POINT OF CONTENTION: The Aboriginal flag, pictured as it flies alongside the Australian Flag at Buss Park, has been removed from behind the bar at the Sugarland Tavern this week.
POINT OF CONTENTION: The Aboriginal flag, pictured as it flies alongside the Australian Flag at Buss Park, has been removed from behind the bar at the Sugarland Tavern this week. Paul Donaldson BUN040716FLAG7

No 'politics' with beer: Bundaberg pub removes Aboriginal flag

FLYING the flag is a source of pride for many Australians.

But which flag, or flags, has become a point of contention at a Bundaberg pub following a complaint by a local Indigenous man.

Leslie Lowe, chairperson of the TECKnology Indigenous Corporation, described himself as a regular at the Sugarland Tavern.

He wrote a letter to the hotel's owners following an incident there in which he claimed the Aboriginal flag was "disrespected”.

On Tuesday night, Mr Lowe said he noticed the Australian national flag hanging up behind the bar in preparation for Australia Day.

As a "proud Aboriginal man”, he approached a staff member to display the Aboriginal flag next to it, and "as the tavern did not possess one, a staff member agreed to hang my own flag to promote inclusion and national unity”.

"The Torres Strait Islander chef employed by your company also wished to hang the nationally recognised Torres Strait Islander flag alongside the national standard as set out by the Australian Parliament. This was seen by management, staff and patrons present as a positive way to represent multiculturalism and unity on Australia Day,” he wrote in a letter to management obtained by the NewsMail.

"During this process,” he claimed, "the Rotary clubs of Bundaberg were also holding (their) monthly meeting at your venue and saw this as a very positive statement by your establishment”.

The next morning, however, Mr Lowe returned to find the Aboriginal flag taken down, and when he questioned head manager Scot Booth, he claims Mr Booth told him "he would not have that flag hanging in his hotel, Australia only has one flag and that is the one his grandfather had fought under”.

"As an Indigenous Australian I have been deeply shamed and humiliated in front of your staff and patrons,” Mr Lowe said.

"My question to you (is), are these the views and policies of your company in relation to Indigenous Australians and the nationally recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags?”

Most of all, Mr Lowe wants the flag back.

"Where is my flag? Please return my flag in the condition presented to your establishment in good faith.”

But Mr Booth has dismissed Mr Lowe's description of their exchange as "inaccurate”.

He refused to comment on whether a staff member initially allowed the additional flags, but confirmed he did remove the flag without damaging it.

"I have it here in perfect condition,” Mr Booth told the NewsMail yesterday, amid the Australia Day rush at the Sugarland Tavern, adding that he had not had the chance to contact Mr Lowe.

"He never asked for my permission as head manager to put the flag up.

"The Sugarland Tavern is for people and families to come along without political agenda.

"Australia Day is Australia Day at our hotel.

"I think it was John Howard who said Australia Day is celebrated by everyone here, no matter what the colour of your skin.

"We live in a great country, we should all enjoy it.”

Mr Booth said that the tavern accommodated "people of all races”.



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