Lonely Planet Writer

Australia's indigenous artists are calling for fake Aboriginal souvenirs to be made illegal

Visitors to Australia love picking up Aboriginal-style keepsakes, but the country’s indigenous arts community is calling on the Government to make changes to the law to make it illegal to import and sell fake Aboriginal souvenirs.

Colourful designs on aboriginal musical didgeridoos.Image: Zelg/Getty Images
Colourful designs on aboriginal musical didgeridoos.Image: Zelg/Getty Images

It isn’t breaking the law at present for shops to sell imitation Aboriginal souvenirs under Australian competition and consumer laws. It’s not considered misleading, as long as the souvenirs are not specifically claiming to be authentic and contain a small sticker stating where they were made.

The Digeridoo, an Aboriginal musical instrument. Image: Kypros/Getty Images
The digeridoo, an Aboriginal musical instrument. Image: Kypros/Getty Images

As a result, campaigners found imitation Aboriginal souvenirs made in countries like India, Indonesia and China on sale in 80% of shops they visited. The campaigners include Indigenous Art Code, a group that works to preserve and promote ethical trading in indigenous art.

Bagu with Jiman artwork. Image: Girringun Aboriginal Corporation
Bagu with Jiman artwork. Image: Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre

They say that each cultural group has its own particular designs and patterns, and the fake items are merely a type of imitation art. They would like to see all aboriginal art and crafts on sale being made by indigenous people, or licensed to them.

Aboriginal artist Loongkoonan, now thought to be 105, poses in front of some of her artwork. Image: David Mariuz/AFP/Getty Images
Aboriginal artist Loongkoonan, now thought to be 105, poses in front of some of her artwork. Image: David Mariuz/AFP/Getty Images

The protesters would like these changes to be made before an influx of tourists arrive for next year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. In a statement, the Australian Government has indicated that it will continue working with the Indigenous Art Code and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to resolve the matter.

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