An Aboriginal land council has lent its voice to the growing public opposition over the plan to advertise a horse race on the sails of Sydney Opera House.
Last week, the opera house board rejected a promotion for the Everest Cup saying it was “inappropriate” commercialisation.
But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian intervened and pressured the Opera House to approve a revised advert to be shown on Tuesday night as a 10-minute projection.
Nathan Moran, the CEO of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, said the World Heritage-listed site should be reserved for cultural pursuits.
“I don’t see it as a billboard,” he told NITV News.
“I am personally saddened that Australia views its culture in terms of a horse race.”
The Gadigal people of the Eora Nation call the site where the Sydney Opera House stands Tubowgule, which means 'where the knowledge waters meet'.
The sails of the iconic building regularly feature art installations telling Indigenous stories for events such as the light festival Vivid Sydney.
It also displayed the logo of the Wallabies rugby team in 2015 and promoted the Ashes cricket tournament earlier this year.
“The opera house is the place where we like to get our mob to showcase their deadly talents and it’s just unfortunate when it’s used for advertising,” Mr Moran said.
“We get that opportunity to see our imagery and culture displayed and that uplifts everyone in this country but I’m just not quite sure that a horse race does it for everyone.”
Adding to the controversy, the order from the NSW premier came shortly after radio broadcaster Alan Jones criticised the opera house CEO Louise Herron in a heated on-air interview.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a former tourism executive, defended the move as positive for the economy.
“We don’t see that same [level of] discussion when it comes to protecting and preserving our culture,” Mr Moran said.
“We don’t see the support of the prime minister nor do we see the support of shock jocks.”
As an example, he argued that it was a “battle” to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag on top of the Sydney Habour Bridge.
A petition calling for the opera house to be “protected” collected more than 250,000 signatures and was delivered to NSW parliament this morning.
Comedy group The Chaser mocked the plan by posting a video showing the words 'Advertise here. Call Alan' onto the famous building.
Racing NSW also announced that all betting for the Everest horse race has been suspended "to avoid any perceived integrity risk".
Thousands of people have signalled on social media that they would attend a 'light-based' protest on Tuesday night.
“I’m just proud that the community will stand up and call out what seems to be the misuse of an iconic cultural place to promote commercial activities of betting and gambling,” Mr Moran said.