Free the Flag Developments

The issues leading up this development

In 1970, Aboriginal artist Harold Thomas designed the flag following his graduating the South Australian School of Art the year previous. In the years following this, the flag was embraced and celebrated by the Indigenous Australian community.

In 1995, the Keaton Government gave the flag official status as a “Flag of Australia” under The Flags Act 1995, as the flag representing the Indigenous people of Australia. In 1997, Harold Thomas was granted the copyright for the flag, which gave him the exclusive right to grant licenses for usage of the flag.

In 2018, Harold Thomas granted WAM Clothing the exclusive right to use the flag on clothing. Following this, WAM Clothing issued numerous infringement notices to Aboriginal businesses, as well as the AFL and NRL for the usage of the flag.

This resulted in a unique situation where a flag that had been accepted and embraced by so many Indigenous Australians and had been granted “flag of Australia” status, was now under a private license and unable to be used freely. This caused considerable controversy and the “Free the flag” movement was created.

Latest developments

As of the 24th of January 2022, the Aboriginal flag copyright is owned by the Australian Federal Government and the flag is free to be used by everyone. This came after years of campaigning “Free the flag” activists and negotiations between the Federal Government and the private owners of the copyright.

As per the office of the Prime Minister, “The Aboriginal Flag will now be managed in a similar manner to the Australian National Flag, where its use is free, but must be presented in a respectful and dignified way”. Australians will be able to use the flag “without having to ask for permission or pay a fee”.

For more information regarding this topic see article links, provided below:

https://www.clothingthegaps.com.au/pages/free-the-flag
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jan/25/deal-to-free-aboriginal-flag-welcomed-but-questions-remain
https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2022/02/18/details-govts-aboriginal-flag-deal-revealed
https://www.pm.gov.au/media/free-use-aboriginal-flag-secured-all-australians

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