fair trade
The Indigenous Art Code is about a fair go for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists by administering a voluntary industry code of conduct known as ‘the Code’. The Code is a set of rules and guidelines that dealers commit to follow, to ensure ethical practices and fair treatment of indigenous Australian artists. Dealers must pass an assessment administered by the Indigenous Art Code to be a member and use the logo.

The internationally recognised standards of Indigenous Art Code are

In many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, art sales are the main source of income. Making sure you always buy ethically and authentically is not just about protecting the buyer’s investment, it’s about respect for the world’s oldest living culture, ensuring the artists and those around them are paid fairly and securing a sustainable future for Australia’s Indigenous art industry.

In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, provenance is crucial. The origin and history of ownership of a piece of Aboriginal art is both its birth certificate and passport; providing confidence of authenticity and evidence of ethical practices along the value chain.

The remote locations of many artists and art centres compound historical, political and social forces that have created a situation where the relationship between artist and buyer is fundamentally unequal. A moral compass and commitment to ethical trade by both buyers and sellers is the ‘finger on the scales’ that balance this inequity.

If buying Aboriginal art is stripped of these values, the relationship between artist and buyer is merely a financial transaction, devoid of connections to the artist’s heritage and cultural universe – for many, the very things that attracted them to Aboriginal art in the first place. An immutable reciprocity must connect the buyer’s and the artist’s interests to create an exchange that is both conscious and conscientious.

‘Doing the right thing’ also matters for legal and financial reasons. Unethical dealers often breach the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, taxation laws, Fair Trade and Code of Conduct regulations; legislation written and enforced to protect buyers and sellers of all goods and services. Turning a blind eye to unethical practices can make buyers complicit in breaking the law.

Any piece of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art over A$250 that is bought from an art centre (or gallery that sources art from art centres) will come with an official art centre authentication certificate. If you’re a buyer, insist on it.

Under the Resale Royalty Scheme and Indigenous Art Code of Conduct these certificates provide buyers with high levels of confidence in both provenance and fair payment of the artist.

However, certificates can never be absolute guarantees. Some artworks where the artists have been badly treated or unfairly paid also have certificates.

Buying direct from art centres adds certainty, as art centres are legally-constituted, non-profit cooperatives, owned and run by the artists and their communities.

The fair and ethical treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visual artists and universal respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture

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