Anniversary of the Aboriginal Flag first fly

The 12th of July marks an important day, the anniversary of the Aboriginal Flag being flown for the first time in Adelaide’s Victoria Square in 1972. It was an incredibly important and meaningful moment in time for First Nations Australians. The flag became the official flag for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra in 1972. Since then, the flag has continued to symbolise unity and identity for Aboriginal people. It represents the true custodians of this continent, the sun and earth as the giver of life, and a spiritual connection to the land.

Invasion Day Rally, Melbourne, AustraliaImage by Johan Mouchet

Unfortunately, there has been much controversy surrounding the Aboriginal Flag, particularly in recent times. In 1997, artist Harold Thomas was recognised as the author of the flag and subsequently, the flag is fully protected under copyright law. The clear concern from many is the flag, an important symbol of this country, is being used for commercial gain. Harold Thomas has entered many licencing arrangements over the years, the most recent being with Wam Clothing in 2018. Much conflict has been caused by Wam Clothing sending cease and desist notices to groups that have been using the flag. They say they have an obligation to enforce the copyright on behalf of Thomas. It is a very unusual situation for the copyright of a flag to be held by an individual. Ms Phillips, the former head of the copyright council says, “there has to be a way that Mr Thomas can be remunerated fairly but where other people can also have access to the flag”.

Many hope to find a resolution, to find a way to both respect the creator’s rights and let the flag continue to play its significant unifying role. It is important everyday, but particularly on the anniversary, to have the freedom to celebrate the Aboriginal Flag and all that it has come to symbolise. We hope a resolution can be reached soon and today let’s celebrate the unity and strength of First Nations Australians.