When I first heard about Cheree Toka, a 26-year-old Kamilaroi woman, and her petition to ensure that the Aboriginal flag flies permanently atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I had to double-check the date of the article.
It’s March 2017, and the traditional Aboriginal flag doesn’t sit next to the NSW and Australian flags permanently on display atop of Sydney’s most iconic landmark? Am I hearing this right?
Unfortunately, I am. I mean, it’s pretty easy to visually fact check this one. Other than on ‘special ceremonial occasions’, the red, yellow and black flag is kept folded away in a brown cardboard box with ‘NOT SORRY’ scribbled across it.
Okay—that last part might be a bit of a stretch, but at this point, who’s to say?
Anyway, the point is it’s crazy that it’s not there already. But the good news is that Cheree Toka is only 6,705 signatures away from taking her change.org petition all the way to the Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian.
Her petition explains that she, along with the thousands of petitioners around Australia backing her, “ask the Legislative Assembly and additional decision makers for a third flag to fly alongside the Australian and the NSW flags – one that acknowledges and celebrates our ancient and authentic Indigenous culture; the red, black and yellow Aboriginal flag.”
Such a visible sign of respect is necessary to continue to build a positive relationship between Aboriginal people and mainstream society.
The first Aboriginal woman to be elected to the House of Representatives, MP Linda Burney, agrees, too. She told Central Sydney that she thinks flying the Aboriginal flag on the Harbour Bridge “would be a wonderful move.”
“The Aboriginal flag is a not just a symbol for Aboriginal people, it is a reminder that this continent has a history that goes way beyond European arrival.”
At first I thought I’d have to take a long look back in history to discover the first time the Australian and Aboriginal flag were flown next to each other on the Harbour Bridge.
I’d head to the State Library, comb through hours worth of newspapers on the microfiche (that’s the old-school version of Trove, if you’re lucky enough not to know). Turns out all I had to do was go all the way back in time to that ancient year called 2013.
That’s right, somehow, it has only been four years since the powers-that-be decided to fly the Aboriginal flag for the ‘special occasion’ of Australia Day, aka Invasion Day. Because only that day seems appropriate?