Back in July, a Mayoral Minute by Allan McGrath at Yass Valley Council’s July 28 ordinary council meeting proposed the permanent flying of the Aboriginal flag at the Soldier’s Memorial Hall in Yass. The move was raised in light of the NSW State Government making the historic decision earlier in the year to remove the state flag from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and instead replace it with the Aboriginal flag.

The permanent fixture of the Aboriginal flag at the Memorial Hall, alongside the permanent fixture of the Australian flag, was in recognition of first Australians. While many Councillors, including Cr Adrian Cameron, supported the motion saying, “I thought this was going to be a straight forward motion, I think this symbolism is an important way to recognise first nation’s people where perhaps it hadn’t been done that well in the past”, other councillors didn’t share the same opinion. Councillor Kim Turner questioned the recommendation saying, “this motion will create disunity in the community”, in regards to being near the Cenotaph; however, he agreed with it flying on the Council Chambers. A recission motion was successful; however, a further motion successfully kept the flag flying while community engagement was undertaken. At last Thursday’s Council meeting, the topic was once again raised, now with submissions from the public.

Below are a few excerpts from various public submissions.

“We wish to record our enthusiastic support for the flying of the indigenous flag on the Memorial Hall and the Council Chambers. It is a very important action which shows the Yass Valley Council and the Yass Community’s support for this excellent initiative,” one submission read.

“I understand the opposition by the RSL. However, their cenotaph is not on RSL land. I feel strongly that as a community we need to do everything we can to promote reconciliation. The division this issue has caused in the locality is very unfortunate and unnecessary. Acknowledgment of the indigenous people is long overdue,” another submission read.

“The insult your ill-thought decision to fly provocative, Eureka style, indigenous flag on the RSL owned flagpole and Cenotaph is the greatest insult and shows your Iack of familiarity with the rate payers. We are ONE nation – ONE flag- ONE people and this has been the most disgusting and divisive decision made,” one submission stated against the proposal.

Yass Valley Councillors unanimously resolved to permanently fly the National Flag and the Aboriginal National flag with the following points:

1. Taking down the Aboriginal Flag and placing up the New South Wales flag, to then enable a formal ceremony to lower the NSW flag and raise the Aboriginal flag by the Yass RSL Sub-branch and the Yass Aboriginal Community.

2. Installing additional flag poles at the Yass Soldiers Memorial Hall and the cenotaph in Comur Street to allow the Australian National Flag and the Aboriginal Flag to be permanently flown in accordance with the protocols in the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet publication Australian Flags 2022 as part of the proposed renovations.

Tim Warren