QVM set to ban the sale of inauthentic Indigenous products
Stallholders at the iconic Queen Victoria Market (QVM) will be banned from selling inauthentic Indigenous souvenir products ahead of new laws set to come into effect next year.
The ban is part of an effort to bring the market in line with modern expectations after the market’s chief executive Stan Liacos conceded the continued sale of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander products was “out of step with contemporary Australian values and expectations”.
“I think many people would be surprised that this kind of thing is still going on right across Australia in 2022,” he said.
“Selling inauthentic products isn’t just disrespectful to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and dishonest to customers, it also undercuts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses and legitimate artists who are trading in authentic items and trying to make a living.”
The decision is expected to affect between 30 and 40 stallholders, but Mr Liacos said the market would be taking a “collaborative approach” with all traders before the sale of inauthentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander products are phased out from July 2023.
“We know our traders aren’t knowingly doing the wrong thing and we’ll be supporting affected businesses to transition their product mix in the lead up to the ban,” he said.
“While we remain committed to ensuring there will always be a wide range of products available at the market to suit all budgets, this ban is part of a range of improvements to modernise the offerings the market while at all times protecting those things that make it much-loved by locals and visitors.”
The ban comes as a draft report published by the Productivity Commission showed two-thirds of Indigenous-style souvenirs sold in Australia were inauthentic and had no connection to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The final report is expected to be reviewed by the Australian Government in November, but Mr Liacios said, “we’re not waiting for new national laws to come into place- we’re acting now”.
City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp also responded to community concerns, saying the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was “incredibly rich, and must be protected”.
“By preventing the sale of these inauthentic products at Queen Victoria Market, we are creating opportunities for the sale of authentic items that celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and show greater respect to traditional landowners,” she said.
The ban will also help acknowledge the significance of the area to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the traditional owners of the market site, she said.
Souvenir trader of 40 years Stephen McLennan, who sells a mix of authentic and inauthentic Indigenous products, said he supported the ban but “until the legislation comes through, we’ll see how far reaching it really is”.
“If they’re talking about the boomerangs and things we won’t be affected, but if they’re talking about other things like coasters, stubby coolers with prints on them, that will affect just about everybody in the market,” he said.
He said his store correctly labelled what was authentic or not, but noted “if you’re selling non-Indigenous products, and you’re saying it’s Australian made, that’s not on”.
The Friends of Queen Victoria Market president Mary-Lou Howie said while it was important to acknowledge that authenticated artwork such as traditional Indigenous items should be protected, she expressed concern some traders were left in the dark with “absolutely no discussion with them”.
“It is a pity that news such as this is given to the media before traders know about it and are informed of the detail,” she said.
“The lack of consultation by, in this case, an over woke QVM management, is typical of their non-consultative approach and lack of respect towards their traders.”
Ms Howie said Indigenous souvenir items were readily available throughout the CBD and every other market across Australia but noted “it is interesting that QVM's traders have been singled out”.
“Tourists come to the market for cheap and cheerful souvenirs which you find in any market around the world. These are in no way represented as authentic in the market,” she said.