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Retire the Aboriginal flag, usher in flags for every nation and one for the entire People

Renée Tighe

“It would be appropriate to ask all Aboriginal Land Councils to run a competition and ask whether they’d be able to have a flag that represents their own nation and, we could have another flag that represents all First Nations people united. “- Renée Tighe.

Kamilaroi woman, Renée Tighe has strong views on how to end the ongoing debate around the Aboriginal flag different from the one expressed through the ongoing “Free the Flag” campaign.

Voicing the concerns of many people who feel that the current flag does not represent them, Renée Tighe is in favour of simply retiring it.

She argues that during the Land Rights struggle Aboriginal people embraced the flag believing that it is "the peoples’ flag".

“It is one of the biggest mistakes of the Aboriginal people. If the people who embraced it had known that there would be business conditions linked to it would they have embraced it?” Renée Tighe questions.

“It is a slap in the face of Aboriginal people that they can use the Australian flag but they can not use the Aboriginal flag.”

She adds that there are many Aboriginal artists willing to design a new flag and who would happily surrender the copyrights of their creation to the community. In fact, other Aboriginal flags also existed around the time that Harold Thomas designed his flag.

“We’ve embraced and run with this flag and its story for a long time. But something happened. If this is not a reason to retire the flag then what is? What is the reason?”

“It would be appropriate to ask all Aboriginal land Councils to run a competition and ask whether they’d be able to have a flag that represents their own nation and, we could have another flag that represents all First Nations people united,“ Renée Tighe says.

She sees the current debate as providing the perfect opportunity for Aboriginal people to exercise their self-determination and empowerment to acquire flags for each Aboriginal nation and have copyrights remain with the people at the Land Councils level.

Renée Tighe stresses that grassroots people are in the Land Councils. “These are the peak bodies that control our land. Why not give them control of our flags too? Members have a say in that. People do have a say.”

“We’ve embraced and run with this flag and its story for a long time. But something happened. If this is not a reason to retire the flag then what is? What is the reason?”

Renée explains that Aboriginal people have lost their identity through the processes of colonisation, dispossession and assimilation. But, she says, “we’ve moved forward and empowered ourselves in community. Now we have an opportunity. Something big could come out of this.”

 

Thousands of Indigenous people will benefit from the decision.
This flag has been the symbol for Aboriginal pride, strength and resilience for nearly 50 years.
Getty

 

“Why not show our culture; show a symbol of every Nation? Aboriginal Australia was not designed like contemporary Australia. Aboriginal Australia is like Europe; with many nations.

She then argues that as Australia is moving towards treaty, like one being negotiated in Victoria; every Aboriginal Nation should be represented. “We are looking at treaty to be able to show respect and acknowledge the traditional people of each country. Why not share that symbol in a flag as well?”

Renée Tighe says that there is a lot of emotion in the community because of the actions of Harrold Thomas. “People are feeling hurt; they are feeling anger; they are feeling upset. Everyone is wondering what is going to happen with the flag.”

Renée explains that there is another campaign called “Free the Flag”. People behind this campaign are people who still love the flag. They still want the flag and that is completely understandable as the flag has been around for 48 years.

“A lot of triumphs,  a lot of tragedies have come under this flag. It has been part of their lives for so long. They do have that sentiment and do want to hold onto that.”

She adds that leaders and the people are all expressing their views online. For example, NSW Aboriginal Land Council is behind the campaign to “Free the Flag”.

“They are supporting that campaign online. The business is supporting the flag but what do individual members of that organisation feel?”

Renée Tighe knows some people from the Land Rights movement who are very angry and very upset about the developments around the flag. But, she believes it’s up to everyone in the community to go out and express their views and make their position known.

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