An active resident in Maylands contacted me seeking advice on how to get the City of Bayswater to start flying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags. Subsequently the Maylands Residents and Ratepayers Association wrote to all Councillors stating their support for this to occur and the local media ran stories on the proposal.
Because of this chain of events I have given notice of the following motion, and this will be debated at this Tuesday’s Council meeting:
That the City of Bayswater:
- Installs a fourth flag pole outside the Civic Centre in order to fly the Aboriginal Flag; and
- Purchases 5 x Australian/Aborigine/Torres Strait Islander desk flag sets, and places them at strategic locations including the Council Chamber and the Civic Centre reception desk.
I do realise this may be a controversial motion with some people. For example the current Mayor is subsequently on record as disagreeing with this and supports only the flying of these flags during National Reconcilliation week and NAIDOC. Furthermore, someone whom I respect greatly, wrote a letter to the Perth Voice in support of Mayor Sylvan Albert’s viewpoint. I accept that people have different views and take on board that this motion will not “close the gap” between indigenous and non-indigenous. Instead as the letter writer suggests more practical methods need to occur for that to happen.
It is for this reason (differing views) that my motion is only for the Aboriginal flag and not also the Torres Strait Islander flag. Before formulating the motion I spoke with James Back, the CEO from Reconcilliation WA. He reassured me that it is a tremendously positive step and an important gesture of goodwill and respect although he has a very strong preference for both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags to be flown. After I explained that I didn’t think I’d be successful in getting majority support for both flags at this time he suggested the desktop flag set at the main reception as a stopgap measure. This seemed like a good compromise and will give me the best chance of achieving at least something.
I am convinced this is the right thing to do and will serve as an acknowledgement that we want to build a stronger relationship with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. It is undisputed that Aboriginals have been shamefully treated in the past, and whilst this treatment was not at my hands, and no doubt not at yours, the responsibility to try and heal the wounds, which are still fresh, are no one else’s but ours.
As I write this article in the closing minutes of Anzac Day I’m reminded of the sobering words in Stephen Pollock’s Perth Voice article where he wrote:
“Upon return to Australia, Aboriginal diggers received not thanks but ignorance and racism, and were ineligible for land grants provided to other returned veterans. Membership of Returned Services Leagues clubs was also denied. Some returned to discover the country they’d fought for had removed their children.”
Think about how you would feel if your father or grandfather received that treatment.
It can be suggested that the motion is empty symbolism, but I have it on good authority that it will mean something significant to Aboriginals. Therefore I believe the City of Bayswater should spend the $1,450 – $1,750 for an extra flag pole and five desk top flag sets in an attempt to illustrate an effort of reconciliation and pay respect to the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. What about you? Feel free to share your thoughts below in the comments.
I am hopeful of getting majority support for my motion, and if successful it will be solely because a resident, Jan Wheare, thought something wasn’t being done correctly and set about trying to fix it. If you have an idea on how to make the City of Bayswater a better place, feel free to get in touch. I’ll do my best to represent you.
Power to the people.
(Please be aware that these views are my own and have not been endorsed by the City of Bayswater)