It took Kamilaroi activist Cheree Toka five years to see results from the NSW Government after years of lobbying. She wanted to see the Aboriginal flag flying on the Sydney Harbour Bridge all year round, but the state government claimed flag protocols prevented it being flown in place of the NSW flag.
In February, NSW premier Dominic Perrottet finally agreed to raise the flag every day. Writing for Broadsheet, Toka said, “The Aboriginal flag is a source of pride, and its colours represent 60,000 years of continuous culture and more than 250 distinct language groups. To me, it represents true Australia and the rich culture of our first people, which still thrives today.”
The NSW Government has said it’ll take between six months and three years to erect a third flagpole to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag alongside the NSW and Australian flags.
Going one better is Sydney’s Inner West Council, which has now replaced the state flag with the Aboriginal flag in four locations across the council area: at Loyalty Square in Balmain, at Balmain Town Hall, Summer Hill plaza and Enmore Park.
“We have tested this and there is no legal or legislative requirement – just an outdated convention,” said Inner West Council mayor Darcy Byrne in a statement. “The next step is to install additional flagpoles wherever needed so that the Aboriginal flag will fly alongside the Australian flag in every council building in the inner west.
“We are seeking to set a positive example for state and federal governments to follow our lead.”
Toka, who lives in Dulwich Hill in the inner west, has thanked the local council for backing her campaign since the beginning. She was invited to raise the Aboriginal flag in Summer Hill, and she’s expressed her desire for all Australian councils to follow suit.
“The Australian and Aboriginal flag should be equally present at all times,” she told Broadsheet. “I think that if this easy call to action is not implemented in 2022, then their Indigenous procurement policies and reconciliation action plans are null and void. Most importantly, if they have First Nations staff and they are not represented proudly by flying the flag, then in my opinion that council is just ticking boxes instead.”
“It’s also a powerful reminder that we have much more work to do on reconciliation,” said councillor Mat Howard in a statement. The Inner West Council has advised it’s also incorporating the Uluru Statement From the Heart into the council’s community strategic plan.