By Oliver Lees
Sunbury Aboriginal Corporation board member and Kamilaroi man Dean Duncan has welcomed the federal government’s acquisition of the copyright of the Aboriginal flag, describing it as “long overdue” justice for the country’s indigenous communities.
On January 24, the federal government announced it had completed negotiations to acquire copyright of the Aboriginal flag for $20 million from Luritja artist Harold Thomas.
For the past 50 years, non-Aboriginal private companies held copyright licenses of the flag and would charge a fee for anyone wishing to use the image in physical or digital form.
Mr Duncan said he was glad that Australians could now use the flag without paying compensation, but didn’t agree with Mr Thomas’ $20 million price tag.
“It’s definitely positive, but it should never have gotten to that stage where people were held to ransom, particularly Aboriginal controlled organisations,” he said.
“Yes, the creator has the right to ask for that money, but how can you put a price on your culture and your heritage?”
Mr Duncan said Laura Thompson, Michael Connolly and Nova Peris were crucial in spearheading the Free the Flag campaign which brokered the change.
As the president of the National Indigenous Rugby Program, Mr Duncan said his fist call after he heard the campaign was successful was to the national rugby headquarters to have the Aboriginal flag reinstated on the playing uniform.
Mr Duncan has constantly rubbed against the stringent copyright laws throughout his many years as an advocate.
During NAIDOCC week last year, Mr Duncan and his colleagues were asked to remove the flag from the bottom of their email signature.
But all that is about to change, as he shared his excitement for the prospect of the flag cropping up on national sporting team uniforms, as well as on Sunbury Aboriginal Corporation advertising material.
“For our next batch of shirts we’ll have the flag on it, and any work done in the community we’ll make sure it’s advertising the flag as well,” he said.
“It’s part of our identity, it’s the fabric that makes up our community.”