Australian Code to Regulate Aboriginal Art Trade

Aboriginal Art Directory | 28.08.09

Australia’s Aboriginal art business will have to follow minimum standards for dealers, agents, and artists, under a wide-ranging code of conduct that’s been recently updated and awaits the signature of the federal arts minister.

Intended to crack down on unscrupulous operators, the code prohibits dealers from taking advantage of artists or their representatives; acting in an unfair, bullying, or threatening manner; and exerting undue influence. Dealers must act in good faith, which includes not promoting the "dealer's interests to the detriment of the artist." The code still accommodates non-cash transactions between dealers and artists, which means dealers can pay artists with alcohol or secondhand vehicles, although alcohol cannot be used as payment in remote communities where it is illegal. Also, a dealer must state the "reasonable market value" of non-cash payments in writing. The code was a key recommendation of a 2007 Senate inquiry into the Aboriginal art sector, which followed published reports about unscrupulous conduct in the business.


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