• Proud moment: Kerry Blackman , Richard Johnson, Patricia Cooke, and the newly elected Mayor Matty Burnett. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
After ten years of a ‘tennis match’ type process of back and forth, the Indigenous community at Gladstone can now feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.
By
Jodan Perry

Source:
NITV News
30 Mar 2016 - 1:32 PM  UPDATED 30 Mar 2016 - 1:41 PM

At a historic event on Tuesday - Gidarjil Indigenous Organisation Queensland spokespeople Tricia Eggmolesse, Richard Johnson and Kerry Blackman - stood with newly elected Gladstone Mayor Matt Burnett, as the Aboriginal flag was raised outside council for the first time.

Mr Blackman is managing director at Gidarjil, and also an applicant on the Port Curtis Coral Coast Native Title Claim, and he says this a step in the right direction for the community.

“Driving up there now and seeing the flag, it will bring a warm inner feeling that sometimes you can’t describe some of these things, pride of achievement in the community,” he told NITV.

“People feel as though they are being respected and they can feel as though they are part of the community, and their dreams and aspirations can be embraced too like everyone else’s.”

The respect and recognition that comes with the raising of the flag is seen as just one step of many that need to be taken with regards to relationships between local government and the Indigenous peoples of the area.

Mr Blackman is pleased that the newly elected council has acted upon their pre-election promise, but says that there is much more to be done.

“Many of the councillors that have been elected are progressive people, have a big picture mindset, rather than narrow-minded bigoted racist attitudes, and they want to do business and have real partnerships and relationships,” he said.

“Flying the Aboriginal flag for us is just one issue of the other 99 we want to talk about: employment, training, business development, tourism opportunities, and social issues that effect us, environmental issues."

Mayor Burnett has been in the position just under one week, but knows the symbolic and cultural importance of the act of raising the flag.

He told the local paper, 'The Gladstone Observer', that it was fitting that the Aboriginal flag flew alongside both the Australian and Queensland flags.

"People see the Australian flag and Queensland flag and know we are in Queensland within Australia," he said.

"They should also see the Aboriginal flag and recognise we are in the land of the Goreng Goreng, Byellee and Gurang people."

This fight for recognition was not an easy one for the local community.

It has taken many years of putting pressure on the council, with mid-2015 proving to be significant in bringing about change.

“Leading up to NAIDOC last year we had three months of just campaigning every week and protesting outside the chambers and calling it for what it was, we called it the number one racist council in Australia, we really targeted it,” Mr Blackman said.

“These things don’t come about unless you have radical agitators for change, not agitators that believe in violence, but radicals who believe in bringing about change by passive ongoing campaigns, until it happens.”