The son of the designer of the Torres Strait Islander flag has expressed his frustration at the lack of awareness after the flag was stolen from a park in Melbourne following community gossip that the flag was ‘Arabic’.
The Banyule City Council believes the flag has been stolen five times, twice in January, due to a mistaken belief it is ‘Arabic’.
Bernard Namok Jnr whose dad Bernard Namok designed the flag in 1992 believes more education is needed.
“The flag was been flying around for 20 years. It represents the other Indigenous people of Australia, the Torres Strait Islander people. For people not to have knowledge or background, it’s frustrating,” he told NITV News.
The flag, an official flag of Australia, flies alongside the Australian and Aboriginal flags in Malahang Reserve in Heidelberg West, in Melbourne’s north-west.
Banyule Mayor Craig Langdon told the Heidelberg Leader that he believed the flag was being stolen after he received a call from a local woman telling him she did not like the “Arabic” flag.
He said the caller asked whether he was proud of the flags flying at the reserve.
“I said of course I was proud of the flags, and she said ‘we don’t like the Arabic flag’,” Cr Langdon said.
“I said no it’s not, they’re the three official flags of Australia.”
Cr Langdon said the caller was firm in her, and others belief, that the flag was Arabic.
“Either someone doesn’t like green and blue, or they think it is Muslim.”
The flag has now been stolen so many times council has been forced to install a sign to explain to people the history of the flags in a bid to prevent further theft and confusion.
Meanwhile, Bernard Jnr, from Badu and Darnley Islands, is in the process of creating a documentary intended to deal with this issue directly. He says incidents like this give him even more reason to persevere.
“I’m using today as motivation to keep going and tell my dad’s story for people around Australia to be educated,” he says.
“It’s our only memory of dad. He passed away in 1993, a year later, and he didn’t get to see how far it has come. I’m trying to keep his legacy alive,” he adds.
About the Torres Strait Islander flag
The Torres Strait Islander flag was designed by the late Bernard Namok from Thursday Island. The flag was officially presented to the people of the Torres Strait on 29 May 1992.
In July 1995, the Torres Strait Islander flag was recognised by the Australian Government as an official 'Flag of Australia' under the Flags Act 1953.
The flag consists of horizontal bands: two green and one blue, separated by black lines; a Dhari which is a distinctive traditional dance and ceremonial headdress; and a five-pointed star are central motifs of the flag.
Each part of the flag gives meaning to the Torres Strait Island culture:
- Green: the two green lines represent the mainlands of Australia and Papua New Guinea.
- Blue: the blue between these two continents is the blue of the Torres Strait Island waters.
- Black: the black lines represent the people of the Torres Strait.
- Central symbol: is one that any islander anywhere can identify with, the Dhari or headdress.
- Five pointed star: The five-pointed star represents the five major Island groups of the Torres Strait as well as sea-faring navigation.
- White: represents peace.