It was a day that will go down in history. After three decades of heated debate, opposition and a tightly contested council vote, the Aboriginal flag was finally flown at Alice Spring’s Anzac Hill on Monday to mark NAIDOC Week celebrations in the Northern Territory.
The flag was raised at midday after a smoking ceremony and address from Alice Springs town councillor Catherine Satour. She was instrumental in allowing the Aboriginal flag to be raised in the outback town’s landmark on special occasions.
"I'm feeling really happy, really happy that so many people in the Alice Springs community came up to Anzac Hill today to witness the speeches and the flag raising on Anzac Hill," Ms Satour told the ABC.
Shirleen Campbell, an Arrernte woman from the Tangentyere Women’s Family Safety Group, described the ceremony as an emotional and bittersweet occasion.
“It was so exciting! The flag is part of me and a part of my own story and history. Today highlighted us as a people, particularly us women, but we reflected on everyone really, even our old diggers from World War I and World War II, all the way up until now,” she told NITV News.
“Wanting this flag, our flag, up on Anzac Hill has been one of my passions, particularly as a very proud young Aboriginal mum, but I’m a little bit disappointed it won’t be flying year around like we would like it to be.”
Harold Thomas, a Luritja man and artist who created the Aboriginal Flag, has said he took inspiration from Anzac Hill when he came up with the design.
Despite petitions from Traditional Owners and endorsements from the RSL and the Department of Veteran Affairs, motions to fly the flag were unsuccessful. But in March, the council narrowly agreed to fly the flag for ceremonial occasions like NAIDOC week.
For Ms Campbell, being part of the historic occasion was momentous.
“I’m pretty happy and privileged to have been part of today, especially with a smoking ceremony that could help heal and clear all the negative energy and replace it with positive energy,” she said.
“I want all cultures to celebrate this year’s NAIDOC theme of ‘Because of her, we can’ because at the end of the day black, white or other, we’re all human beings.”
‘Leave the flag up’ on the Harbour Bridge
Thousands of kilometres away, many are calling for the Aboriginal flag to be permanently displayed on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The flag was hoisted on Sunday to mark the beginning of NAIDOC week, one of the four occasions in which the Aboriginal flag flies on the bridge.
In 2017, Kamilaroi woman Cheree Toka started an online petition to fly the Indigenous flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge 365 days a year. More than 88,000 people have shown their support for the campaign.
The movement has since gathered momentum. Protesters marched across the bridge in June calling for the Aboriginal flag to be flown there permanently.
NSW Labor Opposition Leader Luke Foley has vowed to make the change if the Labor Party wins government but Premier Gladys Berejiklian has insisted she's happy with the status quo.