The Aboriginal flag is in danger of becoming "invisible and meaningless" as an increasing number of sporting groups ditch the iconic image.
Following a Koori Mail report earlier this year nothing that the flag's designer Harold Thomas had granted a non-Indigenous company an exclusive license to produce the flag on clothing, the 'Free The Flag' movement that sprung up in the protest has been gaining traction.
Since WAM Clothing received the exclusive licensing agreement, the company has threatened legal action and issued cease-and-desist notices to organisations and major sporting codes around Australia.
Laura Thompson of Spark Health, an Indigenous health promotion company that kicked off the protest, told the Koori Mail that the movement was striking a chord across the country.
"The team at Clothing The Gap attended two state-wide Aboriginal sporting carnivals over the last two weeks- the Victorian state-wide junior football, netball carnival and the Koori Knockout in NSW," MS Thompson said.
"In previous years the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags were in your face on the field. However, this year, the flags were less noticeable an in some case invisible or replaced with the Free The Flag logo. Was this our mob's way of saying, 'No, we are not paying a 20% fee to use the flag?"
The fee she referred to is what the non-Indigenous company, WAM Clothing, has been demanding from anyone wanting to use the flag on jerseys or other clothing. The company also extended tehir license to digital and other media.
Ms Thompson said about half the teams at the Knockout had chosen the ditch the flag.
"Teams such as United Tribes and The Western Koori Eels didn't want to pay to use the Aboriginal flag and in response to this they decided to replace the flag with the Free The Flag logo on their jerseys, which is available from our website for free," she said.
Photos: United Tribe and Western Koori Eels take a stand and replace the Aboriginal Flag with Free The Flag logo.
Photos: Wallabies and Australian Women's Cricket teams 2019 Indigenous jerseys.
"Is this another case of our national teams saying, 'We will not pay to sue the Aboriginal flag'?" she said. "If our national and community teams continue to remove the Aboriginal flag, it is in jeopardy of becoming invisible and meaningless both locally and internationally.
"The Aboriginal flag once united and connected our mobs all over Australia, no matter who your mob were.
"It was a symbol, like an artefact in the form of fabric, that gave Aboriginal people visibility, made us feel proud, strong and deadly.
"Now, the feeling amongst our mob is that profit margins and copyright laws have changed our feelings towards the Aboriginal flag.
"We shouldn't have to fight for equal flag rights. Aboriginal people have fought for enough.
"The 20% WAM fee for many of our Community organisations and sporting teams is hefty and an unaffordable option.
"If our mob wanted to put the Australian flag on our uniforms, we wouldn't need permission and wouldn't pay a cent!"
Aboriginal merchandise company Intercept Clothing is just one of the companies to have received a cease-and-desist notice from WAM Clothing.
Intercept director Kane Phillips said about half the teams that ordered jerseys through his company had either removed the Aboriginal flag or decided against incorporating it into their uniforms this year.
Koori Mail reporters at this year's Knockout also confirmed that the Aboriginal flag was nowhere near as prominent as it has been at previous events.
Apart from the radio interview with Caama Alice Springs radio in NT, Harold Thomas has remained silent on the issue, although WAM Clothing issued a statement from Mr Thomas saying: "As it is my common law right and Aboriginal heritage right, as with many other Aboriginals, I can choose who I like to have a license agreement to manufacture goods which have the Aboriginal flag on it."
By Darren Coyle