Aboriginal flag to be absent during AFL Indigenous round

 

THE AFL's Indigenous round will be played without teams displaying the Aboriginal flag on jerseys in a dispute that has reignited the row over the rights to use the symbol.

The decision follows a copyright issue with WAM Clothing, which owns the exclusive right to licence the use of the flag on clothes and in the media through a 2018 agreement with the Aboriginal artist who ­designed it, Harold Thomas.

WAM Clothing, a non-Indigenous firm, has previously issued "cease and desist" notices to the AFL and other companies for breaching copyright by using the flag and has not been able to reach agreement with the AFL allowing them to sell team jerseys bearing the flag.

 

A previous Australian Rules jersey with the Aboriginal flag on it. Picture: Richard Walker/RDW Photography
A previous Australian Rules jersey with the Aboriginal flag on it. Picture: Richard Walker/RDW Photography


The AFL on Tuesday confirmed it would not be using the flag at all for the first time in the 14 years of the Indigenous Sir Doug Nicholls Round, which kicks off this weekend.

That also includes not painting it into the centre circle of AFL grounds.

Instead it will paint the word "Deadly", commonly used in Aboriginal ­English to mean very good.

Indigenous athlete and former politician Nova Peris yesterday used the issue to call on the federal Government to step in and free the rights to the flag as the Minister for ­Indigenous Affairs Ken Wyatt said the government was "seeking to resolve the matter".

 

Aboriginal flag creator Harold Thomas (centre) with WAM Clothing owners Ben Wooster (left) and Semele Moore (right).
Aboriginal flag creator Harold Thomas (centre) with WAM Clothing owners Ben Wooster (left) and Semele Moore (right).

 

"The Australian Government is aware of the concerns around the copyright of the Aboriginal flag and is seeking to resolve the matter in a way that respects the rights of the flag's creator while ensuring the flag continues to be a symbol of unity for Aboriginal people," a spokesman for Mr Wyatt said on Tuesday.

"I know the creator and copyright owner, Mr Harold Thomas, encourages all Australians to fly and show the flag with pride."

Mr Thomas, a black activist, did not return calls for comment. He designed the flag in 1971 as a symbol of the land rights movement and in 1995, it was declared an official "Flag of Australia".

However, while there is no need to get permission to use the Australian flag, Mr Thomas owns the copyright over the Aboriginal flag after a Federal Court fight in 1997.

One of WAM Clothing's owners, Ben Wooster, founded Birubi Art which last year was fined $2.3m by the Federal Court for selling fake Indonesian-made "Aboriginal" art.

Yesterday WAM co-owner Semele Moore, said they had granted the AFL the right to wear the flag without cost for the Indigenous season and had been in discussions to allow the league to sell jerseys bearing the flag.

"It was their decision not to proceed with the arrangement," she said.

Originally published as Aboriginal flag to be absent during AFL Indigenous round



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