Protecting the Integrity of the Aboriginal Flag

Release Date: 
20 June 2019
Media release

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt AM has met with the designer of the Aboriginal flag, Harold Thomas, following various concerns around its reproduction and use.

Both agreed the meeting was warm and friendly, with the Minister gaining a deeper understanding of Mr Thomas’s views on the matter.  In short, Mr Thomas wants this national flag flown proudly and respectfully by all Australians.

Both Minister Wyatt and Mr Thomas are committed to the flag continuing to play a unifying role with people and communities right across Australia.

Mr Thomas shared his and his family’s deep concern to protect the integrity of the flag for all Australians, and reiterated his creative rights to his artwork.

“The Australian Government is not seeking to buy the rights to the flag,” said Minister Wyatt, noting that it is one of our national flags and can be flown freely by anyone.

“It resonates strongly and binds people together and Mr Thomas holds the exclusive copyright to the flag. It tells his story as both an artist and an Indigenous person.  

“His main concern is to protect the integrity of the flag and I stand with him on this.”

Mr Thomas’s concerns lie with the unethical use of the flag on souvenirs and in other situations where the flag is not reproduced in a faithful or professional manner, without the knowledge or agreement of him or his family.  

Fake and inauthentic products undermine Australia’s unique identity, erode Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians’ cultures, and reduce economic opportunities available to them.

The Government is committed to ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are recognised, celebrated and protected for all Australians.

Mr Thomas made clear that he has not signed away his rights and does not intend to, despite some claims in the media.

“Issues have arisen in cases of commercial use of the flag, where profit has been gained without seeking permission through the proper legal channels,” Mr Thomas said. “I have been most worried about offshore manufacturing of textiles and artwork.”

The Aboriginal flag is a strong and respected symbol for all Australians and he encourages all Australians to fly and show the flag with pride.

“The flag is the living and breathing embodiment of the Indigenous people and I wish for it to remain a symbol that we can stand behind,” Mr Thomas said.

Both Mr Thomas and WAM Clothing have publicly indicated their willingness to talk about options for using or reproducing the image of the flag.