Court declares dealer in Aboriginal art misled consumers

21 December 2009

The Federal Court in Adelaide today declared that Australian Dreamtime Creations Pty Ltd, which deals in Aboriginal art, misled consumers by representing that certain art that it promoted and sold was by an artist of Aboriginal descent named "Ubanoo Brown" when this was not the case. 

The company’s director, Tony Antoniou, was found to be knowingly concerned in or party to the conduct.

Following an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, proceedings were instituted against Australian Dreamtime Creations Pty Ltd and Mr Antoniou in the Federal Court in Adelaide on 15 June 2009.

Justice Mansfield found that Australian Dreamtime Creations Pty Ltd was in contravention of section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 by:

  • representing on its website that certain artworks were painted by a person of Aboriginal descent and were painted by an artist by the name of "Ubanoo Brown"
  • supplying "certificates of authenticity" with paintings sold on consignment to galleries in which it stated they were painted by a person of Aboriginal descent and "Ubanoo Brown"
  • supplying artworks with the name "Ubanoo Brown" written on the back as being painted by Ubanoo Brown
  • supplying artworks with affixed stamps stating that the artworks were painted by a person of Aboriginal descent, and
  • representing on eBay that a carved wooden bird was carved and painted by a person of Aboriginal descent;

when, in fact, none of the above was true.

Justice Mansfield stated: "In general, in my view, to a reasonable group of persons who buy or may buy Aboriginal art, to describe a painting as ‘Aboriginal art’ is to convey that it is painted by an Aboriginal person or a person of Aboriginal descent."

In making the orders, Justice Mansfield said: "I note that Mr Antoniou asserted that he did not think he or ADC were doing anything wrong at any material times.  In my view, that evinced at least some ingenuousness on his part.  It is an ingenuousness which the findings of the court, and the declaratory and injunctive relief which I propose to make, will clearly have disabused him of."

ACCC Chairman Graeme Samuel said today that: "this is an important decision for consumers, Aboriginal artists and art dealers. Art consumers have the right to be confident that when purchasing Aboriginal art it will in fact be Aboriginal art."

Section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 prohibits a corporation from engaging in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.

Release number: 
NR 321/09
ACCC Infocentre: 

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Media enquiries: 
Mr Graeme Samuel - (03) 9290 1812
Ms Lin Enright - (02) 6243 1108