After a two-year legal battle (and many more years of disputes and conflict), the Aboriginal flag is freely available for public use now that the designer transferred copyright to the Commonwealth in a $20 million deal that supersedes any other holdings. Designed in 1970 by Aboriginal artist Harold Thomas, the black, yellow and red flag became an iconic symbol that represents Indigenous people, the majesty of their land and the unwavering connection between them. Copyright issues came to a head when Gunditjmara woman and CEO of Clothing The Gaps (a hybrid social enterprise and apparel brand), Laura Thompson found out—thanks to being served a cease and desist—that non-Indigenous brand WAM Clothing “held exclusive international rights to sell clothing with the Aboriginal Flag.” (That company, meanwhile, is part-owned by Ben Wooster, whose previous business was fined $2.3 million by the federal court for selling fake Aboriginal art.) The team at Clothing The Gaps and others have worked together since 2020 to secure this new copyright deal. Although it is a win, there are still questions about future custodianship. Thompson tells The Guardian, “I feel like this is as good as we’re going to get in terms of freeing the Aboriginal flag. It is a significant amount of money, but we paid $30m for the boxing kangaroo. Can you compare the significance of the Aboriginal flag to the boxing kangaroo? My grandkids, my great-grandkids, will have the Aboriginal flag in their lives, uniting them and supporting their culture and making them feel safe in community.” Thomas, who rarely speaks out about his immensely important work, says, “I hope this arrangement provides comfort to all Aboriginal people and Australians to use the flag, unaltered, proudly and without restriction. I am grateful that my art is appreciated by so many, and that it has come to represent something so powerful to so many.” Read more at The Guardian.
Image courtesy of Reuters