had been prohibited from using the flag, which has been copyrighted by a privately owned clothing company.  

“Tragically, Aboriginal people are finding themselves unable to use this important cultural symbol because the licensing rights now belong to a private company, WAM Clothing,” Ms Claydon said.

“The idea that something so deeply symbolic as an official flag of Australia could be sold or licensed to a private company is profoundly troubling.”

Ms Claydon said WAM Clothing was a for-profit company founded by a Queensland businessman, Ben Wooster, who is one of two non-Indigenous owners.

“Mr Wooster's previous business venture was Birubi Art, which last year made history for all the wrong reasons. Now defunct, Birubi Art was found to be misleading consumers and was fined a record $2.3 million for selling thousands of Indonesian-made items as so-called genuine and authentic Aboriginal art,” Ms Claydon said.

“Regretfully, WAM is now strongly enforcing its legal rights by registering 'cease and desist' orders for those who use the Aboriginal flag.”

Ms Claydon said the Aboriginal flag conveys deep historical meaning.  

“The Aboriginal Flag was born out of resistance and struggle – it remains a powerful symbol of unity, pride and identity,” Ms Claydon said.

“No other official “Flag of Australia” is licensed to a private, for-profit company – a company that is clearly determined to stop the very same people this flag represents from using it without cost or the need for consent.”

Labor has called on the Morrison Government to step in and find a solution.

“The Aboriginal Flag is an iconic national symbol that should always be about people and pride, not profit,” Ms Claydon said.

“This amendment calls on the Government to do everything in its power to free the Aboriginal flag so it can be used by all Australians, while also respecting and protecting the rights of the flag’s original designer, Harold Thomas.”

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