Aboriginal flag to fly on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Aboriginal flag will be flown permanently on the Sydney Harbor Bridge by the end of the year after a five-year grassroots campaign.
Kamilaroi wife Cheree Toka led the push to put the flag in a prime position on Sydney Harbor 365 days a year by organizing successful petitions and raising $300,000 for the cost.
NSW Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet this week pledged an additional $25 million for bridge construction work to install the third flagpole ahead of the state budget announcement on Tuesday.
Mr Perrottet said flying the flag alongside the Australian and NSW state flags is an important gesture towards Closing the Gap and tackling inequality.
The Aboriginal flag will be flown permanently on the Sydney Harbor Bridge having previously only flown on special occasions such as Australia Day and NAIDOC week (pictured)
Indigenous activist Cheree Toka (pictured) has been fighting for three years to keep the Aboriginal flag flying permanently on Sydney’s Harbor Bridge and was elated at the announcement of the funding
“Our Indigenous history must be celebrated and recognized so that young Australians understand the rich and enduring culture we have here with our past,” Perrottet said in his pre-budget statement on Sunday.
“The permanent installation of the Aboriginal flag on the Sydney Harbor Bridge will do just that and is a continuation of the healing process as part of the wider movement towards reconciliation.”
The flagpoles are about 20 meters high, the same as a six-storey building, while the flags require a mounting strong enough to withstand all weather conditions.
Transport for NSW and Aboriginal Affairs will engage with key stakeholders about the project.
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean (left) and Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet (right) made a number of pre-budget funding announcements on Sunday
Mr Perrottet had previously pledged to place the Aboriginal flag on the Harbor Bridge in February.
However, the funding provides a guarantee that it will be available before next year, after consultants initially said the engineering and construction work could take up to two years.
“I don’t see why it would take so long… I’ll climb there and fly it myself if I have to,” he said announcing the decision.
Ms Toka said she was delighted with the success of the campaign.
“I think this is very important for us as indigenous peoples, to achieve reconciliation through recognition,” she said.
“While I know a flag is symbolic, it does spark a conversation about the injustice happening to our people in Country, and it shows that we’re making progress,” she told NITV News.
The passionate advocate has now set her sights on other places to display the flag after a similar win at Sydney’s Inner West Council this year.
She also said the campaign is not over yet and the next step is a change in protocol to ensure future prime ministers cannot remove the flag.
Ms. Toka (pictured) ran a successful petition and raised over $300,000 for the cost
Other funding announced Sunday ahead of the state budget includes $37.9 million to improve before and after-school facilities and $206 million for a sustainable agriculture program.
Treasurer Matt Kean says the groundbreaking program will reward farmers who volunteer to reduce carbon emissions and protect biodiversity.
The NSW government has also pledged $56.4 million to build a four-day hiking trail at the Dorrigo Escarpment through the Gondwana Rainforests on NSW’s mid-north coast.
Environment Secretary James Griffin said the funding was the largest capital investment in a national park in NSW.
“I want everyone who comes to our national parks in NSW as a visitor to leave as a conservationist, and this world-class Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk is helping us do that,” said Mr Griffin.
The Aboriginal flag hanging on the bridge was discussed in parliament earlier in 2019, but was beaten back because the construction of a third flag was ‘too expensive’ (photo: Ms Toka and supporters)
About $28 million has also been committed to the state’s forestry industry, with funds going to support and train farmers following the introduction of a new code of conduct this year.
Deputy Prime Minister Paul Toole said the investment reflects the increasingly important role forestry will play in supporting the sustainable timber industry.
Women in small businesses also get free access to TAFE courses and professional advice thanks to $15 million over the next four years.
Mr Kean says over 95 percent of businesses in NSW are small businesses, but only a third are run by women.
The Perrottet government will hand over its state budget for 2022-23 on Tuesday.
Mr Perrottet, Mr Kean and Planning Secretary Anthony Roberts will make another budget announcement in Sydney’s north west later on Sunday morning.