In Balgo in remote north Western Australia, a small group of musicians sit in the exhibition space of Warlayirti Artists Centre discussing the bands they play in, how they make decisions and what they should call themselves. They like the sound of "The Lost Boys" but think there might be another band somewhere in Queensland using that name. Behind them is the new purpose built recording studio built at the art centre in recognition of the emerging Indigenous musical talent in a community better known for its visual artists – including Eubena Nampitjin, Elizabeth Nyumi, Boxer Milner and Helicopter Tjungurrayi.
Australia's rock art, which is one of the oldest known continuously practised art forms in the world, is at great risk of widespread destruction as a result of unconstrained industrial development. These works, which consist of carved and painted depictions of Indigenous history and spirituality, have provided important clues regarding the development of art specifically and human evolution generally. Because there is no single identifiable artist and the works date back thousands of years, far beyond the stipulated duration limits, rock art does not fit comfortably in the traditional frameworks of intellectual property law.
In 2010, a gallery in the Blue Mountains in NSW erected a large sculpture featuring Wandjinas, the creation spirit sacred to the Worrora, Wunumbal and Ngarinyin Aboriginal tribes in Western Australia. Artists in the Black was contacted by both the people of the Katoomba area and Mowanjum Arts which represents artists from the three language groups who are the traditional custodians of the Wandjina law and sites of the Western Kimberley. The Dharug and Gundungurra Aboriginal people of the Blue Mountains area were mortified that this conduct was occurring on their traditional lands and felt embarrassed and responsible. All five groups were upset by the unauthorized and disrespectful appropriation of important cultural imagery. They contacted Artists in the Black.
The only collection of traditional and contemporary Indigenous Australian art assembled and curated by an Indigenous artist is in danger of being torn apart and dismantled. Arts Law clients Gordon and Elaine Syron have spent a lifetime and much personal sacrifice collecting hundreds of works, often supporting young unknown artists who have later found artistic success. Their collection contains works by Clifford Possum, Emily Kngwarreye, Cecil Bowden, Bronwyn Bancroft, well as, of course, works by Gordon himself including his confrontational and iconic "Judgment by his peers".