QUT teams up with IndigiLedger to protect Indigenous art

The $200 million annual trade in fake Australian Indigenous art and design products has been dealt a major blow thanks to a world-first Indigenous start-up backed by QUT.

IndigiLedger uses blockchain technology and ‘smart labels’ to verify and authenticate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artworks, designs and souvenir products at the point of sale. It is seeking further partners and moving into Australia-wide engagement after last month securing support from Microsoft.

The process allows consumers buying Indigenous art to scan a unique label that provided details of the authenticity, traceability, and history of what they buy.

Founder and Quandamooka man Adam Robinson created IndigiLedger to protect the authentic Indigenous culture and knowledge of his people and other Indigenous nations to ensure it thrived in a digitally connected retail landscape.

“This connects new technologies with the world’s oldest living culture,” Mr Robinson said. “People want to know that the art and design products they buy are authentic and this technology gives them that confidence.

“It’s the digital equivalent of being in the room when the artist created the initial work.”

Artist Richard Bell in his studio with Adam Robinson.

The Arts Law Centre of Australia estimates 80 per cent of Indigenous souvenirs in Australian tourist shops are fake – a market worth about $200 million every year.

Mr Robinson said his business was the first Indigenous owned and led technology start-up addressing this problem.

“Our business model engages deeply with Indigenous artists and their ways of knowing, being and doing in a culturally safe and appropriate manner regarding cultural expression.”

QUT has teamed up with IndigiLedger to support business development and research around the pilot-use cases, such as Kalkadoon artists Chern’ee and Brooke Sutton, whose products span original artworks to homewares and tourism souvenirs.

“IndigiLedger is technology enabling the story of our artwork and the IDs provide customers with confidence that the artwork is authentic.”

QUT’s Vice-President of Business Development Professor Mark Harvey said IndigiLedger’s positioning at the intersection of innovation, technology and real-world solutions for Indigenous people made it an easy decision to support the start-up.

“QUT really is dedicated to supporting Australian Indigenous success and empowerment and we’re proud to back an Indigenous-led company in the technology space,” Professor Harvey said.

Mr Robinson said the next phase of development for IndigiLedger is crucial in consolidating the platform and he is assembling partners who share his vision.

Mr Robinson said this year’s NAIDOC theme “Always was, always will be” had resonated with him as he conducted pilots with artist.

“These products are an expression of culture and knowledge that always was authentic to our people. It is my mission that IndigiLedger ensures they always will be.”

Main image: Kalkadoon artists Chern’ee and Brooke Sutton whose products span original artworks to homewares and tourism souvenirs.

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