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VIDEO: Aboriginal groups furious over refusal to fly flag

ABORIGINAL and Torres Strait Islander community members have slammed Bundaberg Regional Council after its refusal to fly their flags alongside the Australian flag in Buss Park.

While the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags are currently flown for one week of the year during NAIDOC Week, the Bundaberg NAIDOC committee requested the council fly the flags year round.

But Gidarjil managing director Kerry Blackman said they were shocked by the council's response.

Mr Black said one councillor said "you don't see the local Italian people demanding the council flies their flag," a claim the council declined to comment on.

"...they should be civic leaders for the whole community," Mr Blackman said.

"They should lead the way and start developing our cohesive, united community that accepts our culture and our people."

Bundaberg Mayor Mal Forman said the council was "engaging in a process" with other councils and groups to develop an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA). He said the agreement may include clauses to address indigenous requests for "special recognition" and "reconciliation initiatives".

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags are on display permanently inside the council chambers.

"Any request to fly flags on a permanent basis outside the council building would form part of a broader determination initiative," Cr Forman said.

He said the discussions about the ILUA were confidential but conducted "without prejudice".

"Consequently, council is limited by this confidentiality in the scope of comment it can make on the document or its contents," he said.

"Council has a preference to deal with issues such as flying indigenous flags through a formalised and carefully considered agreement."

Mr Blackman said the process had been ongoing since the middle of last year and said the group had several meetings with the council since then.

"It's not as though we haven't tried in a friendly manner to resolve the matter," he said.

Mr Blackman said he could not understand the council's response when poles sat unused in Buss Park and they offered to provide the flags.

"We thought it would be a pretty reasonable request with a pragmatic response, but we were taken aback," he said.

"It just highlights that there's a lack of awareness and ignorance."

Mr Blackman said other community groups and schools were proudly displaying the flags.

"We fly them outside our building, the IWC (Indigenous Wellbeing Centre) fly it, Shalom College are flying the flags, Thabeban school, Kepnock (High), Branyan school and there's others too. North Bundaberg Primary School is going to fly it too," he said.

Mr Blackman hoped the council would come on board by July 5 for NAIDOC week so the flags could remain flying in Buss Park.

"We don't just want it flown for NAIDOC week, we think it's about time we overcome the racist bigotry and the prejudice that exists and it's a good way of pulling down their barriers, it's about embracing the Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal people".

Topics:  aboriginal and torres strait islanders, editors picks, flag, naidoc




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