• Kamilaroi woman Cheree Toka has led the campaign to see the Aboriginal Flag permanently flown on Sydney Harbour Bridge (NITV News/Ryan Liddle)Source: NITV News/Ryan Liddle
NSW Parliament fails to reach an outcome after debating a proposal to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
By
Rachael Hocking

21 Nov 2019 - 5:23 PM  UPDATED 21 Nov 2019 - 5:23 PM

The NSW government said it will continue to investigate options to fly the Aboriginal flag permanently on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the final debate in the Lower House for the year.

It follows a campaign led by Kamilaroi woman Cheree Toka, whose Change.org petition has garnered more than 125 thousand signatures. 

Despite the uncertain outcome, Ms Toka joined supporters of the campaign in cheers outside NSW Parliament on Thursday.

"I'm happy with the outcome because in the past it has always been turned away," she said. 

Leading the debate was Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs David Harris, who said the issue came down to respect. 

“The Aboriginal flag was borne out of struggle," he told the Legislative Assembly on Thursday. 

"It was borne from the fact that people were originally murdered through massacres, were poisoned, died of European diseases, had their land taken from them,"

"This is a debate about saying whether or not you can put an additional flag pole on the Harbour Bridge, when you can dig tunnels underneath it," 

"Flying the Aboriginal flag on the Harbour bridge is not about symbolism, it’s about reconciliation."

Currently there are only 15 days a year the Aboriginal flag is flown on top of the Harbour Bridge, including during NAIDOC week. 

Campaigners say they want the Aboriginal flag to fly permanently alongside the Australian and NSW flags, not to replace them. 

The NSW Member for Manly, James Griffin, said work had been undertaken by the state government to investigate how additional flag poles could be installed permanently on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but that no solution was currently available. 

Adding to his remarks the Minister for Transport, Andrew Constance, told the Assembly there were "structural issues" which still needed to be addressed.

"I'm happy to go back and see what can be done," he said. 

Labor MP Jodie Harrison said this was a poor excuse. 

"There are no technical difficulties to be overcome, there is just an ideological position that needs to be challenged," Ms Harrison said. 

Last month a Sydney pre-school collected signatures for Cheree Toka's petition and presented them to NSW Parliament. 

While some criticised whether young children should be involved in campaigning, Ms Toka defended the move.

“I think it’s a good idea to start at such a young age and it’s teaching children to combat racism,” she told Melbourne's 3AW Mornings host Neil Mitchell. 

Some of the reasons campaigners have given in support of flying the flag 365 days a year include:

  • A visible permanent recognition of the First Nations people on one of our iconic Australian landmarks.
  • This is a unifying gesture and a commitment to reconciliation.
  • It's a chance to be proud and celebrate the oldest Ancient living culture in the world 

 

Crowd support to fly Aboriginal flag permanently on Harbour Bridge
The online petition to fly the flag on top of the Harbour Bridge nears the 90,000 mark, with supporters marching through Circular Quay during NAIDOC Week to make their point.