Moves to protect First Nations traditional knowledge and cultural expressions

The Albanese Labor Government is moving to protect First Nations artists and businesses from the scourge of fake Indigenous art.

The Government is commencing formal consultation on the design of new laws to protect First Nations traditional knowledge and cultural expressions.

Fake Indigenous art is hurting artists, businesses and consumers.

Whether it’s paintings or boomerangs sold at souvenir stalls or t-shirts and ties in tourist shops – it’s misleading and it’s damaging.

That’s why the Government is seeking the views of communities and organisations across the country to inform the development of new stand-alone laws.

This will support Indigenous cultural and intellectual property, by recognising and protecting First Nations traditional knowledge and cultural expressions – a key part of Australia’s National Cultural Policy, Revive.

We know that this is a real problem.

A Productivity Commission report in 2022 revealed more than half of all purchased merchandise and souvenirs with First Nations art and designs are fake or are made without permission from Traditional Owners and custodians.

The legislation will be developed through a First Nations-led process, with any solution to be informed by − and address the needs of − Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Quotes attributable to Minister for the Arts, Tony Burke:

“What we’re talking about here is theft, and it has to stop. That’s what these laws will do.

“Fake Indigenous art means artists get ripped off, consumers get ripped off and businesses get ripped off.

“It’s important that we get this right, which means listening to the communities impacted.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney:

“The rich history of First Nations cultural expression goes back over 65,000 years and remains central to First Nations peoples’ identities.

“The production of fake First Nations art and cultural materials undermines the foundation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: it’s a harmful practice and it needs to be stopped.

“That’s why this Government is working in partnership with First Nations people to create legislation to end the lucrative fake Indigenous art industry.

“I encourage communities, First Nations artists and all other stakeholders to share their views and experiences with us, by online submission or joining a public engagement session.”

Public engagement sessions will take place over 10 weeks at 38 locations across Australia, visiting each state and territory to listen to the views of industry, First Nations stakeholders and communities about how this issue affects Indigenous artists, organisations and communities.

Three additional online sessions will be held in June, offering those who were unable to attend in-person sessions the chance to have their say.

Community engagement will be underpinned by a formalised partnership between the Australian Government and First Nations people, drawing on expert knowledge to develop the draft legislation and guide engagement with First Nations people.

This will include the appointment of an Expert Working Group comprising First Nations representatives, appointed by the Office of the Arts. Expressions of Interest to become a member of the Expert Working Group will open in May.

Public engagement sessions kick off on Monday 4 March in Burnie, Tasmania.

For more information, to register for an upcoming session or to make a submission, visit