In a show of unity, the Tasmanian Lower House has voted to fly the Aboriginal flag permanently over the Tasmanian Parliament.
The motion was put forward by Tasmanian Greens Leader Cassy O’Connor last week, who called for the flag to be flown every day and not just during NAIDOC and Reconciliation Weeks.
The nine-point motion included that First Nations people have occupied Australia for over 65,000 years. O’Connor told NIT the unanimous support was expected.
“When I … spoke to representatives from both the Liberal and Labor parties and the Independent member in the house, there was instant and enthusiastic support for [the motion], which was a real contrast of what happened in the Federal centres,” O’Connor said.
While members of the Tasmanian Parliament admit raising the flag permanently is a “symbolic step”, they noted the move was a necessary first step.
“I believe there’s a genuine … desire across the Tasmanian Parliament to take some tangible steps, and while raising the flag permanently over Parliament is only a symbolic step, it does acknowledge that we meet on Aboriginal land that was never ceded,” O’Connor said.
Tasmanian Opposition Leader and Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Rebecca White said the motion was about respect.
“Respect for Tasmania’s First Peoples, the Palawa/Pakana of Lutruwita, is fundamental to progress true Reconciliation,” the Shadow Minister told NIT.
“Flying the flag above Parliament House is an important recognition that this land always was and always will be Aboriginal.”
Permanently flying the flag was in discussion in Tasmanian Parliament after two local councils in the State made the decision to do so during NAIDOC Week.
“The topic had been very much in the public debate since the first Clarence City council meeting that rejected a motion to fly the flag permanently and then was reversed after public pressure,” O’Connor said.
“Then Northern Midlands Council made the decision non-controversially and unanimously. And so, I do think it made it a bit easier for some members of Parliament to go, ‘Oh well, it shouldn’t be controversial’. And it’s the right thing to do.”
The motion to fly the flag permanently at the Clarence City Council on the eastern shore of Hobart took several months of debate to pass.
Put forward by council alderman Beth Warren in October, the motion was lost after six of the 12 members voted against it. On November 2, the decision was reversed with ten to one voting to fly the flag permanently.
Tasmanian Parliament leaders hope other States and Territories on the mainland will follow suit.
“I hope that across the country we can see other Parliaments do the same, though I acknowledge that there is so much more to do to extend justice to Aboriginal people,” said White.
“I think it’s the least that State and Commonwealth governments can do,” she said.
“And if we as a country and as States and Territories … are serious about justice for First Nations people, the first and most basic step I think needs to be taken is to fly the flag.”
The Tasmanian Liberals were contacted for comment but did not respond before time of publication.
By Grace Crivellaro