• Clarence City Council will permanently display the Aboriginal flag (NITV)Source: NITV
From Monday November 16, the Clarence City Council in Hobart will display the Aboriginal flag permanently, after the council’s backflip on its decision not to fly the flag.
Sarah Maunder

16 Nov 2020 - 4:02 PM  UPDATED 16 Nov 2020 - 4:06 PM

The Clarence City Council in Tasmania will fly the Aboriginal flag permanently, after several month of debate.

Up until now, the council only flew the Aboriginal flag during NAIDOC Week and on Reconciliation Day.

In October, Clarence City Council alderman Beth Warren put forward a motion to fly the Aboriginal flag permanently, but the motion was voted down in a tie, six votes to six.

“When I put the motion forward, I expected it to pass,” she said. 

“So, it was a real surprise when it didn’t.”

In response, community members “flag-bombed” the Clarence City Council building with tiny Aboriginal flags, some emblazoned with written messages to the council. 

On November 2, three weeks after the unsuccessful vote, the Clarence City Council reversed its decision, voting 10-1 to fly the Aboriginal flag permanently at the council after NAIDOC Week.

“I pay full credit to the community for the response they made,” Ms Warren said.

“I think that (the flag-bombing) really touched the hearts and minds of the community and a number of alderman who voted against the motion.

“I’m really glad we got this done … it was kind of a relief really, but there’s still so much work to do.” 

Heather Sculthorpe, CEO of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre told NITV News the council embarrassed itself when it voted against flying the flag. 

“It was about time Clarence decided to do that,” she said.

“They embarrassed themselves terribly when they decided not to, and it was the quality of the debates that astonished us as much as the outcome.

“They were justifying not flying the flag in the interest of Reconciliation, I mean we’re not great fans of the Reconciliation movement either, but to have that used as a reason not to fly the flag, because they didn’t want to rush into it, they wanted to build up over a couple of years to a Reconciliation Action Plan … is the height of absurdity.

"So like most other councils and most schools, and most other public institutions, finally agreeing to fly the flag, we welcome it," said Ms Sculthorpe.

Ms Warren said the flag was raised on Monday morning at the council with little fanfare.

“It was very low-key, there were two members of the local Aboriginal community there, Allan and Greg Brown,” she said.

“There was no ceremony, it’s not about ceremony, it’s just about flying the flag.

Allan and Greg Brown’s father and grandfather Cyril raised the Aboriginal flag at the Clarence City Council for the first time in the 1970s

Last week, Tasmania’s House of Assembly unanimously voted to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag over Parliament.

The motion was brought forward by the Greens leader Cassy O'Connor.

"I know it is only symbolic but it has some real meaning because what it is says is that this land is Aboriginal land.

"It is a good thing to fly that flag over the institutions of this country including local governments and parliaments," she told parliament. 

Ms Sculthorpe said there must be consultation with Aboriginal people about such decisions.

“In Tasmania it seems like they’re going to want to (fly the flag) but they didn’t talk to everyone about it first.

“Because it’s not just saying ‘here’s the flag, this is Aboriginal land, Aborigines were here first’ it’s indicating that’s the decisions being made are being made on behalf of Aboriginal people. 

“Many Aborigines don’t think that is the case, and in that sense, it’s not something that they should be doing without the consent of the Aboriginal community.”