Kamilaroi woman Cheree Toka has started a crowdfunding campaign to install a flagpole onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge where the Aboriginal flag can fly on a permanent basis.
According to Broadsheet, the Aboriginal flag is only placed on the Bridge for 19 days a year — on January 26, Sorry Day, Reconciliation Week and Naidoc Week. For the other 346 days of the year, the Australian flag and the NSW state flag fly on the Bridge.
“The Harbour Bridge is one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks,” Toka told Broadsheet. “It’s important for the flag to fly on that bridge alongside the Australian flag for [locals and] international visitors to see a representation of the true Australia, and to be able to spark a conversation about the Aboriginal people and the true history and culture of Australia.”
Toka’s campaign started in 2017 with a petition on Change.org, which now has over 160,000 signatures. After taking 10,000 physical signatures to NSW parliament, Toka was told that there were a number of reasons why the Aboriginal flag couldn’t be permanently displayed on the Bridge, including the fact that installing another flagpole would cost too much.
Be part of history: fund the flag
At 140,000 signatures strong – we managed to get the petition tabled & debated in Parliament last year.
The conclusion: it's too costly to add an extra flagpole.
— Cheree Toka (@Chereetoka) June 3, 2020
Toka discovered that the cost of installing said flagpole would cost $300,000 and so she has started a campaign to raise the money herself. Since launching the GoFundMe page on June 2, Toka has raised over $30,000.
“At the end of the day, raising money shows the Australian government that the Australian people want the Aboriginal flag flying every day, not just 19 days of the year,” Toka told Broadsheet. “And that’s the true message we want to resonate with the Australian government.”
While Australia still has a long way to go when it comes to its treatment of Indigenous Australians, displaying the Aboriginal flag is a way to continue this conversation.
“It doesn’t help the real issues in rural Indigenous communities. But what it does do is spark that conversation around the in-depth issues that First Nations people in Australia are facing,” Toka said.
“The Aboriginal flag reminds us that this country has history beyond European arrival. For me and other Aboriginal people, as well as for non-Indigenous people, it can be used as an educational tool.
“Personally, it’s important to me so my children can grow up feeling safe and cultured in their own country, and for my family to be proud of who they are. And for the people of Australia to know about the true ancestral history of the country they call home.”