The shadow minister for Indigenous Australians has said that symbolic gestures and meaningful action are needed to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can have the same opportunities as anyone else.
Appearing on NITV’s breakfast show, Big Mob Breaky, Linda Burney urged the federal government to address critical issues facing Indigenous peoples but also to show unity through ‘symbolic gestures’.
The Wiradjuri woman said that the government is "on the wrong side of history" by failing to fly the Indigenous flags inside the federal Senate during NAIDOC Week.
Ms Burney told Big Mob Breaky that both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags hung in many chambers and legislatures around Australia.
“I am incredibly disappointed that in NAIDOC Week in particular, the Liberal Nationals decided that they would vote against the displaying of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in the Senate,” Ms Burney said.
Walk and chew gum
Yesterday, the federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, told Big Mob Breaky that action and not symbols are what is needed to tackle problems facing too many First Nations people.
But Ms Burney said both meaningful symbolism and action are needed in the country and that symbolism does not necessarily preclude action on entrenched disadvantages.
“Symbolism is important in terms of how a nation sees itself, how a nation views itself,” she said.
“We can of course address the issues that bedevil our people… and the incarceration rates, the crowding, the deaths in custody. But we can also think about the things that are important in terms of symbolism.”
She said the flags pay respect to Indigenous peoples cultures and history.
On Tuesday, the federal government voted down a motion to display the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in the Senate chamber by Labor senators Malarndirri McCarthy and Patrick Dodson and Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe.
The motion failed to pass by just one vote - with 28 being for the motion while 29 denied the request.