The Australian government has purchased the rights to the Aboriginal flag in order to “liberate” the emblem of identity from bitter legal battles over who can use it.
The flag was developed by Indigenous artist Harold Thomas in 1971 as a protest symbol, but it has since become the prominent Aboriginal emblem and an official national flag.
Despite this, many Aboriginal people believe the flag is “kept hostage” by copyright agreements that restrict its use.
Anyone can freely recreate the flag without fear of legal repercussions.
“We made Harold Thomas’ artwork our own over the previous 50 years – we marched under the Aboriginal flag, stood behind it, and flew it high as a matter of pride,” said Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Australians.
“Now that the Commonwealth owns the copyright, everyone has it, and no one can take it away from them.”
According to media sources, the government paid more than A$20 million (£11 million; $14 million) in total to recover the copyright from Mr Thomas and to cancel lease agreements.
It came after pressure from Aboriginal organisations and disputes in sports leagues like as the Australian Football League (AFL), which started refusing to pay leaseholders to fly the flag.
“All Aboriginal people are represented by the flag. Why should they be obligated to pay for it? “Laura Thompson, a petition organiser, told the media in 2020.
“It’s a sign of our people’s continued existence. Many of us dislike the Australian flag because it conjures up images of colonialism and invasion.”
Mr Thomas previously stated that he licenced the flag’s rights in order to obtain royalties for his artwork and to prevent knock-offs from being produced overseas.
“In the future, the flag will serve as a symbol of pride and solidarity, not of struggle,” he declared on Tuesday.
While most Aboriginal Australians have praised the development, some have questioned why it was announced just 24 hours before Australia Day.
The 26th of January is a contentious holiday because it commemorates the arrival of the British First Fleet in 1788. It’s dubbed “invasion day” by many Australians.
On Tuesday, Aboriginal artist Rachael Sarra posted on Instagram, “Prime Minister (Scott Morrison) is diverting the narrative so that on January 26 he can claim to be a hero and miss the main essence of why we protest every year.”