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The Aboriginal Flag Is Set to Fly Permanently on the Sydney Harbour Bridge

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet has committed to permanently flying the Aboriginal flag on Sydney Harbour Bridge "as soon as possible".
By Sarah Ward
February 07, 2022
By Sarah Ward
February 07, 2022

It just might be Australia's most famous man-made structure, and it'll soon be home to the Australian Aboriginal flag on a permanent basis. That'd be the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which only flies the Aboriginal flag for 19 days each year at present — for Australia Day, Sorry Day, Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week — but will do so every day "as soon as possible", as New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet has just announced.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge currently has two flag poles, with one flying the Australian flag and, when the Aboriginal flag isn't on display on its allocated days, the other flying the NSW state flag. To display the Aboriginal flag permanently, the bridge will gain a third flag pole — with the Premier advising that the government has "been working through this for some time."

Speaking at NSW's daily COVID-19 press conference on Saturday, February 5, Perrottet said that "the first advice I received is that it would take two years. Two years. I mean, in the 1920s, it took nine years to build the Harbour Bridge, but apparently today it takes two years to put a flag pole on top of the Harbour Bridge. I'll climb up there myself to put it up if I need to".

He continued: "I can't see why it would take that long. The new advice that I've received is that it can be expedited — I think it went down to two years, and then to six months — so as soon as possible".

The announcement follows a five-year-long campaign by Kamilaroi woman Cheree Toka, who also launched a campaign in 2020 to continue to call on the NSW government to make this exact move.

"The Aboriginal flag is a reminder that the country has a history before European arrival," Toka said two years ago. "I think it's really important to have a symbolic gesture on the bridge that identifies the true history of Australia, which is a starting point for conversation around greater issues affecting the Indigenous population."

After the first three years of Toka's campaign, she had amassed more than 157,000 digital signatures and the required 10,000 paper-based signatures to bring the issue to NSW parliament. However, when it was debated in the final NSW parliamentary session of 2019, the result then was that it would cost too much to construct a third flagpole to see the Aboriginal flag flying daily — which was what sparked her crowdfunding campaign to raise the $300,000 quoted by the government to 'fund the flag'.

Vakrieger via Wikimedia Commons

Announcing the change of policy on the weekend, the NSW Premier said that "we can't truly be proud of our country unless we are working together to achieve true reconciliation. That's a combination of both symbolic reconciliation and practical reconciliation."

The move to permanently display the Aboriginal flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge comes just weeks after 2022's other big flag news, with the Australian Government unveiling a copyright deal at the end of January with Luritja artist Harold Thomas, who designed the symbol, to make it freely available for public use,

Exactly when the Aboriginal flag will start flying permanently on the Sydney Harbour Bridge hasn't yet been revealed — we'll update you when further details are announced.

Top image: Mary and Andrew via Flickr.

Published on February 07, 2022 by Sarah Ward
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