With a highly distinctive ‘Aboriginal art’ style , you’ve probably seen Birubi products in tourist shops all over the country. Everything from ‘hand-made’ and ‘hand-painted’ boomerangs and didgeridoos, to bull roarers and even drink coasters.
And you probably thought Aboriginal artists were behind them.
Today, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced it’s launching Federal Court action against the company behind the brand – Birubi Art Pty Ltd (Birubi) – alleging it spent years making misleading claims about Aboriginal art.
Between July 2014 and November 2017, Birubi allegedly “contravened the Australian Consumer Law by making false or misleading representations that some of its products were made in Australia and/or that Aboriginal people had made or hand painted them, when in fact they were made in Indonesia”.
ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said the products displayed a combination of words and artwork including ‘hand painted’, ‘handcrafted’, ‘Aboriginal Art’, and ‘Australia’.
“We allege that Birubi’s conduct is damaging as it is likely to mislead consumers into thinking they are buying genuine handmade Aboriginal art when they are not. This has the potential to undermine the integrity of Aboriginal art and negatively impact Indigenous artists, including by undervaluing their authentic works,” Commissioner Court said in a written statement.
“We allege that over 18,000 of these Birubi products were sold to retail shops in key tourist spots around the country.
“In the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games in Australia next month, with tens of thousands of tourists visiting Australia, this action by the ACCC is a timely reminder to traders to ensure that products they are selling as Indigenous cultural objects or art are authentic.”
The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, injunctions, corrective notices, compliance program orders, and costs.
Ironically, Birubi claims to be a “proud licensed supplier of many items featuring the copyright Aboriginal Flag image designed by Mr Harold Thomas”.
The website adds: “So please, when purchasing Aboriginal flag items, ensure they are authentic licensed products….”
Birubi was part of a major feature by Fairfax media late last year, written by Frank Robson. And you can access genuine hand-made Aboriginal art here – New Matilda’s Associate Publisher Gaala Watson is an Aboriginal artist, and the woman behind Bimbi Love.
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