After facing accusations of using Indigenous people’s names and other identifying information without permission, the company offering Oscar nominees “a symbolic souvenir” of land in outback Australia says it has removed the material from its marketing.
A company called Distinctive Assets, unaffiliated with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, sends gift bags to the nominees for best actor and best director, and Pieces of Australia is one of the brands that paid $4,000 to be included in the bag.
As part of its “Conservation Gift Packs,” Pieces of Australia sells a hamper that contains a tiny piece of outback land. Owners of a “pack” are not permitted to “take possession of the parcel; use the parcel; enter upon the parcel and/or the land without the licensor’s express written consent,” despite the inclusion of a “certificate of land license” with each land parcel.
According to the Indigenous Carbon Industry Network (ICIN), the organization was mentioned in the digital “member’s handbook” included in Pieces of Australia’s “Conservation Gift Packs” without permission.
The Indigenous Carbon Industry Network denies any affiliation with Pieces of Australia, which has confirmed it has taken down potentially inappropriate content.
Anna Boustead, chief executive of ICIN, and Cissy Gore-Birch, co-chair of the organization, issued a statement denying any affiliation with Pieces of Australia and claiming the company had not contacted them.
The digital guide included “a perspective from the Indigenous Aboriginals” as one of its headings.
It stated, “When most non-Indigenous people look at the land, they often see something they can exploit, an asset they can develop and use to create a profit. Indigenous people see the land in a different light. As they look into it, they perceive something that is both alive and vital, with strong ties to their past, present, and future.
The Indigenous Carbon Industry Network (ICIN), which serves as an industry body, helps to supply Indigenous community groups with resources.
According to Boustead, the handbook appeared to have stolen several photos of Aboriginal ranger groups from the websites of ICIN member organizations and used them without permission.
With regards to the Oscar’s “Goodie Bag” and “Pieces of Australia,” ICIN issued a statement saying, “we have not granted permission for any of our information, publications or photos to be reproduced to support the Oscars.”
The Indigenous Carbon Industry Network is a nonprofit organization that is “100% Indigenous-owned” according to the statement. Its shareholders include 23 Indigenous groups from all over Australia.
ICN is consulting with legal counsel about this matter and will release a statement once we have received it.
The Pieces of Australia founder, Niels Chaneliere, said on Saturday that “all content that may have been inappropriately used in relation to ICIN or their mention in the member’s handbook has now been removed and is no longer mentioned now that it has been brought to our attention”.
According to Chaneliere
Chaneliere said the intention of his organization was to provide “land license agreements (where there is no land title transfer at any point) as novel/symbolic gifts for people around the world to engage and participate positively in conservation efforts”.
Previously, he had told Guardian Australia that he had not yet contacted the indigenous people in the area.
To “help restore the vulnerable forests around Australia and ensure we can help stop the environmental decline in its tracks,” Pieces of Australia “by protecting & preserving the land that we own from development, deforestation, and unnecessary intervention” and “planting a minimum of two trees with each purchase” through their partner ReForest Now in northern NSW.
Chaneliere emphasized that they had “absolutely no intention” of offending or misleading First Nations people through their communications.
Yes, we took advantage of being included in this year’s Oscars goody bags to raise awareness about our mission to stop the clearing and deforestation of land in Australia.
The CEO of Queensland South Native Title Services, Kevin Smith, expressed worry over the content on Pieces of Australia. He called it “outrageous” not to get “free, prior, and informed consent” before using Indigenous Australians’ likenesses in advertisements.
The Aboriginal people of the Barugam nation are recognized on the Pieces of Australia website as the original landowners and custodians.
Distinctive Assets claimed it was unaware of whether or not the Pieces of Australia brand had consulted with the Baru’gam Nation’s traditional owners. Lash Fary, the founder, admitted he was clueless.
‘We are always looking for items that will make a positive impact on the nominees’ lives or the world at large,’ Fary said.
“For many years now, we have also made an extra effort to include items from small businesses, female-owned businesses, and minority-owned businesses, which stand to benefit the most from both the media exposure and any celebrity social media love that might come their way,” the organizers said.