What is so important about a flag?

[Aboriginal News] Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Aboriginal & Torres Strait flags at Parliament, one on fence and two on flagpoles

** Sign the petition calling for respect for the Aboriginal flag in the Comments Section below.**

Today, at lunchtime, we will rally in front of the Queensland Parliament in George Street, Brisbane, to promote respect for the Aboriginal flag. We are hoping for large numbers of supporters with a great display of flag-waving to get attention.

After speeches at the rally a delegation of flag bearers will walk to
Parliament House to present a petition to the Speaker of the
Parliament. The petition will call for parliament to respect the real
meaning and importance of the Aboriginal flag.

Coco Wharton holds up the Union Jack at Mulrunji protest November 2006

We know the Aboriginal flag, along with the Torres Strait Islander
flag, already flies on the flagpoles of the Queensland Parliament
House and that our flags also have a respected place inside the
legislative assembly.

So why is a rally and petition needed?

And why on the same day the Parliament is to have the ‘second reading’
of the constitution amendment Bill, amendments to acknowledge
Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders as the first people in

What is going on?

Our concern is that the meaning of the Aboriginal flag is not
understood, and the flag is being disrespected by government and a
large section of Australian society. And Aboriginal people, like the
flag, are being disrespected.

The Aboriginal flag was first flown in the early 1970s and became
prominent at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy set up in front of the (then)
Parliament House. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy challenged of the
authority of the Australian nation and reminded the Australian public
that the sovereignty of the Aboriginal people has never been ceded.
Time and time again since the 1970s the Aboriginal people have told
the government that only an agreed treaty can settle the dispute over
the land, the resources and all rights of the first peoples.

The designer of the flag, Harold Thomas, designed the flag to
symbolise the Aboriginal people, Aboriginal land and the spiritual
relationship between the people and the land. He has copyright over
the design but wants the Aboriginal people to use the flag for the
fight for rights and recognition.

The Australian Government made the Aboriginal flag an official flag of
Australia in 1995. Now many government buildings, including State,
Territory and local government buildings, and many schools and other
civic buildings, have agreed to fly the Aboriginal flag in recognition
of the Aboriginal peoples.

However it seems that time has dimmed the significance of the message
of the flag in their memory. Too many people now believe that flying
the Aboriginal flag, or acknowledging the traditional owners on
official occasions, or using the colours of the Aboriginal flag
represents a settlement with the Aboriginal people. To them, this is
reconciliation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Over recent years there has been a rise in racism against the
Aboriginal people. There are a number of laws now in effect at the
national and State levels which are deliberately intended to target
the Aboriginal population. The demise of ATSIC has led to uninhibited
aggression against the Indigenous identity in Australia. The
governments that fly the flag are most likely disrespecting the
Aboriginal people in the political processes of parliament and the
condescending approach to ‘protection’ laws, and the disrespect
extends to the Aboriginal flag hanging in their halls when they make
laws which discriminate against the Aboriginal people.

It is now a time when the Aboriginal flag must fly high as the symbol
of the Aboriginal people’s fight for inherent and sovereign rights.

In Australia various authorities seem to believe that possession of
the Aboriginal flag gives to them powers and controls over the
Aboriginal people. Instead of seeking the cooperation and consent of
the Aboriginal people when determining Indigenous policies the
governments have decided to roll up the sleeve and thrash the
Indigenous people into submission to Australian values.

Contemporary policies of the governments regard the Aboriginal people
only as ‘individuals’, destined to be assimilated into the western
society of white Australia. The policies no longer tolerate the
cultural identity and distinction of our people, and demand that our
youth go into white schooling systems for intensive training into
white lives. The policies refuse to accede to ‘Land Rights’, that
strong movement of the 70s that demanded governments and mining
companies to either pay royalties or pay the rent to the Aboriginal
people. Now, instead, the governments set out to enforce welfare
policies and micro-economic controls over Aboriginal families and
communities, with absolutely no regard for the aspirations, intentions
or decision of the people themselves.

The governments now call us by only one term – Indigenous
Australians. They treat us as individuals and demand that we follow
the ever-increasing laws aimed at attacking our culture and our
institutions. These are mind-altering policies, forcing Aboriginal
peoples to think only in terms of ‘taking their place’ as Australians,
rather than being Aboriginal people as we have always been.

The governments increasingly talk of the ‘rule of law’ and, with this
mantra, insist that the Aboriginal people follow the government
decisions, decisions which are ultimately made in white institutions,
enforced by white authorities to meet white aspirations for the future.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted two
years ago and it screams out a different message for the governments
of Australia. The Declaration, a charter for decolonisation, fifty
years overdue, and now backed by an overwhelming majority of
governments in the world, is framed on one core principle – the
identity of Indigenous Peoples as ‘peoples’. The entire Declaration
confirms the legitimacy of our status of Indigenous Peoples, a
complete society with collective ownership of our territories, our
resources, and with the right to maintain our distinct cultural
characteristics. It is a confirmation of sovereignty of the
Aboriginal people, protecting the right of the Aboriginal people to
stand up to government and to say ‘no’ when ‘no’ is needed.

The Declaration affirms that we, as Indigenous Peoples, have the right
to choose our political status, and the right to self-government or
other forms of autonomy as determined by us. The Declaration affirms
that we have the right to development as peoples, including economic
development, political development, cultural development and social
development without being tied to the policies being forced upon us by
the colonising government.

The Declaration affirms that we have the right to maintain and develop
our own institutions for decision-making, and for delivering services
to our people. It affirms that our laws, the Aboriginal laws, are not
inferior to or able to be simply oppressed by alien parliaments and
their legal systems.

The Declaration backs our right to hold up our flag, like the flag of
any other nation, and to assert a sovereign right of our people to
make our own decisions. It is a flag waiting to be waved in demand
for justice and for restitution of our wealth, property and resources.

Last year the Australian Government expressed its support for the
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but this policy
position has not reached the Queensland Government. The Queensland
Government is so rabid against the rights of Indigenous Peoples that
it is increasing policing of our communities with a police force
completely unaccountable for its brutality against us, it is
increasing our imprisonment to the most extraordinary levels, it is
taking more of our children than ever before and it is causing and
willing the destruction of our families.

As we live and breathe today the Queensland Government is using its
legislative powers to try to extinguish our identity as peoples and
our legitimate rights as the first peoples. The government on this
very day refuses to recognise our ownership of our lands and our
resources. The government is forcing through legislation to change
the Queensland constitution to ensure that we will never, ever, ever
see our rights as Aboriginal people in this country. The proposed
amendments are as crooked as the colonial powers which trampled on us
one hundred and fifty years ago.

The constitutional amendments will lock the legal doors for Aboriginal
people wanting justice under Queensland laws. And while our rights
are being buried by the parliament the government still refuses to pay
us for the extraction of mineral resources or the production of
primary produce from the lands. The government refuses to recognise
our right to development in our own lands using our own natural

When the police moved in a week ago to grab the Aboriginal flag, the
Speaker of the Queensland Parliament considered that the police were
doing no more than enforcing ‘the rule’ that no banners be tied to the
fence of Parliament House. That is all the Speaker can see of this
situation. He does not understand the importance of the flag, and he
does not care that the flag was not causing any harm to the fence or
the parliament. He only saw the rules – as if it were ‘a law that
exists for the protection of the people’.

The Speaker was unable to see the concerns of the demonstrators that
the government is prejudiced in the application of its laws. He was
unable to hear the outcries that the parliament was not representative
of the Aboriginal people. He was not able to comprehend that a racist
State, like Queensland, does not deserve respect from the people who
are the victims of that very racism and the institution that breeds

The Speaker did not believe in the right of people to take political
action for their rights, and he certainly did not believe that the
Parliament House should be a forum for the political voice of the
Aboriginal people. He could not accept that the fence around
Parliament House provided a backdrop and a prop for protest action.
He probably does not understand the democratic will of the people can
have application to Aboriginal people too.

The red, black and yellow of the Aboriginal flag is the heartbeat of
the Aboriginal people. The police surge for the flag is nothing less
than a rush at the people and their rights, just as it was thirty
years ago when protesters defended time and time again the Aboriginal
tent embassy against the police onslaught. Had the Speaker decided to
not call upon police to remove the flag, no issue would have emerged.
No negative consequences would have arisen. No blight upon the fence
would have been unleashed. Peace and calm would have returned when
the protesters left.

The Speaker must have had blood in his eyes and he must have wanted
very much to dominate and hurt the movement at the gates of Parliament
House for Aboriginal rights.

Tuesday, 23 Narch 2010
(some flags will be available at the rally)
Parliament House
George Street, Brisbane
12.30 pm to 1.45 pm

Speakers will include:


and others

Sign the petition calling for respect for the Aboriginal flag in the Comments Section below.

One thought on “What is so important about a flag?

  1. **Please sign the petition calling for respect for the Aboriginal flag in the Reply below.** says:


    To: The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly
    of Queensland

    The petition of residents of the State of Queensland draws to the
    attention of the House the inherent rights and human rights of the
    Aboriginal Peoples of Australia and the status of the Aboriginal flag,
    being a flag belonging to Aboriginal Peoples and the widely-recognised
    symbol of the Aboriginal Peoples sovereignty.

    Your petitioners therefore request the House to:

    1. respect to the Aboriginal flag as the representation of the
    sovereign rights of the Aboriginal Peoples; and

    2. legislate into the laws of Queensland the United Nations
    Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as soon as possible
    and without diminution of those rights; and

    3. return all the lands, territories and resources that have
    traditionally belonged to the Aboriginal Peoples except those lands,
    territories and resources which are otherwise compensated in
    accordance with the requirements of the Aboriginal Peoples; and

    4. remedy past wrongs and injustices against the Aboriginal peoples
    through independent and impartial adjudication; and

    5. reject any and all amendments to the Queensland Constitution
    relating to the Aboriginal Peoples which do not uphold the rights of
    the Aboriginal Peoples and which have not received the prior, informed
    consent of the Aboriginal Peoples; and

    6. finance and fully support Aboriginal political development,
    including self-determination through self-governance, as is the
    inherent right of the Aboriginal Peoples and as has been consistently
    and deliberately denied to them since colonisation in 1859.

    Please leave name and email address.

    Short comments are welcome.

    Ian Curr
    23 Feb 2010

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