Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt is encouraging AFL fans to drape the Aboriginal flag around themselves in protest at a copyright dispute.
The minister joins former Essendon player and Indigenous rights campaigner Michael Long, who has also suggested fans protesting against the copyright restrictions should take their own flag to matches in the Sir Doug Nicholls round, which commences in Darwin on Friday.
Mr Wyatt has asked his department for options in solving issues around the use of the flag.
The copyright is held by Luritja artist Harold Thomas, who designed the flag, and WAM Clothing has exclusive rights to reproduce it on clothing.
The AFL did not strike an agreement with WAM Clothing this year and will not use the flag during its Indigenous round this weekend.
Mr Wyatt is disappointed the “powerful symbol” won’t be featured.
“What I’m hoping is that people who go to the game take their Aboriginal flag with them and drape it around their neck, or carry it, and carry it with pride and display it,” he told the ABC.
Former AFL player Michael Long said the absence of the flag on the field would have an impact on players and fans.
“It’s (an) Australian flag,” he said.
“It’s symbolic to our people. There’s a lot of people who have given rise to that flag, even elders who aren’t with us today.”
The AFL great said he was hopeful people power would mean the flag would fly high in the stands.
“Hopefully it’s a sea of red and black and yellow.”
Mr Wyatt said the flag should be available to all people who want to access it.
“What I would hope to see is common sense prevail and the use of the flag become more free for significant events,” he said.
Mr Wyatt said he was prepared to look at a range of options to address the copyright issue, having held private conversations with Mr Thomas.
“I’m also very cognisant of (intellectual property) and I’m working with my agency in looking for a way forward that does not breach the individual ownership of the product by any Australian,” he said.
Indigenous Olympic gold medallist and former Labor senator Nova Peris is leading a campaign to make the Aboriginal flag available to all people for free.
Indigenous advocate and former politician Warren Mundine has called on the federal government to buy the copyright.
An online petition to change the current licensing agreement has attracted almost 120,000 signatures.