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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 11:55 GMT
Aboriginal art under fraud threat
Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders make up 2% of the Australian population
Aborigines want to safeguard their culture
Australian aboriginal art is under threat after a series of high profile fraud scandals.

The country's indigenous population has launched a campaign to protect its art after a number of fake imitations.

Aboriginal art is gaining popularity - the industry is worth $143 (83m) annually, growing 10% a year.

The Australian government recently created a labelling and database system to give potential buyers reassurance over authenticity.

"Where there's the money, there's the fakers," said Tim Klingender, aboriginal art director at Sotheby's auction house.


"It's a field where people don't have an enormous amount of expertise so some of the unscrupulous agents can sell third quality work dressed up as first-rate work," he added.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission are concerned that the artists themselves are not reaping the rewards of their work.

"Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists have been exploited and denied a fair share of the wealth being generated by their creations," said the acting chairman of ATSIC, Lionel Quartermaine.

White artist Elizabeth Durack, who died in 2000, admitted painting as the imaginary Aborigine, Eddie Burrup.

The first person to be convicted of Aboriginal art fraud was John Douglas O'Loughlin in 1999 - he pleaded guilty to selling paintings he claimed were the work of renowned Aboriginal artist, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri.

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