Bordertown's council votes against flying the Aboriginal flag

VOTE: Tatiara councillors voted against putting up an extra flagpole to fly the Aboriginal flag at the entrance to Bordertown.
VOTE: Tatiara councillors voted against putting up an extra flagpole to fly the Aboriginal flag at the entrance to Bordertown.

Civic leaders in South Australia's Bordertown have voted against putting up extra flagpoles around the town to fly the Aboriginal flag on a permanent basis.

The decision was reached unanimously by members of Tatiara District Council after one councillor said the flag would "clutter" the town's entrances which already fly flags.

In July, Bordertown resident Ruby Schwarz wrote to the council highlighting that it was "unacceptable" to not have the Aboriginal flag alongside its counterparts.

Currently, three flags fly at council's Bordertown office, as well as at the town's western and eastern entrances - the South Australian, the Australian and the Tatiara flags.

Ms Schwarz said the lack of acknowledgement from council during National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week was disappointing.

"During these times, and many other days that hold significance to our First Nations people, their own flag does not fly," she said.

"I would now like to remind you that these flagpoles are located on the Dukes Highway on which about 2700 people travel on each day.

"Do you really want many first impressions of our area to be one where we do not recognise and welcome Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?"

The letter created extensive discussion during council's August and September meetings, and even resulted in a move being put forward to install an extra flagpole across the town.

But an amendment was put by Cr Diana Penniment at the September meeting, resulting in the plans to fly the Aboriginal flag on a permanent basis to be scrapped.

A number of council members voted in favour of keeping with the "status quo" and only flying the Aboriginal flag during days of significance.

The extra flagpoles were estimated to cost about $3000 each, resulting in a cost of about $9000 to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag at three locations.

Council's chief executive officer, Anne Champness, said that flying the Aboriginal flag was a "highly-visible symbol of respect".

"Flying the flag ... can promote a sense of community, create a welcoming environment and demonstrate a commitment towards closing the gap," she said.

Cr Ken McInerney said the addition of a fourth flag would "clutter" the town's entrances.

"Originally, when I was on Bordertown on the Move and we built the wall, it was envisaged that we wouldn't clutter up that entrance or any other entrance by flying too many flags," he said.

The proposed addition lacked support from many elected members with Cr Jamie Jackson saying the Tatiara flag covered the many ethnicities and cultures living in the district.

"The Tatiara flag is the Tatiara people and that certainly includes our First Nations people. I think we will end up with a thousand flags hanging out the front if we are not careful," Cr Jackson said.

Cr Robert Mock suggested that council could potentially find alternative ways that would allow the Aboriginal flag to feature more frequently around Bordertown.

Mover of the amendment, Cr Penniment, concluded with: "I do respect the original owners of our country and it is nothing about that. With our diverse community in Bordertown, I think this is the fairest way."

Council voted against installing extra flagpoles throughout the town to fly the Aboriginal flag permanently, but will look to fly the flag more frequently.

Comment is being sought from Ms Schwarz and Aboriginal groups.

This story Bordertown's council votes against flying the Aboriginal flag first appeared on Border Chronicle.