House debates

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Statements by Members

Indigenous Flag

1:55 pm

Photo of Linda BurneyLinda Burney (Barton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

This week is the 54th anniversary of the Wave Hill walk-off, which spurred the land rights movement. First Nations people are still fighting for possession of so many things that are important. I want to acknowledge Clothing The Gap. The Aboriginal flag is displayed in many places: schools, airports, public buildings and most Australian parliaments. It is also on clothing and features prominently in sport. Unfortunately, this uplifting symbol has become a captive of a private company. The legal issues are complex, but the moral issues of this saga are not. This flag is an image that should not be at the behest of a private company. The flag unites us all.

The Federal Court decision in 1997 determined that Mr Harold Thomas was the author of the flag. He sold all his rights to a company called WAM Clothing. The message today about the flag is simple: it is immeasurably important to First Peoples and fellow travellers. How are WAM's actions moral, telling the AFL, the NRL and medical services they are not to use the flag? I have to say that WAM should recognise that this flag is not about money; it represents resistance, survival, identity and pride. WAM should do the right thing and give the flag back to the people.