The Australian government has bought the rights to use the official Aboriginal flag. The flag was unique in that it was already nationally recognized, but the rights were still in the hands of an individual.


Now people should not expect any legal problems if they print the design on clothing for their own use.

Activist and designer Harold Thomas first raised the red, black and yellow flag in the 1970s. Since then, it has become an essential symbol for Australia’s indigenous peoples. In 1995, the government made the flag official.

Thomas licensed some companies to use the design. This sometimes caused a stir. For example, one of those licensees threatened legal action against organizations that printed the flag on clothing. For several years, Indigenous people in Australia have been campaigning to “liberate” the flag. Prime Minister Scott Morrison says on Tuesday that he has now done so.

The government is paying 20 million Australian dollars (more than 12.6 million euros) to buy off the usage rights and licenses. One commercial company remains the official maker of Aboriginal flags. However, that party will not stop people when they make flags for their own use. As part of the deal, the government is creating an annual scholarship for Indigenous students in honour of designer Thomas.

The news comes a day before the national holiday Australia Day. On January 26, the country celebrates that a British fleet reached Sydney in 1788 to start a penal colony, which later evolved into the state of Australia. For many Indigenous Australians, the day is controversial. For them, the holiday represents the British conquest of the land where they lived.

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