Aboriginal flag available for public use

The Aboriginal Flag is now freely available for public use after the Morrison Government completed negotiations with Harold Thomas.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Aboriginal Flag copyright has been transferred to the Commonwealth.

“We’ve freed the Aboriginal flag for Australians,” the Prime Minister said.

“Throughout the negotiations, we have sought to protect the integrity of the Aboriginal Flag, in line with Harold Thomas’ wishes. I thank everyone involved for reaching this outcome, putting the flag in public hands.

“The Aboriginal Flag will now be managed in a similar manner to the Australian National Flag, where its use is free, but must be presented in a respectful and dignified way.

“All Australians can now put the Aboriginal Flag on apparel such as sports jerseys and shirts, it can be painted on sports grounds, included on websites, in paintings and other artworks, used digitally and in any other medium without having to ask for permission or pay a fee.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said securing the free use of the Aboriginal Flag was profoundly important for all Australians.

“The Aboriginal Flag is an enduring symbol close to the heart of Aboriginal people,” Minister Wyatt said.

“Over the last 50 years we made Harold Thomas’ artwork our own – we marched under the Aboriginal Flag, stood behind it, and flew it high as a point of pride.

“In reaching this agreement to resolve the copyright issues, all Australians can freely display and use the flag to celebrate Indigenous culture. Now that the Commonwealth holds the copyright, it belongs to everyone, and no one can take it away.”

To ensure the flags themselves are of the highest quality and continue to be manufactured in Australia, Carroll and Richardson Flagworld will remain the exclusive licensed manufacturer and provider of Aboriginal Flags and bunting. While this ongoing arrangement covers commercial production, Flagworld is not restricting individuals from making their own flag for personal use.

Harold Thomaspainting recognisde the flag’s 50th anniversary and has transferred the copyright but has retained moral rights over the flag

As part of the copyright transfer, Harold Thomas will retain his moral rights over the flag and the Commonwealth has also agreed that:

  • All future royalties the Commonwealth receives from Flagworld’s sale of the flag will be put towards the ongoing work of NAIDOC.
  • The Australian Government will provide an annual scholarship in Mr Thomas’ honour worth $100,000 for Indigenous students to further the development of Indigenous governance and leadership.
  • The National Indigenous Australians Agency will create an online history and education portal for the flag.
  • An original painting by Harold Thomas recognising the flag’s 50th anniversary and the historic transfer of copyright will be gratefully accepted and displayed in a prominent location by the Australian Government.

Mr Thomas has indicated that he intends to use $2 million to establish an Australian Aboriginal Flag Legacy not-for-profit to make periodic disbursements aligned with interests of Aboriginal Australians and the flag.

Quotes attributable to Harold Thomas:

“I hope that this arrangement provides comfort to all Aboriginal people and Australians to use the Flag, unaltered, proudly and without restriction.

“I am grateful that my art is appreciated by so many, and that it has come to represent something so powerful to so many.

“The Aboriginal Flag design is my dreaming, intertwined with my wife’s family and mine, our ancestral belonging. The land, and the landscape, is indelible in my make-up; it courses through my consciousness and subconsciousness.

“The Flag represents the timeless history of our land and our people’s time on it. It is an introspection and appreciation of who we are. It draws from the history of our ancestors, our land, and our identity and will honour these well into the future.”

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