Digital culture interweaves words and symbols, thus making emojis a mainstream form of communication - winky face, love heart, Christmas tree. While we may associate these with today's youth or a trend in pop culture, the use of emojis symbolises more than a monkey covering its ears or a ripe peach. The suite of animated icons represents an individual’s feelings, location, or a sense of pride in their nationality, ethnicity, or community. To date, there has been a gap in emojis representing Australia’s Indigenous communities and cultures.
Today, the beginning of Reconciliation Week 2017, Twitter has launched an emoji featuring both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags as Australians across the country (and abroad!) recognise the 50th anniversary of the landmark 1967 Referendum, National Sorry Day, and celebrate the beginning of the AFL Indigenous round. This emoji is a global first.
Shannan Dodson, Yawuru woman and Digital and Communications specialist, worked with Twitter to build the platforms engagement with Indigenous Australia. Dodson told NITV Twitter wanted to be able to do something for National Reconciliation Week, as well as the 67 Anniversary, she noted how many people have been asking for flag emojis,
"It was great to work with Twitter to, finally, make this a reality! To have it happen during a week that commemorates moments in our history that recognise the strength, resilience, pride and diversity of our mob shows great leadership by Twitter."
Luke Pearson, founder of @IndigenousX (a project amplifying Indigenous voices online) and former Senior Digital Producer of NITV, said,
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flag emojis have long been sought after by Indigenous social media users, and for Twitter to deliver just before #NRW2017, so that they will be online for such significant dates as Mabo Day’s 25th anniversary (#Mabo25), the 20th anniversary of the Bring them Home Report (#BTH20), the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, as well as current events like the Uluru convention, the AFL Indigenous Round, and ABC's Right Wrongs project will be a much welcome addition to the already buzzing Indigenous Twitter landscape."
Twitter is a place to engage, challenge, and promote ideas. In the last year. Twitter has recorded a rapid growth of conversations around hashtags like #IndigenousDads, #IndigenousMums, #AlwaysWillBe and #ChangeTheDate. The growth of these social movements has challenged homogenous and stereotypical views of Indigenous identity in contemporary Australia, and given Indigenous voices a platform to tell their own story in their own words.
Kara Hinesley, Head of Public Policy and Government at Twitter said, "Twitter is a place for conversation, where all stories can unfold. After speaking with our partners, it was clear there was a community desire for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags to be represented on the platform, and we wanted to support that."
Harold J. Thomas, the artist behind the Aboriginal flag, still holds copyright for its image. Permission is not required to fly the flag, but any official flag icons must be licensed by Thomas, hence why it is a more complex process to create these emojis than the collection of world flags - most of which are so old they can't have copyright protection or they are actively in the public domain. The Torres Strait Island Region Council also holds copyright of the Torres Strait Islander Flag.
The emoji will appear on Twitter when any of the following hashtags are used:
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