Ahead of the AFL Indigenous Round this weekend, television presenter Brooke Boney has called for people to wear the Aboriginal Flag on their clothing in protest of a company’s “disgusting” copyright of the design.
The symbol will not be displayed at the AFL Indigenous round as WAM Clothing continues to say it’s “illegal” to use the sacred design as the company owns the exclusive rights to it.
After the flag’s designer, Luritja artist Harold Thomas was recognised as the rightful owner in a 1997 Federal Court ruling, he then sold the exclusive rights to WAM Clothing in 2018 to reproduce the flag on clothing.
Since then the company has issued a number of cease and desist notices to Indigenous companies and charities, saying they are “illegally” using the flag.
“This company that we have to look at that is WAM, they’re sending cease and desist orders to Aboriginal organisations and Aboriginal footy teams, telling them not to use the flag,” Brooke said on the ’Today show on Friday morning.
“This is a flag that is a symbol of our pride, of our culture, of our struggle, of everything that it means to be Aboriginal and these guys are making money from it.”
The Gamilaroi woman woman acknowledged the importance of the AFL Indigenous Round in celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, Indigenous culture and the community’s contributions to the game.
“I know how much this round of footy means to Indigenous footy players, my mates Goodesy and Micky O [Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin] and all the players who are playing now, and to deny them of that is actually just disgusting,” she said.
The host said she would’ve been wearing an Aboriginal flag T-shirt on screen had she had it with her at the time, before encouraging “all of you who are going to the footy this weekend to do the same thing”.
“I would say, ‘WAM sue me’,” she declared, reiterating later in the segment, “Sue me, I’m going to wear it this weekend”.
The campaign to reclaim the flag has been led by Indigenous-owned clothing label Clothing the Gap, with an online petition having over 100,000 signatures as of Friday morning.
On Thursday Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt said the National Indigenous Australians Agency has been having conversations with the copyright owner in an attempt to solve the commercial issues.
“Hopefully what I would hope to see is common sense prevail and the use of the flag become more free for significant events,” Wyatt told the ABC on Thursday.
“The use of the flag … should be available to all people who want access to it. And right now it’s not right because it is based on profit.
“I’m also very cognisant of [intellectual property] and I’m working with my agency in looking for a way forward that does not breach the individual ownership of a product by any Australian.”