It has been announced that the Aboriginal Flag is free to use once again, after negotiations were completed between Harold Thomas and the Morrison Government.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Aboriginal Flag copyright has been transferred to the Commonwealth.

“Throughout the negotiations, we have sought to protect the integrity of the Aboriginal Flag, in line with Harold Thomas’ wishes. I thank everyone involved for reaching this outcome, putting the flag in public hands,” he said.

“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.

“All Australians can now put the Aboriginal Flag on apparel such as sports jerseys and shirts, it can be painted on sports grounds, included on websites, in paintings and other artworks, used digitally and in any other medium without having to ask for permission or pay a fee.”

It was quickly realised that the Aboriginal flag had copyright over it when Indigenous brand Clothing the Gaps, were threatened with legal action for selling clothing with the flag on it  in 2019.

Clothing the Gaps then began the ‘Free the Flag’ campaign – which was changed today with one letter.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said “the Aboriginal Flag is an enduring symbol close to the heart of Aboriginal people.”

“Over the last 50 years we made Harold Thomas’ artwork our own – we marched under the Aboriginal Flag, stood behind it, and flew it high as a point of pride.

“In reaching this agreement to resolve the copyright issues, all Australians can freely display and use the flag to celebrate Indigenous culture.

“Now that the Commonwealth holds the copyright, it belongs to everyone, and no one can take it away.”

Luritja man and designer of the flag, Harold Thomas said “I am grateful that my art is appreciated by so many, and that it has come to represent something so powerful to so many.”

The Aboriginal flag was flown publicly for the first time in a Land Rights march in Adelaide and has since been a symbol of strength and recognition for Australia’s Aboriginal community.

Thomas said “the Flag represents the timeless history of our land and our people’s time on it.”

“It is an introspection and appreciation of who we are. It draws from the history of our ancestors, our land, and our identity and will honour these well into the future.”

“The Aboriginal Flag design is my dreaming, intertwined with my wife’s family and mine, our ancestral belonging. The land, and the landscape, is indelible in my make-up; it courses through my consciousness and subconsciousness.

“I hope that this arrangement provides comfort to all Aboriginal people and Australians to use the Flag, unaltered, proudly and without restriction.”

The flags will continued to be manufactured in Australia, with Carroll and Richardson Flagworld remaining as the exclusive licensed manufacturer.

Furthermore, as part of the copyright transfer, Thomas will retain his moral rights over the flag, with the Commonwealth agreeing that all future royalties they receive from Flagworld’s sale of the flag will be put towards the ongoing work of NAIDOC.

Although there is cause to celebrate, there is also the question being asked by some of the Indigenous community across social media – is the flag truly free?

By Teisha Cloos