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Fresh twist after $25 million Aboriginal flag furore

The NSW Government has pulled the plug on having a $25 million flagpole installed on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, however, a new plan will still see the Aboriginal flag fly above the iconic landmark.

Last month, the state government announced the Aboriginal flag would fly alongside the Australian and NSW State Flag on the Harbour Bridge.

“Our Indigenous history should be celebrated and acknowledged so young Australians understand the rich and enduring culture that we have here with our past,” Premier Dominic Perrottet said at the time.

However, there was an uproar surrounding the cost of the installation. Installing a new flagpole on the bridge would cost $25 million and Mr Perrottet was even confused by the cost.

The Aboriginal Flag will remain on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Source: AAP
The Aboriginal Flag will remain on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Source: AAP

He vowed to go to Bunnings himself to do it.

The $25 million was also going to cover the cost of replacing the existing flagpoles on the Harbour Bridge, in addition to installing a third, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The Aboriginal flag flew over the Sydney Harbour Bridge this past week for NAIDOC Week.

Mr Perrottet has now announced the flag will stay on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in place of the NSW State Flag.

He told the Daily Telegraph the $25 million, which was allocated to install the Aboriginal Flag on the bridge, will instead go to Closing The Gap initiatives.

The NSW flag will instead be installed on the redevelopment of Macquarie Street, saying that is where parliament, the Mint and the Barracks are.

He added that through the process, the government learned people in NSW did not appreciate the state flag or its history, "because they see themselves as Australians first and not as their state".

"It’s a great opportunity to put the flag in the historic precinct as an important part of modern Australia,” Mr Perrottet said.

Flag campaigner acknowledges 'powerful ending'

The decision to have the flag on the Harbour Bridge comes after more than 177,000 people signed a petition to see the flag there.

The petition was started years ago by Kamilaroi woman Cheree Toka.

She even started a GoFundMe to "Fund the Flag", long before the government revealed the $25 million installation cost.

Cheree Toka and fellow demonstrators carry an Australian Aboriginal Flag up the steps of the Sydney Harbour Bridge during a demonstration in Sydney, Saturday, June 2, 2018.
Cheree Toka campaigned for the Australian Aboriginal Flag to be flown atop Sydney Harbour Bridge for years. Source: AAP

"A proud moment & a powerful ending," Ms Toka said on Twitter following the announcement on Sunday.

"I want to extend appreciation for everyone fighting injustice. Don’t stop until you’re proud & stay persistent."

Keeping the Aboriginal Flag up following NAIDOC week was an idea which was floated around in the days leading up to Mr Perrottet announcing the decision.

NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns suggested just this on July 8.

"This is how it should be - not just during NAIDOC week but every day of the year," he said.

"There's no reason the NSW Government can't keep this flag flying and save $25m. For years, the incredible Cheree Toka fought for this - for real representation."

Following Mr Perrottet's commitment to the flag, the Victorian government also recently made the decision to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag on Melbourne's West Gate Bridge.

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