Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 14 February 2007

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Parliamentary Record 12


Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Wednesday 14 February 2007 3879 Second, the art centres have always dealt from a position of competitive cultural and market advantage. Until relatively recently, there has been no real market competition for the production of indigenous culture. The rise of the carpetbaggers, forgers and Bali-based importers did not really arise until post-bicentenary years, and the growing national and international prominence of Aboriginal art. This cultural and market advantage is crucial. It is an arena from which Aboriginal artists have been able to deal, because of their cultural advantage, from a position of strength in the marketplace. The cultural and intellectual property embedded in the product has not been able to be supplanted by others, despite the marauding from the edges by the forgers and carpetbaggers. This is recognised by the marketplace itself. The vast majority of purchasers of Aboriginal art have enormous goodwill to the artists. They prefer to buy genuine work and that profits of the work go back to the artist. That is why we must and do commit to continued support to the industry with an emphasis on support to the art centres. It has often been said that government is no good at business, and it is an abomination that we should always be aware of. This is why, in our continued support to the Aboriginal visual arts and craft industry, we must take care to listen to the industry and allow them to run their affairs. We can assist, but we cannot drive innovation. We can encourage, but not dictate the ways in which the industry may wish to value add to their product. We can support, but not demand the ways in which existing and new markets can be built and developed. No one in government, for example, could have predicted the enormous success of the Desert Mob Marketplace held each year in Alice Springs. It was an initiative of Desart and its member communities. I understand similar developments in marketing are being floated in the Top End. Similarly, overseas initiatives of the art centres must be encouraged but cannot be directed by us. The Northern Territory governments commitment to the NAVA code of conduct leads to a consideration of what we - not just as a government, but fellow Territorians - can do to support the Aboriginal visual arts and craft industry. In the Northern Territory governments submission to the Senate inquiry, we made a firm commitment to sign up and endorse, as a government, the National Indigenous Art Commercial Code of Conduct, which has been developed by the National Association of Visual Artists in conjunction with Desart and ANKAAA. This commitment is in the following terms: the Northern Territory government would be prepared to sign up to the National Indigenous Art Commercial Code of Conduct in its dealings with the sector and would encourage other governments and their agencies to follow suit. Of course, in the customary meaning of the term, governments are not ordinarily involved in commercial dealings with Aboriginal art, so much of the code will not be strictly relevant, but there is a great deal that is directly related to what governments do. We support the Aboriginal visual arts and craft industry as a vital investment in the people of the Northern Territory. We know that it has a critical role in economic, community and cultural development. We know that the industry itself will not provide the solutions to Aboriginal impoverishment and disadvantage, but that it is a sector which is a fundamental part of the Aboriginal and wider economies of regional and remote Northern Territory communities so we all have a strong stake in the future of the sector. In the past, many governments have provided support to Aboriginal art in a fairly superficial, often exploitative way. Aboriginal visual arts has often been viewed as not much more than wallpaper to decorate government publications or, indeed, public offices. We have been happy to allow advertising agencies to throw in a few dots or scraps of cross-hatching to denote the Aboriginal experience, yet have ignored the wealth of possibilities in commissioning Aboriginal artists to produce the real thing. Copyright and moral rights have often been ignored by commission and omission. Lip service has been paid to the role of the art centres and the work their members produce. The list goes on. By endorsing the forthcoming code, our government will primarily be focusing on an ethical approach to the Aboriginal visual arts and craft industry and the rights of indigenous artists. It will mean, to take a small example, developing a principled approach across all government agencies to negotiate proper licensing agreements with visual artists. The days of agencies insisting on unconscionable approaches to sole copyright over images instead of proper forms of licensing must be put behind us and this, of course, should apply to non-indigenous artists, for that matter. As we said in our submission to the Senate inquiry: Rather than seeing the resourcing of the Aboriginal visual arts and craft industry as a form of subsidy, with all its connotations of welfarist hand outs, thinking about the industry should be recast as an approach to rational and sensible investment. Part of being rational and sensible is to deal with the industry in an ethical way. Governments