History of the Aboriginal flag

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Aboriginal Flag Senate Enquiry

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Free The Flag Movement Begins

This fight has become much bigger than us being able to sell a t-shirt and the #FreeTheFlag movement was born. With small Community sporting clubs and major sporting codes alike being served their own ‘Cease and Desist’, and the Aboriginal Flag disappearing due to the extra costs and process in having it on uniforms,  this is about equal access and rights to the Aboriginal flag for Community. The Aboriginal Flag was proclaimed as a National Flag of Australia in 1995 and we believe it should be treated and be able to be used like all over national world flags.

Unfortunately, we are in danger of our flag disappearing and becoming meaningless and at the state-wide Aboriginal sports carnivals this year, there are less teams with the flags on their uniforms and some have chosen to replace the flag with the Free The Flag logo because the 20% WAM fee from many Community organisation and sporting teams is too hefty. Read more about sporting codes and the Aboriginal flags on our blog

Photo: Laura Thompson, Sharni Wellington (NITV), Nova Peris, Michael Connolly.

In September, 2019 a Queensland Indigenous health charity has had to pay $2,200 to use the Aboriginal flag on the shirts it gives away to patients, because the licensing rights of the Aboriginal flag. The flag copyright is not only impacting on business and people but, local Aboriginal Organisations as well..

The Indigenous Wellbeing Centre (IWC) in Bundaberg gives away a free T-shirt as an incentive to encourage Aboriginal people to come into the clinic for a preventative health check.

The IWC is the latest Aboriginal organisation to run into trouble for using the Aboriginal flag on clothing.

Photo: Indigenous Wellness Centre in Queensland can't escape WAM 

Parliament Excursion

On the 28July 2019, Laura Thompson, Nova Peris and Michael Connolly from Dreamtime Kullilla-Art travelled to Canberra to lobby politicians and the ‘PrideNotProfit’ petition was tabled by our local Labor MP Ged Kearney in the Senate with over 47,000 signatories. Ged called on the Government to action this and to use all available means to Free the Flag.

The Senate Motion

Our advocacy was successful and during the Senate debates regarding Indigenous Australians a motion about the Aboriginal flag copyright was passed  on 1 August, 2019 by Senators Siewert, Hanson Young and Dodson that:

(a) notes:

(i) that, in 1995, the Aboriginal Flag was recognised as a 'flag of Australia' under the Flags Act 1953

(ii) that the designer of the Aboriginal flag owns the flag's copyright and has licensed the rights to use the flag on garments to a company which is now requiring people to ask for permission to use the emblem and pay a fee, 

(iii) that the license has now been expanded to physical and digital media, 

(iv) that many First Nations communities feel they are at the mercy of a company seeking to profit from their flag and

(v) the concerns in many First Nations communities that their flag is licensed to a company; and 

(b) recognises that the Aboriginal flag is one of Australia's national symbols and a central part of first people's National identity and that the flag should be about people and pride not profit; and

(c) calls on the Federal Government to do everything they can to ensure that all First Nations peoples and communities can use the flag whenever they want without cost or the need for consent.

ATSIC Flag License and Senate Flag Discussion

Laura Thompson attending the unveiling of Nova Peris portrait on the 16 Oct, 2019 at Parliament house and ran into Senator Rachel Siewart(The Greens) at the event. 

Photo:Nova Peris & Laura Thompson with her portrait painted by Yorta Yorta & Dja Dja Warung artist, Jandamarra Cadd. 

Senator Siewart asked "how she can help the Free The Flag campaign?" We spoke briefly about the old ATSIC agreement and license to use the Aboriginal flag and this legend replied, she will ask for this document during the Senate Estimates. 

On the 25 October, Senator Siewart worked her magic and asked some brilliant questions alongside, Senator Jenny McAllister (Labour) to the newly formed National Indigenous Australians Agency staff (NIAA) CEO, Mr Ray Griggs and Program Manager, Ryan Bulman in the video clip below from the Senate Estimates parliamentary sitting.

These questions were about the higher purpose of the flag and the current government's policy objectives about the Aboriginal flag copyright and licensees. 

Photo: Nova Peris, Senator Siewart & Laura Thompson

The ATSIC Agreement with Harold Thomas was tabled as a result. Nova continues to use her voice to talk about OUR flag

On Nov 16 2019, Nova Peris won the Dreamtime Awards Lifetime Achievement Award. She delivered a first class speech and finished off by talking passionately about the Aboriginal Flag. She said “This is OUR flag, we have had an implied license since it was flown in 1972 at the Tent Embassy”. These were powerful words by Nova Person who is not giving up until the flag is free.

Video: This is a small snippit of Nova Peris's speech when she was awarded Life Time Achievement Award at the Dreamtime Awards.

Thomas licenses rights to WAM Clothing for a $20,000 lump sum plus royalties over 10 years

In the article, 'Tempers Fray as Flag Fight Unfurls' published by Leisa Scott in The Courier Mail on 18 Jan, 2020 it reveals for the first time the details of the contract between WAM Clothing and Harold Thomas. WAM Clothing was established in Nov 2018 and signed a worldwide exclusive agreement with Harold Thomas for the use of the Aboriginal flag on Clothing.

What we didn't know was, Harold licensing agreement with WAM Clothing was for a $20,000 lump sum plus royalties over 10 years. Yep, you read it right $20k plus royalties for 10 years! 

Link to article below in the Reference List by Liesa Scott from The Courier. 

The CAAMA interview lasts approx. 25 minutes however, it's worth a listen to gain some insights into Harold Thomas's perspectives on the issue.

WAM Clothing also released a statement on the 11 June after Laura appeared on Chanel Ten, The Project TV. They claimed it was directly from Harold Thomas: “As it is my common law right and Aboriginal heritage right, as with many other Aboriginals, I can choose who I like to have a licence agreement to manufacture goods which have the Aboriginal flag on it.

The audacity of WAM Clothing 

WAM Clothing has produced an ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ tee for the NAIDOC 2020 theme but, it looked almost identical to the Carla Scotto one we sell at Clothing The Gap.

It’s ironic that WAM Clothing (a non- Indigenous company) is copying someone else’s artwork and profiting of it yet, they have issued so many Cease and Desist letters to Indigenous companies and organisations for using the Aboriginal flag.

Carla Scotto reached out to us at Clothing The Gap after we were issued with a Cease and Desist from WAM Clothing for using the Aboriginal Flag products. 

Statement for Carla Scotto, "My partnership with Clothing The Gap is something I chose and initiated, I wanted to give back to an organisation that directly supported Indigenous health at a grassroots level, and I wanted a means of ‘paying the rent’. Since giving Clothing The Gap (an Aboriginal owned and led business) permission to use my design exclusively on merchandise, I have had the joy of seeing my work truly serve a purpose. I never imagined or wanted a business like, WAM Clothing to benefit financially or rip off my artwork and Aboriginal community."

Photo:L-R WAM Clothing tee, Clothing The Gap Tee.

This design from Carla, we saw as an alternative to using the Aboriginal flag until it free from copyright and it’s our best seller. . Check our Carla Scotto x Clothing The Gap tees. We have since entered into a legal exclusive licensing agreement with Carla Scotto for this artwork and have sent WAM Clothing a Cease and Desist demanding they stop selling products resembling Carla's artwork immediately! 

Flag World threaten to sue for reworked [-o-] flag

Non-Indigenous company Carroll & Richardson Flagworld have had an exclusive worldwide license for using the image of Aboriginal flag on physical flags, such as the those you would see on a flag pole, for over 20 years (since 1998)!  They are now seeking to sue operators of the Free The Flag website for an 'alleged copyright infringement for selling flags featuring a reworked version of the Aboriginal flag' with a solid yellow outline of Australia in the middle instead of a yellow circle. One of the flags features the words "Free the Flag" in the centre of the Australia outline.

For clarity, Clothing The Gap are not the operators of the Free The Flag website nor the creator of these designs. 

The Judge in the Federal Court Case says "The [flags sold by Free the Flag] ... are not the same as the Aboriginal flag, but that does not show that Flag World may not have a right to obtain relief," he said. 

This case has potential impacts on the Free The Flag campaign and could set a legal precedence around what is and is not a variation of the copyrighted Aboriginal Flag. Watch this space!

Lance 'Buddy' Franklin sells WAM Clothing Aboriginal Flag Tees, SHAME!

Nova Peris, has taken aim at Indigenous AFL superstar Lance Franklin for his association with a clothing company that seeks to profit from the use of the Aboriginal flag.

"I've never met [Franklin]. But this is why we're upset. Everything we've been fighting for, for the past 18 months, for him to go and do what he's doing is a kick in the guts for all of us," Peris told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

Franklin was selling WAM products on his Buddy Franklin Authentic website, but said in a statement that he will refrain from doing so until the flag in made freely available.

Photo: © Getty Buddy Franklin and Nova Peris.

 Photo:Buddy FranklinsIG Statement and apology. 

Read MoreCherny, D. (June 8, 2020).

Buddy embroiled in Aboriginal flag controversy. Retrieved from The Age.

Aboriginal Flag disappears from 2020 Indigenous Round

Mixed emotions about the Aboriginal Flag missing from the 2020 AFL Indigenous round but, glad that the non-Indigenous company WAM is not profiting of our (Aboriginal) identity. But, sad that the Aboriginal flag is disappearing from our sporting landscape!

Well done, to the AFL for not paying to use the Aboriginal Flag but, we you need to speak up about why and pressure the government.

Read more: Cherny, D. (August 16, 2020). Aboriginal flag disappears from Indigenous RoundRetrieved from The Age.

Read more: Cherny, D. (August 16, 2020). Aboriginal flag disappears from Indigenous RoundRetrieved from The Age.

Photo: Collingwood Football Club the first team to show their support for the Free The Flag campaign. 

Read More: Cherny, D. (August 17, 2020). Collingwood push to 'free' Aboriginal flag retrieved from The Age.

Not long after Collingwood jumped on board the campaign every other AFL club made a decision to unite together and stand in solidarity to #FreeTheFlag.

History of the Aboriginal flag

Read here

Aboriginal Flag Senate Enquiry

Read here