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BUNDABERG health and wellbeing organisation IWC has been invited to give evidence at the Select Committee on the Aboriginal Flag being held in at Parliament House in Canberra.

The Select Committee is inquiring into and reporting on current and former copyright and licensing arrangements for the Aboriginal flag design, with IWC invited to give evidence at noon on Wednesday September 3 as part of a one-hour panel session.

IWC, an Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) which is the Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) for Bundaberg region became involved in the national conversation around the flag in August 2019.

At the time, it was providing free t-shirts to Indigenous IWC Medical Centre patients who underwent an annual MBS 715 Comprehensive Health Check. The shirt, designed by the organisation’s Indigenous Health Practitioners, carried both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flag.

“IWC became aware through the media that a company called WAM Clothing had gained exclusive rights to reproduce the Aboriginal flag on clothing from its designer, Luritja artist Harold Thomas, who created the flag in 1971,” said IWC CEO Ara Harathunian.

“After conversations with WAM, it was decided to remove the Aboriginal flag from the shirt.”

The debate around the flag has continued at a national level, and on September 3, 2020 the resolution establishing the committee was passed in Parliament.

“We were invited to give evidence and we will be attending remotely, via Skype,” said Mr Harathunian. “This is an important discussion and we are privileged to be involved on behalf of our community.”

The Parliament of Australia website reports that the inquiry and reporting will have particular reference to:

  1. who benefits from payments for the use of the Aboriginal Flag design and the impact on Aboriginal organisations, Aboriginal communities and the broader Australian community of the current copyright and licensing arrangements;
  2. options available to the Government to enable the Aboriginal Flag design to be freely used by the Australian community, including:
  3. negotiated outcomes with licence and/or copyright holders:
  4. the compulsory acquisition of licences and/or copyright,
  5. way to protect the rights and interests of the flag’s legally recognised creator Mr Harold Thomas; and
  6. any other matters relevant to the enduring and fair use of the Aboriginal Flag design by the Aboriginal and Australian community.

The committee is chaired by Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and is due to report on 13 October 2020.

“Members of the public can view any public proceedings of the committee. On the day of the hearing, a live broadcast of proceedings will be available via the ‘Watch, Read, Listen’ page on the Australian Parliament House website: http://www.aph.gov.au/Watch_Read_Listen,” says the Inquiry page at https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Aboriginal_Flag

“A Hansard transcription will be made of the hearing, which will become official records of the Australian Parliament. This will also be a public and freely accessible document, including being placed on the internet.”