My beef with flying the Aboriginal Flag from Anzac hill is not as stated elsewhere, so much about those who fought beneath it as one nation, as it is about the primary importance of the symbolism of Australia being an all inclusive, egalitarian nation.
Every Australian, no matter what their origins, should view their flag with pride feeling free to view it, parade it, and even wear it, in the full confidence of belonging, of having that egalitarian right.
The flag is intended to be a powerful message about where we belong, what we stand for. The flag may not always be of the same design that it is today, however whatever the design may eventually become, there must only ever be “One flag, One Nation.
The very moment we begin to single out a group by race, colour, culture, religion, no matter how honourable we may think our intentions are, it sends a very strong message that the singled out identity is not part of the fold. That they are in some way unequal, be that in a greater or lesser sense.
You cannot fly a flag such as the Aboriginal flag in a place that only flies the Nation’s Flag, symbolising the Nation, without sending a strong message to Aboriginal Australians, particularly the kids, that they aren’t part of the club. This slows and harms the great battle for advancement, for inclusion, to help Aboriginal children to accept themselves as equal citizens of the nation and the world rather than someone on the outside confined to communities. We need them to know, to believe, that they can get out there in the world, become doctors, journos, policemen and pilots. Such dreams wrought by confidence in equality are easily dashed by the symbols of division because they immediately raise doubts, questions about that equality.
You only have to ask where and why this request to fly the Aboriginal Flag on Anzac Hill came from. Why are we suddenly considering this divisive issue? Was it raised by people from within the Aboriginal Community? The answer is no. The issue was raised by the usual patronising paternalists of academia who, while preaching equality and inclusion, clearly deep down don’t believe in it or they wouldn’t find it necessary to single Aboriginal people out with the underlying and grossly insulting message, that the very first Australians are not already represented by the flag that represents the great southern land.
That is the message and that is the reality which will come to pass if we begin to represent Aboriginal people in separation. An extension of the already far too apparent apartheid of the do-gooder.
Sure, there is a history of inequality, of unequal representation, of exclusion. The fact that Aboriginal Australians who fought under the nation’s flag weren’t treated equally, not offered the pension or recognition is shameful and embarrassing, so much so that many of us cringe at its mention. However, in looking back and reflecting upon these things we would prefer had never occurred, we should judge them within the context of their times. While we were denying pensions and equality, others on the other side of the globe were shoving people into gas ovens.
We cannot undo the sins of the past, we cannot stand in judgement of past directions, we can only look to tomorrow. Anybody looking back over the history of anywhere on the planet will see that there is never a good outcome for those singled out from the mob. The greatest protection for Aboriginal Australians is to be recognised as “Equal Australians” under every circumstance!
It was only singling out that allowed the non payment of pensions. It is only singling out that allows poorer health and education outcomes. It is only singling out that allowed the imposition of a form of land ownership that is completely dysfunctional. And in more recent times it is only singling out that allowed the imposition of income management.
Yet, while I fully understand and even sympathise with often resentful chip on the shoulder outlook of many Aboriginal Australians over past and continuing injustices, I think we should also all stand back a little while considering this issue, raise our eyes a little to the goings on in the rest of the world brought about by bitterness and division, hatreds so deep they are passed from generation to generation, whole countries embroiled in conflicts that last for hundreds of years.
Ask ourselves do we want that for this land? For all its peoples, into the future? Do we want that for our kids, bitterness, division and much much worse? Or do we strive to continue what this nation, with the contribution of many peoples, very much including Aboriginal Australians, has come to represent, not perfectly, that’s true, but perhaps more than anywhere else on the earth?
Peace, harmony and inclusion. In my view that means in places of national importance, one united symbol, because we are “Many Cultures One Nation”. If we fly a flag for one culture we fly a flag for them all. Or none at all.