Providing information that is accessible, inclusive and respectful is at the core of what we do at the Information Access Group. We regularly test our content with our target audience and have undertaken multiple photoshoots to make sure we have images that capture the diversity of our community. We also make sure we keep up-to-date with anything that may require us to adjust the way we visually represent ideas in our work.
So, when we learned of the current legal process surrounding the Aboriginal flag, we knew we had to adapt the way we represented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in our work.
Harold Joseph Thomas is the original artist of the Aboriginal flag. He is a well-known Aboriginal Australian artist and activist from the Luritja people of Central Australia. Thomas transferred the Aboriginal flags’ rights to a company he chose in late 2018. This change gave the company exclusive rights to use the Aboriginal flag on clothing, physical and digital media. This company has called out other companies, who are run and owned by Aboriginal people, to stop the production and distribution of the Aboriginal flag. It has upset many people to learn that the company with exclusive rights on the Aboriginal flag is not owned by Aboriginal people. The current legal process is about how to move forward with the ownership.
Many have voiced that the Aboriginal flag should be made free: no exclusive copyright and owned by everyone. Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, a Yanyuwa Garrawa woman and Labor Senator for the Northern Territory, formed and led a team of Senators in late 2020 for the Select Committee on the Aboriginal Flag. The Select Committee gave two key recommendations:
- The Commonwealth government should not receive a compulsory copyright for the Aboriginal flag under the Australian Constitution.
- An independent group of people will work with the Aboriginal community to create a model, separate from the government, for the future use of the Aboriginal flag. It’s important for Harold Thomas to be included in the discussion and development of this model if it goes ahead. To respect Thomas’ rights, a parliamentary committee can help develop a team of people who would protect the Aboriginal flag. This consultation will be made with, and include Aboriginal people to:
- maintain the Aboriginal flag’s integrity
- keep the dignity of the Aboriginal flag
- make decisions about the Aboriginal flag.
In light of the current legal situation, we understand that we can no longer use the Aboriginal flag to represent Aboriginal peoples in our work. We always want our work to be inclusive and respectful to all peoples and all cultures. So, in this instance, we reached out to Lani Balzan.Lani is a proud Aboriginal woman from the Wiradjuri people of the three-river tribe. Her family comes from Mudgee, but she grew up all over Australia. Lani is a nationally recognised Aboriginal Artist who now calls the Illawarra home. Lani created some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designs for us to use in the communication products we create. This means that we have a range of images to draw on to represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and community in various ways in our work going forward.
You can view Lani’s incredible work on her website called Aboriginal Art by Lani.