21 November 2019
(Petition, 21 November 2019, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I support the petition. In 2017 I submitted this very petition to the House with over 500 signatures and I am pleased to see that it has returned with more than 10,000 signatures. The Australian Aboriginal flag is an important symbol of unity and identity for Aboriginal people. It was designed by the artist Harold Thomas of the Luritja people of Central Australia as part of the land rights movement. It has been adopted by all Aboriginal groups having universal symbolism, with the colour black representing the people, yellow representing the sun, and red representing the earth and Aboriginal people's relationship to land. In 1995 it was proclaimed as a flag of Australia under the Flags Act 1953.
The Aboriginal flag is commonly flown next to the general Australian flag and permanently flies outside courthouses, at public schools and here at Parliament House, in this Chamber, in recognition of these buildings being on Aboriginal land. The flag also provides an important acknowledgement of our country's Aboriginal cultural history, which dates back at least 65,000 years. Where better to fly the flag than on the Sydney Harbour Bridge? Currently the Australian and the New South Wales flags fly adjacent to each other on top of the bridge and four times a year the State flag is replaced with the Aboriginal flag for Australia Day, National Apology Day, Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week.
The campaign to fly the flag permanently on the bridge has been spearheaded by the inspiring Cheree Toka, a young Kamilaroi entrepreneur who wants to change the city's failure to show obvious signs of our rich Aboriginal history. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is in my electorate—shared between my electorate and the electorate of the member for North Shore actually. Cheree came to me two years ago to get my support for her petition. Her passion and drive have led her to run a positive campaign that engages politicians and the wider community. She has captured the hearts of many Sydneysiders who are proud of living in a city that has one of the oldest living cultures in the world. Cheree has been attending events over the past two years to get signatures and I congratulate her on this amazing achievement.
We have a lot of work to do to close the gap in Aboriginal disadvantage and to eliminate discrimination. Permanently flying the Aboriginal flag on an international icon next to our national and State flags will go a long way to show our willingness to stand and work together to achieve a better deal for Indigenous people in New South Wales. It is also an important sign of respect for our long cultural history that predates European settlement. In my view, there is no reason why we cannot erect a third pole on the bridge to accommodate the Australian Aboriginal flag permanently. I appreciate the update from the Government provided by the member for Manly and believe that, should we be successful here, this would represent a social and cultural win for all of us. I commend the petition.