25 November
Photo at the DAAF fashion show, by Robyn Ayres

Empowerment Through Education: New Module for Indigenous Fashion Launched

Australia is enjoying an explosion of First Nations fashion. This popularity boom for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designs, fabrics, and textiles is welcome recognition of the beautiful craftsmanship and enduring cultures of our Australia’s First Nations artists. Yet, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities continue a fight to protect their artistic rights in Australia. Now, alongside the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and IP Australia, Arts Law has helped develop a new program for Indigenous Fashion Projects [IFP] to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander work in fashion is founded on respect. 

With many notable Australia fashion houses seeking to collaborate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers, a new module concerning Intellectual Property has been launched on the new IFP Learning Centre website. With further modules to come, this initiative aspires to educate so to protect; to make sure that the relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and the fashion industry are sustainable and cooperative. Arts Law has helped advise on best practices for fashion houses engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and communities on fashion projects. In partnership with DAAF IFP we have also released a suite of contract templates for artists and designers working on fashion projects.  

Arts Law, with funding from the Thyne Reid Foundation, was heavily involved in developing this resource. Our collaboration with IFP and IP Australia ensures that we can reach new audiences and ensure that nobody misses out on empowerment through education. This work extends the tireless efforts of our lawyers and their outreach work, through Artists in the Black. 

Senior Solicitor, Donna Robinson, recently spent time in remote Australia, engaging with Aboriginal artists across Western Australian and the Northern Territory.  Accompanied by representatives from DAAF, fashion brand Helen Kaminski and pro bono lawyers from KWM, this outreach visited Bula’bula Arts, Bábbarra Women’s Centre, Gapuwiyak Culture and Arts, Marrawuddi Arts and Culture, and Numbulwar Numburindi Arts. 

Gapuwiyak Culture Arts Centre Manager, Trevor van Weeren, said the project had been valuable in educating the design team on how their artists’ stories are represented in their weaving and how important it is to pass this down through the generations. 

“To truly collaborate with Indigenous artists, brands need to understand the depth of storytelling and cultural significance of works. This is important cultural expression, not a commodity. This project is key to helping the fashion industry understand the importance of Indigenous expression and cultural nuance to deliver positive outcomes for all,” he said. 

Arts Law strives to improve legal literacy amongst artists. Without it, exploitation and degradation in the industry will continue. We aim to strengthen value and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in Australia and internationally. We are incredibly thankful for the relationships we hold with likeminded organisations, such as the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, Indigenous Fashion Projects and IP Australia, as well as the support we receive from bodies such as the Thyne Reid Foundation.