Young Aboriginal woman Cheree Toka has started a petition to get an Aboriginal flag permanantly placed on top on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Picture: John Appleyard
Young Aboriginal woman Cheree Toka has started a petition to get an Aboriginal flag permanantly placed on top on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Picture: John Appleyard

Push to fly Aboriginal flag on Sydney Harbour Bridge

LABOR leader Luke Foley plans to give the Aboriginal flag equal status with Australia's national flag if he becomes Premier, flying it side-by-side year round on one of the country's most important tourism icons.

The Opposition Leader has nominated indigenous recognition as a major ALP social policy for next year's state election and, if victorious, will order the Aboriginal flag be flown on the Sydney Harbour Bridge every day of the year.

With just over a year until polling day, Mr Foley told The Daily Telegraph in an exclusive interview: "I think there is unfinished business when it comes to our relationship with Australia's first people.

Cheree Toka: “The Aboriginal flag identifies and holds a history of who we are.” Picture: John Appleyard
Cheree Toka: “The Aboriginal flag identifies and holds a history of who we are.” Picture: John Appleyard

 

"The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the most recognisable image of Sydney right around the world … reconciliation with the First Australians has to occur in Sydney."

Currently, the Aboriginal flag flies on the bridge alongside the Australian and the NSW flags for 15 days a year - on Australia Day and during Naidoc Week and Reconciliation Week.

Mr Foley plans to continue flying the national and NSW flags.

The proposal is the second major tenet of Mr Foley's indigenous platform after he revealed on the eve of Australia Day that Labor would begin the process of establishing a treaty with Aboriginal people.

While Mr Foley believes the election will be won on health, education and transport, he said he intended to show leadership on indigenous issues, which he believes will set Labor apart from the Berejiklian government.

"I've felt for many years it's our oldest continuing problem as a society - the ongoing consequences of the dispossession."

He said he intended to fight the election by reaching out to people in NSW who felt left behind. This included, he said, indigenous people and people in the regions.

On the back of a series of attacks on the Berejiklian government over stadiums, trains and the botched Sydney ferry naming, Mr Foley feels he is in one of the strongest political positions since taking over the Labor leadership in January 2015.

NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley is shaping his platform on issues affecting indigenous Australians. Picture: Tim Hunter
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley is shaping his platform on issues affecting indigenous Australians. Picture: Tim Hunter

Labor's new flag policy was inspired by young indigenous woman Cheree Toka, who launched an online petition which has so far received support from 70,000 people.

"The Aboriginal flag identifies and holds a history of who we are," Ms Toka said.

It is acknowledging our ownership of the land for past and present generations and has just as much right as the Australian flag to fly."

The Opposition Leader is aware that the policy will attract criticism, particularly from those who believe it is shallow symbolism and there are more important things for politicians to worry about."

But Mr Foley said it was a matter of leadership.

"I believe it's the right thing to do," he said. "I think we've got a fantastic opportunity to show leadership in this area. I think sometimes there's a false divide between the symbolic and the practical. My view is you have to move on both.

"A really positive symbol would be if a Labor government coming to office let the Aboriginal flag fly permanently on top of our most recognisable landmark, alongside the national flag and the state flag."

He said even if there was a political backlash that pushed some Labor voters to other parties such as One Nation, it was not change his mind.

"I didn't think about One Nation for a minute when I decided to pursue these policies," he said.

Mr Foley has vowed not to give One Nation a Labor preference in any seat.

"I'd rather stay in opposition than have to shake hands with the One Nation party to get into government. We draw the line," he said.



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