In November 2007, lawyers from Artists in the Black (AITB) attended Desart's Annual General Meeting and spoke about employment conditions and contracts for Aboriginal art centre workers. Based in Alice Springs, Desart is the peak industry body for Aboriginal art and craft centres in Central Australia. At the 2007 AGM, representatives from a number of Desart member art centres identified several ongoing concerns about employment conditions including the lack of a comprehensive award covering art centre staff. At the request of Desart, AITB undertook to assist in the preparation of standardized contracts and employment conditions for art centre staff in the Western Desert area.
Over the next eighteen months AITB gathered information about current employment terms and conditions from a number of Desart Art Centres. AITB then enlisted the assistance of pro bono lawyers at Blake Dawson Waldron to draft a model employment contract for art centre managers. The objective was to establish a recommended or best practice set of employment terms and pay scales that would provide some uniformity between art centres.
In 2010, after ongoing research, negotiation and consolidation, partner David Lloyd and Senior Associate David Li from Blake Dawson Waldron's employment law team produced the Desart model art centre manager employment contract template. The model contract is available on Desart's website as a resource for member art centres. A version is also available on the AITB website, as a resource for other Indigenous art centres. In the long term it is hoped that this employment template can form the basis for an industry award covering all employees of Indigenous art centres in the Western Desert area, similar to the Indigenous Media Organisations (Minimum Rates) Award 2001. Blake Dawson Waldron is continuing to support AITB by working on a complementary model contract for art centre assistants.
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