Following legal action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Federal Court today declared that the operators of Doongal Aboriginal Art and Artefacts had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in contravention of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
Doongal operates two art galleries in Kuranda and an art gallery in Cairns. It also operates a website at www.doongal.com.au.
Doongal is operated in partnership by Mr Farzad Nooravi and Mrs Homa Nooravi.
Justice Logan declared that Mr and Mrs Nooravi engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by:
- representing that products Doongal offered for sale were 'Aboriginal Art' or 'Aboriginal Artefacts' where some of those products were produced by people not of Aboriginal descent
- representing that certain artists whose work Doongal offered for sale were of Aboriginal descent when in fact those artists were not of Aboriginal descent, and
- affixing cards bearing the words 'Certificate of Authenticity of Original Aboriginal Art' to artworks painted by persons who were not of Aboriginal descent.
The relevant artists are Mr Stephen McLean (who uses the tribal name Duk Duk), Mr Paul Whiteman (who uses the tribal name Kulangu Balanda) and Ms Diane Sharp.
The ACCC did not allege that any of the artists were involved in the misleading and deceptive conduct or that any of the artists ever represented themselves to be Aboriginal.
The Court granted injunctions by consent restraining Mr and Mrs Nooravi, for a period of 5 years, from engaging in similar conduct and ordered them to pay the ACCC's costs.
Mr and Mrs Nooravi were further ordered to write to certain purchasers of artworks produced by any of the three non-Aboriginal artists, advising them of the court proceedings.
Mr and Mrs Nooravi also have offered the ACCC a court-enforceable undertaking that they will implement a trade practices law compliance program.
The recent Standing Committee on Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts report Indigenous Art - Securing the Future, Australia's Indigenous visual arts and craft sector reflected the Government's concern about unfair practices in the Indigenous art industry, noting that: "[t]here is no doubt that there have been unethical, and at times illegal, practices engaged in within the field of Indigenous arts and craft."
ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, welcomed the decision.
"Art is an important economic resource for many Aboriginal people and authenticity is an important characteristic for many art buyers. Both sides are short-changed by this sort of conduct by gallery owners.
"The ACCC will continue to scrutinise alleged misleading and deceptive conduct in relation to the Aboriginal Art industry, and take action where appropriate."
Justice Logan commended the parties for the way in which they had approached resolution of the matter.
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