One giant step towards healing

By MEL MARTIN

THE pride emanating from the Aboriginal elders, council staff and the crowd was almost palpable as they watched the raising of the Aboriginal flag at Coffs Harbour City Council yesterday.

"It's taken eight years and three mayors, but we're finally going to have this flag raised today," the chairman of the Yandaarra Aboriginal Consultative Committee, Trevor Wilson, said.

The Aboriginal flag will now fly permanently alongside the Australian and Coffs Harbour flags at council.

Mr Wilson, who was so overwhelmed by the significance of the day he'd given up trying to sleep at 2am, said the raising of the Aboriginal flag was the start of many things to come.

"This day is about reconciliation and healing between council and the Aboriginal community. It shows what we can achieve if we all work together," he said.

"It's opening the door to more achievements. We now have a platform and we have the front door, let's build on that."

Aboriginal elders from the region spoke of the significance of the event, while a large crowd cheered and whistled as the flag rose to its new home.

Representative of the Aboriginal Land Council Sue Hoskins said this was a very significant event.

"We've waited a long time for this flag to be flown and become part of the community," she said.

"This flag symbolises that council recognises the Aboriginal community."

As he blessed the flag, Pastor Ben Bird said the flag was a strong symbol of reconciliation and healing.

"Now we want to move on," he said.

"We've come a long way. Let's continue and not look back. It's good to look back sometimes, but not live in the past.

"Live for today and hope for tomorrow."

Opening the ceremony, the Coffs Harbour mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, said he felt absolute pride.

"I hope you feel what I'm feeling at the moment ? a strong sense of pride," Cr Rhoades said.

"Today marks a high point in our history.

"From today, all three flags will fly together as a sign of our partnership with the Aboriginal community."

A plaque has also been installed within council as a lasting symbol of reconciliation.

Closing the ceremony, council's Director of City Services, Stephen Sawtell, summed up the general feeling.

"Congratulations to the Aboriginal community and the community at large for this finally happening. It's a fine day for Coffs," he said.

Yesterday also marked the start of the national Native Title Conference which is being held in Coffs Harbour.



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