The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently released two Indigenous art and craft fact sheets about the rights and obligations under the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) (Act) of art centres, Indigenous artists and people buying Indigenous art or craft.
Unconscionable Conduct in the Indigenous Arts and Craft Sector
This fact sheet helps artists and art centres to understand what unconscionable conduct is and how to prevent themselves from falling victim to it when negotiating with art dealers. Unconscionable conduct occurs when a party that is in a stronger bargaining position takes advantage of another because of the party’s financial need, ignorance, illness, inexperience or other relevant circumstance. A useful list of things Indigenous artists can do to protect themselves from being taken advantage of is included in the fact sheets. It is suggested that artists get advice from a third party before signing anything, obtain specific details on when, how and how much they will be paid for their work, and that all arrangements are recorded in writing. The fact sheet also explains that the ACCC enforces the Act by investigating complaints of unconscionable conduct and makes decisions about whether to take legal action against the dealer for their conduct.
Your Consumer Rights: Indigenous art and craft
This fact sheet deals with how to protect yourself from being mislead when purchasing Indigenous art or craft. It contains an easy to understand checklist and sets out a number of steps to protect yourself, including asking the seller for the name and language group of the artist, the details of when and where the work was created and any culturally relevant information about the work (such as the story the work tells). The fact sheet advises you to check the labelling carefully – terms like ‘Aboriginal style’ or ‘Indigenous style’ do not guarantee the work is painted by an Indigenous artist. People should also understand that being shown a photograph of an Indigenous person with the work does not guarantee that person is the artist, or that the painting comes from a particular Indigenous group.
Where to get copies of the fact sheet
The fact sheets and other information about the ACCC can be found at www.accc.gov.au or call the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502.
Suzanne Derry is a solicitor at Arts Law.