The Australian January 30, 2002

Aborigines take roo, emu to court

POLICE regained the Old Parliament House coat of arms yesterday from the Aboriginal tent embassy as elders sought a High Court order prohibiting use of the kangaroo and emu images without Aboriginal permission.

Tent embassy elder Kevin Buzzacott was summonsed to appear in the ACT Magistrates Court over the theft after police served a warrant on the tent embassy -- in front of Old Parliament House -- at 4.15pm yesterday. Police negotiated the return of the coat of arms with tent embassy representatives.

Earlier, lawyer Len Linden and Gulf Country elder Wadjularbinna Nulyarimma of the Gungalidda people lodged the writ in the High Court. The writ asks the High Court to order the Commonwealth of Australia to stop using images of the native animals on the coat of arms on any property and in any publication. "There's no reason why Qantas shouldn't ask the permission of Aboriginal people to use the kangaroo symbol subject to certain conditions such as putting some form of Aboriginal input into it," Mr Linden said.

Aboriginal people were keen to negotiate the use of the symbols, he said. "It's just that there hasn't been any kind of level playing field." Tent embassy elder Wadjularbinna Nulyarimma said Aboriginal people had a duty to care for native animals and make sure they were plentiful, a care which extended to the use of their images. "I don't really want to go to court but every time I see the kangaroo and emu up there -- you don't know how painful that is for me," Wadjularbinna Nulyarimma said."

The animals and birds and reptiles and marine life and everything are connected to us in a spiritual sense." Mr Linden said the High Court had jurisdiction under copyright conventions, the Racial Discrimination Act and the UN Genocide Convention of 1948. "The defendant's use of the kangaroo and the emu is in all the circumstance both proof of the defendant's intent to destroy within the meaning of the Genocide Convention and a continuing act of genocide in itself," part of the writ reads.


Herald Sun (Melbourne) January 30, 2002

The roo is taboo, Australians told; Suit claims copyright on native animals

Byline: Andrew Probyn

QANTAS'S flying kangaroo could be the next target in an Aboriginal campaign against the perceived misuse of its spiritual emblems.

The Aboriginal tent embassy yesterday lodged a writ in the High Court to stop the Commonwealth's use of the kangaroo and emu on Australia's coat of arms. If successful, the tent embassy said it would consider pursuing companies, including Qantas, which used native flora or fauna in their insignia.

Aboriginal elders who signed the writ claimed kangaroos, emus and native animals were sacred symbols that had been stolen and abused by white colonisers. Their Victorian lawyer, Len Lindon, likened the use of the kangaroo and emu on the coat of arms to putting Jesus Christ on a footy jumper. "Once you have appreciated the religious and spiritual significance of native animals to the kinship system and Aboriginal laws, people would not use them without asking," Mr Lindon said. "Imagine putting Jesus on a footy jumper -- you would have the Catholics in uproar -- or putting Mohammed on a hot dog stand -- you'd have Islamic people very angry." Mr Lindon said one of the flow-on effects of a High Court win could be action against Qantas.

Wadjularbinna Nulyarimma, an elder of the Gulf of Carpentaria's Gungalidda people, said abuse of sacred symbols amounted to religious persecution. "The kangaroo and emu are connected to the Aboriginal people and the land is the foundation," Ms Nulyarimma said. "We have a law and religion that is interconnected and these animals are part of us through a skin grouping, or what the anthropologists call the kinship system." She said the coat of arms was an example of cultural theft.

A coat of arms was ripped from Old Parliament House in Canberra on Sunday in a protest to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Aboriginal tent embassy. Police yesterday seized the heavy brass coat of arms from the protest camp across the road from Old Parliament House about 4.15pm. A man, 44, was arrested for hindering police and a 55-year-old man was summonsed to appear in court over the plaque's theft.

Kevin Buzzacott, an Aboriginal elder involved in the coat of arms removal, said: "These people are not the real government of this country, they don't have authority to steal our animals, the kangaroo and emu, and claim them to be theirs." According to the High Court writ, the kangaroo and emu are Aboriginal objects and their copyright could only be transferred in writing. The writ asks the High Court to stand down from the case because of a conflict of interest and seeks adjudication by international judges. Former High Court chief justice Sir Gerard Brennan, said the bid to have the justices excuse themselves was unique.