It’s hard to believe that this is something that’s still being fought for, but then again, it’s Gladys Berejiklian.
Three years ago, Cheree Toka decided to start a campaign to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag on the Harbour Bridge, and today it has over 150,000 online supporters. Now, she’s turning up the pressure on the NSW premier.
It’s high time the Aboriginal flag was flown every day on the Harbour Bridge, and it’s crazy that we’re even still having a conversation about it.
Toka, who is herself a Kamilaroi woman, felt compelled to start the campaign on Australia Day 2017 after she was upset to notice the absence of the flag during a bridge climb. Now, three years later the Change.org petition has over 150,000 signatures, and it’s still growing.
Toka’s campaign has so far seen support from the likes of Labor MP Tanya Plibersek, Independent MP Alex Greenwich, Change.org, and Amnesty International. However, sadly, despite approaching the NSW Premier a number of times, Gladys Berejiklian has continually turned Toka away.
“She’s declined the offer and not really responded to previous requests either,” Toka described to Time Out. “I want Gladys Berejiklian to meet me and look me in the eye and tell me why my Aboriginal culture is worth less than anyone else’s.”
Now Toka is encouraging Sydney residents to write to Berejiklian and help put the pressure on.
“We need people to make noise,” she continued. “Let’s be loud and let’s let Berejiklian know that we want this to happen.”
Australia has a less than desirable history when it comes to dealing with its Indigenous people. It’s been only 50 years since the 1967 Referendum, in which 90% of the population voted to enable the government to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and ensure that they were even included in the national census.
When it comes to the Harbour Bridge, the Aboriginal flag and Australia flag were flown together for the very first time only four years ago. Currently, the Aboriginal flag is flown on the bridge for a total of 15 days a year, which includes Australia Day, NAIDOC Week, and Reconciliation Week.
With all eyes currently on the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd in the US, it’s a pertinent time for Toka’s petition to take hold. As Australians turn their attention homeward, there is outrage at the injustices perpetrated towards our own Indigenous people, including the deaths of over 400 Aboriginal people in custody with no police convictions.
If you would like to sign or donate to the petition to fly the Aboriginal flag on the Harbour Bridge, head here. And if you’d like to go one step further and write to Gladys Berejiklian, you can contact her here.