Indigenous art wholesaler selling knock-offs: ACCC

Federal Court action launched by competition watchdog.

  • ACCC alleges wholesaler is selling knock-off Indigenous art
  • Court action comes ahead of Commonwealth Games
  • 18,000 pieces sold countrywide

A wholesaler advertising hand-painted Indigenous artworks has been misleading the public by sourcing them from an overseas country, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) claims.

The competition watchdog has commenced Federal Court proceedings against Birubi Art for selling 18,000 Aboriginal cultural objects promoted with the descriptors 'hand painted', 'handcrafted', 'Aboriginal Art' and 'Australia', when they were in fact made in Indonesia.

The conduct is "damaging" and misleads people by making them think they are buying genuine Aboriginal art, says Sarah Court, Commissioner at the ACCC.

"This has the potential to undermine the integrity of Aboriginal art and negatively impact Indigenous artists, including by undervaluing their authentic works," she says.

Birubi Art, which says it "supports and promotes ethical dealings with Aboriginal people" on its website, made the claims for more than three years – until November 2017 – on boomerangs, bullroarers and didgeridoos.

The court action comes a fortnight before the 2018 Commonwealth Games are scheduled to commence, as tens of thousands of tourists descend upon Queensland.

"This action is a timely reminder to traders to ensure that products they are selling as Indigenous cultural objects or art are authentic," Court says.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, injunctions, corrective notices, compliance program orders, and costs.