Aboriginal flag on Anzac Hill: Unjustified division

Steve Brown comment

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.

 

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13 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Ian Sharp
    Posted April 23, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    Janet, you might like to read “Nashos’ War” by Mark Dapin (published last year). It has some interesting comments in the afterword about the reception of the Vietnam returnees. Not quite as you suggest for most returnees (“spat on”).
    Dapin says not so for most, more “indifference and incomprehension”.
    We may be guilty of “importing American experiences” according to the Official History of Australia’s Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948-75. Not for the first time, there are Aussies about who believe they have a constitutional right to wear singlets (“bare arms,” as one bloke on FB wrote recently).
    My own experience of a Vietnam returnee is limited to my best mate who served at Nui Dat with a battalion in 67, when we he came back we were rapt to see him, certainly no one spat at him or tried to humiliate him.
    We just got on with our lives and pretty much expected him to pick up where he’d left off. Looking back we weren’t much help to him in re-adjusting, which he never quite did. Died nearly twenty years ago.
    I think a lot of WW1 and WW2 soldiers also found it hard to adjust after their war years, my grandfather managed OK, I think, but my dad did not. Negative affects of war are a fairly common experience for returned soldiers.
    As for Dave of Alice aka “Not game to put his name to his posts”: You may not realize it but the English and Scottish flags get a fairly good go up the top of Anzac Hill. As does the British! Maybe we should do as you imply and get rid of them, we wouldn’t want to be divisive!

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  2. David of the Alice
    Posted April 23, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    I see the flag thing has raised its head again on the Growing Up In Alice Springs Face Book site. (GUIAS)
    My view (whether you care or not) is the Australian flag to be hoisted on Anzac Day as it represents all Australians black, white or brindle. Stop bringing race into it and be one.
    My ancestors are Scottish / English who also fought in the war. Shall I now insist we fly the British or Scottish flag on Anzac Day? Somehow I doubt it.

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  3. Jim Lawrence
    Posted September 5, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Well reasoned Steve. “One Flag, One Nation” is the non-cultural way of thinking that sees everybody as belonging equally to Australia, a concept worth considering in parallel with Australia belonging to us.

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  4. Steve Brown
    Posted September 4, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    @ James: Anzac Hill is a sacred site for some local TOs. This has nothing whatsoever to do with a national symbol for Aboriginality!
    The Aboriginal Flag is a symbol that is not necessarily recognized by all Aboriginal people, its proposed use is just another example of grandstanding paternalism. I would suggest to you if youve followed the discussion that the TOs’ position on this subject has been made known. Let’s respect that position.

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  5. Ray
    Posted September 4, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I always thought the flags symbolised Territorians (no matter what race) who fought for Australia, hence to two flags. Isn’t there signage that explains the sacred significance of that hill anyway?
    I agree with Steve, in that we all fought together.

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  6. Dan
    Posted September 3, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    @ Steve Brown: By that logic we better take down the Northern Territory flag, otherwise it might cause deep divisions.

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  7. James Young
    Posted September 3, 2014 at 11:33 am

    According to the coverage of this issue by the Alice Springs News Online, the proposal as put forward by Councillor Jade Kudrenko was to explore flying the Aboriginal flag on Anzac Hill with relevant stakeholders; the aim being community cohesion.
    The flying of the Aboriginal flag would be in recognition and respect of the significance of Anzac Hill as a sacred site to local Aboriginal people.
    This is quite a separate issue to the fears expressed by Steve that by recognising Aboriginal people separately under their own flag we might undermine his ideas about nationalism and somehow promote inequality and divide the community.
    I support Councillor Kudrenko’s proposal and implore the town council to move to hear from relevant stakeholders about this issue.

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  8. Sensible Steve
    Posted September 2, 2014 at 7:09 am

    Simpleton.

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  9. Steve Brown
    Posted September 1, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    @ David: While there are many that will agree with what you say about the design of the present flag the important thing is the nation that it represents, not the flag itself.
    It wouldn’t matter if it were all one color if its recognized as the national flag – then it represents the Nation!
    That’s what’s important, so let’s not get lost in the history of the current flags design. It represents the nation regardless of that! All of this is a completely different subject and one I am absolutely certain will continue until we eventually become a Republic.
    @ Lizzie: The flag on Anzac hill represents the nation and all who are included in it, no matter the history, no matter the race.
    What matters most is that we are all represented Equally. If we stand by that, live by that, then the rest will take care of itself.

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  10. DavidL
    Posted September 1, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Stand by your words Steve and call for the Australian flag to be changed.
    You may argue that it is the current Australian flag, but it goes against the spirit of what you are arguing.
    “One flag, one nation”?
    And yet the so-called Australian flag on top of Anzac Hill has the British flag, the Union Jack, on it.
    This only represents the British, not Aboriginal people, and doesn’t represent the migrants who have come to this country in large numbers – the Greeks, Italians, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.
    If you truly want “One Flag, One Nation” then change the current flag.

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  11. Janet Brown
    Posted September 1, 2014 at 10:38 am

    @ Lizzie. Our returned service men from the Vietnam war were spat on and humiliated by protestors and that was regardless of race and now they march every Anzac Day.
    Men go off to war for many reasons but the main reason is to fight for country and our freedoms. All under the Australian flag.
    To those who raised this issue for discussion, what were your reasons other than to incite further divide and hostilities?
    It was not a black white war, it was Australians fighting under the Australian flag. Grow some sense of decency and respect for all Australians and Australia.
    We do not need or require your race based hate to incite segregation our government has that all wrapped up in policies and legislation.

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  12. Not your NULLA NULLA
    Posted August 31, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Bro – we don’t have flag, that thing is owned by an artist Harold Thomas and he gets royalties for it.
    Anzac hill is the sacred site for non indigenous people and if we want to protect and not draw attention to our own sacred sites we should not let the Greens use us as nulla nullas in some disagreement that has nothing to do with us.
    Keep our own sacred sites safe by keeping away from the Anzac hill argument.

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  13. Lizzie
    Posted August 31, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    I disagree. Whilst I understand your argument, in every Anzac March, different groups are represented and march with pride in relation to the part they played.
    For many Indigenous Australians, their role in both wars has, until recently, been either ignored, or minimalised.
    I believe it is important that we recognise the role that Indigenous Australians played, despite the fact that during those times they were considered and treated as less than “Australian” by the government and broader community.
    I agree that we are one nation of people, but we need to understand that our history does not go back two hundred years and then take a left turn.

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