City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has praised the NSW government’s decision to fly the Aboriginal flag permanently over the Harbour Bridge, after Kamilaroi woman and Inner West local Cheree Toka’s petition to fly the flag over the bridge gained new steam in the past week.
Cr Moore said that the decision was “fantastic” while affirming that Sydney “always was, always will be Aboriginal land”. It came as NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet vowed to introduce a spate of new measures to acknowledge Australia’s Aboriginal people, including the remediation and handover of Goat Island (known as Me-mel to the local Gadigal people) to its traditional landowners and an obligation for all of his cabinet to close the gap in their ministerial portfolios.
Mr Perrottet has been informed that the installation of a third flag pole, to accompany the Australian and NSW flag, could take between six and 12 months, however was originally advised that it could take up to two years. The Premier also hopes to develop an Indigenous cultural space in Sydney, eyeing either Macquarie Street or Goat Island (in consultation with the Local Aboriginal Land Council) as potential locations.
Yvonne Weldon, the first-ever Aboriginal Australian to be elected to the City of Sydney Council, welcomed the move, but warned that “we must see real action soon”.
“As a newly-elected councillor I am anxious the City of Sydney takes long overdue action of its own and in collaboration with the NSW government to recognise and celebrate Aboriginal sovereignty, history and culture,” Cr Weldon said.
Cheree Toka launched the campaign to fly the Aboriginal flag permanently above the Harbour Bridge five years ago, calling on the NSW Legislative Assembly to fly a third flag that “acknowledges and celebrates our ancient and authentic Aboriginal culture”.
In the five days following Australia Day this year, Toka’s fundraising campaign for a third flag pole on the Harbour Bridge amassed 39 new donations totalling $1570. Toka has said that the petition and fundraiser won’t stop “until the flag is flying proud” above the Harbour Bridge.
The two flagpoles above the Harbour Bridge usually display the Australian and NSW flags, with the Aboriginal flag flying next to the national flag for 19 days a year, including during NAIDOC Week, Reconciliation Week and Sorry Day.
Earlier this year, the Aboriginal flag was transferred to public hands after a $20 million copyright deal was struck between the Federal Government and the emblem’s creator.
Non-Indigenous company WAM Clothing bought the exclusive rights to the flag in November 2018, meaning that anyone wishing to use the flag on clothing or in physical or digital media had to ask for permission and pay a fee. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the flag was now “freed” for all Australians, who could now use it in a similar manner to the Australian flag.