Pulling down ... or proudly flying the Aboriginal Flag

AAP Herald Sun August 07, 2011

Outgoing West Australian Liberal Party state president Barry Court has sparked controversy, describing the Aboriginal flag and "welcome to country" ceremonies as unnecessary.

A motion will be made at this week's Liberal state conference for the WA Government to cease "welcome to country" ceremonies at all official events.

Mr Court caused debate after he said there was no need for Aboriginal Australians to have their own flag.

Instead, all Australians should be united under one national flag and anthem, he told the Sunday Times newspaper.

However, federal Liberal MP Ken Wyatt, the nation's first indigenous member in the House of Representatives, said the flag was symbolic of Aboriginal people.

"We are Australians, but Aboriginal people have a separate identity, like any other cultural group, and we are proud of it," Mr Wyatt told the Sunday Times.

A week before the party's state conference, Mr Court said he thought many Aborigines would support his idea.

"I spent a lot of time with Aboriginals up north and they are all one of us — a lot of them don't like separation," he said.

Several Aboriginal elders — including Dennis Jeppa, Noel Nannup and Theresa Walley — have criticised the motion and Mr Court's comments.

Mr Jeppa said the flag created "oneness" rather than division between Aboriginal people and the rest of Australia.

"We have a separate identity, but we are still Australian, and having the Aboriginal flag recognises that," he said.

"We are one of the oldest cultural groups in the world and we don't think that we're not Australian just because we have our own flag.

"In Bunbury (in WA's southwest), the council flies the Aboriginal, Australian and Torres Strait Islander flags with pride and that creates the oneness."

Kimberley Land Council executive director Wayne Bergmann said the Aboriginal flag was symbolic of Aboriginal traditions and ancestry.

"It's about more than being part of the culture... Australia still has a long way to go to resolve issues with land for Aboriginal people," he said.

Mr Bergmann also criticised Mr Court for stirring the pot of controversy as he heads to retirement.

"It's a bit of a no-brainer, it's a cheap shot to make on the way out," he said.

"I thought we were beyond this sort of debate about the acceptance of Aboriginal people's place in Australia."

WA Opposition Leader Eric Ripper said Premier Colin Barnett should step in and put a stop to the debate.

"We have an Australian flag and we are all Australians, but the Aboriginal community has a distinct identity that has been accepted in Australia and they should have their own flag," Mr Ripper said.

Mr Ripper said the issue showed right-wing and "backward elements" of the Liberal Party.

The motion at the state conference will also call for legislation to force councils to include information on "welcome to country" ceremonies and costs in their annual reports.

Melbourne breaks ranks to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag

John Masanauskas Herald Sun August 03, 2011

City councillors last night endorsed a three-year plan to fly the Aboriginal flag on the Town Hall to recognise the city's "first nation" people. Herald Sun

Melbourne will be the first capital city to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag.

The city council will also drop the term "indigenous" when referring to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

Placing an Aboriginal cultural installation near Cooks' Cottage will also be considered in a bold plan to promote reconciliation.

City councillors last night endorsed a three-year plan to fly the Aboriginal flag on the Town Hall to recognise the city's "first nation" people.

It will fly alongside the Australian, Victorian and Melbourne flags.

People and Creative City Committee chairwoman Cr Jennifer Kanis said it would be a proud day.

"We will be the first capital city council to fly the Aboriginal flag above the Town Hall. That will be a fantastic thing for us to be doing," Cr Kanis said.

Fellow councillor Brian Shanahan said he had had misgivings about the symbolic gesture, but supported it because the Australian flag would remain paramount on the building.

Jim Berg, elder of the Gunditj-Mara people from the Western District, said it was an acknowledgment by the council that this was traditional country.

"It acknowledges that we were here and still are here," he said. "For us, without that acknowledgment there is no future."

Cr Kanis said the council would stop using the term indigenous for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people after community feedback.

"They said they would prefer to be referred to as Aborigines because that's what they are," she said.

Jill Gallagher, CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, said using the word indigenous was often confusing because it could mean native people from any country.

"It doesn't mean anything to us on its own," she said.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said the council's reconciliation plan was groundbreaking and he would proudly recommend it to his counterparts in other cities.

"I'm delighted that the City of Melbourne is a leader in this area," he said.

The plan comes just weeks after Sydney City Council declared that European settlement in Australia was an invasion.

Melbourne council will consider an Aboriginal cultural heritage installation near Cooks' Cottage in Fitzroy Gardens and also establishing an Aboriginal business hub in the city.

Welcome to Country ceremonies will be staged at the first meeting of each newly elected council and traditional owners will be acknowledged at the start of all major events where councillors are invited to speak. masanauskasj@heraldsun.com.au