A new rule that bans the Aboriginal flag and the Welcome to Country during ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day services was established for "unity of purpose" says the Western Australia branch of the Returned and Services League of Australia.
The new policy was passed unanimously by the RSLWA and comes after it received a number of complaints from members following a reading of the Ode of Remembrance in both English and the traditonal Noongar language during Fremantle Council's ANZAC Day Service last year.
RSLWA chief executive John McCourt said some of his members told the board that this performance was not appropriate.
“We respect all cultures and just for two days can we not just have a unity of purpose in terms of those who died, those who served, and remember those who were killed, ” Mr McCourt told ABC Perth radio on Friday morning.
“The RSLWA policy is about everybody, everybody who served and everybody who came home and those who didn't come home. What the RSL is saying is that commemoration and Remembrance of war is about everybody and that includes Indigenous people and all races that make up this great country," he said.
Mr McCourt said the RSL will continue to support the ceremonial purposes of Aboriginal veterans if they would want to perform a Welcome to Country during the annual Indigenous Service Remembrance event held at Kings Park in May.
“The RSL is very, very supportive of the Indigenous community. All we are saying is that for unity, for the commemoration of war, and those who served and those who died, we feel that it should be all-inclusive for all races and all cultures, war doesn’t discriminate,” he said.
The state's Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt and the Defence Minister Peter Tinley have both criticised RSLWA’s decision.
Minister Ben Wyatt said RSLWA should reconsider the decision, labelling it “regrettable and divisive”.
The new policy also states that all content, bar the New Zealand national anthem, is to be presented or sung in English.
“While having utmost respect for the traditional owners of land upon which such sites and memorials are located, RSLWA does not view it appropriate that a Welcome to Country is used at sites that were specifically established to pay homage to those who died and who came from a wide range of cultural backgrounds," the policy said.
RSLWA said every sub-branch has "every right" not to agree with the policy or comply with it and will not suffer from any financial consequences if it decides to continue to provide a Welcome to Country or fly the Aboriginal flag.
NITV News has sought further comment from the RSLWA.