August 21, 2003 02:21 PM

That Prince Harry just can’t seem to stay out of trouble.

Last week, it was revealed that he basically failed his college-entrance exams and will head straight into the army next year — though his father, Prince Charles, put on a stoic face with the statement, “I am very proud of Harry.”

Proud, however, is not how Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission feels after the young prince purportedly “borrowed” Aboriginal symbols and painting styles in his attempts at artwork, according to published reports.

“His family has been stealing from us for 200 years,” ATSIC’s culture, rights and justice committee chairman Rodney Dillon is quoted as saying in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. He then called Prince Harry’s Aboriginal-inspired paintings “cultural theft.”

Harry, 18, who is due to visit Down Under in November, displayed a series of his Aboriginal-style works earlier this year in following celebrations for his birthday. At the time, some Aboriginal artists expressed their displeasure with his use of indigenous motifs.

“When people (do) this without any understanding of the spirit of these things, it means they are being very disrespectful,” said Dillon. “It’s nothing for some of the English people to do this, they have stolen our remains and they think they can steal our art.

Dillon did conceded that Harry could be forgiven for his actions given his youth. “It is offensive, but I don’t think we should be too hard on the young fellow … I think he has just got to learn what he can and cannot do.”

In Harry’s defense, Buckingham Palace said the prince’s paintings do not purport to be Aboriginal works and that he did not intend to offend anybody.

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