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Laura Thompson Talks about the #FreeTheFlag Campaign

Laura Thompson is Managing Director of Spark Health Australia and Clothing The Gap. She is a proud Gunditjmara woman. Spark Heath is an Aboriginal owned and led social enterprise specialising in health promotion and meaningful Aboriginal Community engagement. Laura yarns up with Gman on Big Brekkie 3KND. The Aboriginal flag is a powerful symbol that has come to mean many things to many people. Since its creation in 1971, it has appeared on everything from jumbo jets to tattoos. So who “owns” the flag? Who has the right to reproduce it, and why is there such a battle over these issues today? Here’s a summary of how we got here.

Luritja artist Harold Thomas created the flag The flag was first used at a National Aborigines Day march in Adelaide in 1971. Dr Gary Foley later took it with him to Canberra, where it was flown at the Tent Embassy from 1972. It was used at rallies and in imagery on posters, T-shirts and Aboriginal organisation logos from then on. The red, black and yellow came to symbolise the strength, resistance and resilience of Aboriginal people, particularly for the modern land rights movement. In the 1980s, Thomas first asserted his rights to be recognised as its creator.

Thomas said at the time: “As it is my common law right and Aboriginal heritage right, as with many other Aboriginals, I can choose who I like to have a licence agreement to manufacture goods which have the Aboriginal flag on it.

“It’s taken many years to find the appropriate Australian company that respects and honours the Aboriginal flag meaning and copyright and that is WAM Clothing.

“The Aboriginal flag is doing its job as it was intended to do, to bring unity and pride to all Aboriginals. At times we get the few who snigger and are disenchanted. I can’t satisfy all black people who wish to break up the Aboriginal unification.” Since then, WAM Clothing has actively enforced its licensing rights. It has sent several “cease and desist” notices to companies including the AFL and the NRL.

Spark Health, an Aboriginal-owned and run social enterprise that makes merchandise with the tagline Clothing the Gap, also received a letter. Spark Health’s Laura Thompson said they were angry that “a white business has got full licensing agreement and it’s a white business that’s profiting off it” and began the campaign to #FreeTheFlag.

Clothing The Gap is a fresh and dynamic fashion label, and social enterprise, managed by health professionals that celebrates Aboriginal people and culture.


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