For tens of thousands of years, Indigenous Australians have been telling stories, expressing identity and sharing culture through art.
Today, Indigenous art is highly sought after, both in Australia and abroad, for its quality, innovation and cultural richness.
The market for Indigenous art is an important economic enabler, delivering an income to Indigenous artists and their communities. It is also a powerful mechanism to foster better understanding of Indigenous culture and heritage.
The Morrison Government’s five-year plan for Indigenous visual arts will link this most ancient of cultural traditions to the latest in digital technology, boosting its availability to audiences and buyers, here and overseas, and providing new economic opportunities for Indigenous visual artists and their communities.
A key measure in the plan is for NBN to deliver a high-speed broadband connection to up to 80 Indigenous art centres across regional and remote Australia. This will help those centres bring their art and artists to new audiences, improve their online sales and build new markets across the world.
High-speed broadband is a given for small and medium businesses across Australia. Indigenous art centres, including remote ones, should not be left out.
Until the start of COVID-19, Indigenous art sales had been growing for almost a decade, but the pandemic has been a setback. Art centres, galleries and studios have needed to close at times, and art fairs and events have been cancelled.
This makes an online presence even more important, to maintain and attract new audiences.
Another problem facing Aboriginal artists and communities is how to protect authentic artwork from imitations by non-Indigenous people.
So, as part of this plan, we are funding the national rollout of digital labelling; we have also committed to exploring the development of a certification trademark that could be legislated.
Digital labelling can guide consumers to make informed choices, increase cultural and economic opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and designers, and assist producers to market and track products.
Since 2009, Australian visual artists have had rights similar to other creators, such as songwriters or authors, who receive royalty payments from their work. They have also been entitled to five per cent of the resale price of eligible artworks when they are re-sold commercially for $1,000 or more.
Under this Plan, we will seek international reciprocal arrangements to increase financial returns to rights holders when their work is sold overseas in countries with established resale royalty schemes. Given the strong international interest in authentic Indigenous visual arts, this could provide artists with a valuable additional source of royalty income.
There are many other measures under the plan—including professional training for those who run Indigenous art centres, and better support for artists who work independent of an Indigenous visual arts organisation— and it will be backed by an additional $5 million of funding each year. This will bring our overall support for the sector to more than $27 million each year.
This vital funding will strengthen and protect this uniquely Australian sector, guaranteeing current and future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists benefit for generations to come.
I have worked my colleague the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, to develop this plan and we have spoken with many sector participants in its development.
The plan is designed to safeguard the timeless cultural knowledge that underpins the work of our Indigenous visual artists, while using modern digital technology to advance their economic opportunities.
By Minister Paul Fletcher
Paul Fletcher is the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts.