Our own flag

WILL you embrace the Aboriginal flag as your own? Should you?

The idea that you should and that you will was raised this week by the dual Aboriginal Olympian Kyle Vander Kuyp speaking in support of a special dispensation for showing a non-national flag at the Olympics.

Mr Vander Kuyp, who is regarded as one of Australia’s best hurdlers, was expressing also his support for an Australian boxer, Damien Hooper, who wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the Aboriginal flag to his first Olympic match in London this week. A match, by the way, that he won on his way to what he says will be a gold medal.

Hooper’s first loss, though, may be to the IOC, which has been considering his breach of Rule 50.

That rule states that ‘‘no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted’’ and that ‘‘no form of publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise, may appear on persons, on sportswear, accessories or, more generally, on any article of clothing or equipment whatsoever’’.

Breaching these rules may result in disqualification, although it seemed late yesterday that the likely result for Hooper would be a warning. If he doesn’t heed that, and he has a history of conflict with sports authorities, he will almost certainly be on a plane home, given the IOC’s serious and sensible disapproval of political statement.

You’ll know that Cathy Freeman has carried the Australian and the Aboriginal flags together in celebration at the Sydney Olympics, and while she was in breach of the rules nothing seemed to come of it.

Nothing much surprising in any of that, and I don’t suppose there’s much to be surprised about in Mr Vander Kuyp’s calling on all Australians to embrace the Aboriginal flag, in his prediction that we’re on the way to such an embrace, that one day all our athletes will be proud to fly the Aboriginal flag.

The problem is that the Aboriginal flag has no relevance to the great majority of Australians, nor, I suspect, to many people who have Aboriginal genes in their mix. The fact, for example, that I am a descendant of Captain Thunderbolt’s Aboriginal wife, Mary Bugg, does not make the Aboriginal flag mine – I am Australian and I don’t want another people’s flag to dilute that.

Proponents of the adoption of the Aboriginal flag as an Australian, or the Australian, flag like to talk of it as a gesture of reconciliation, but after a couple of decades of sorry books and odes to traditional owners and incessant hype about reconciliation I don’t understand why I as a person of European descent or as a person of Aboriginal descent need reconciling with anyone.

And when it comes to compensation, as the demands inevitably do, I hope we can do more for all Australians who need a leg up, and I mean more that is effective, not more for corruption and waste.

Just as the Aboriginal flag is relevant to a small minority of Australians, so it may be that the Australian flag with its southern cross and, in particular, the Union Jack is less relevant in these multicultural days. An increasing proportion of Australians would say they have no link whatsoever to the Great Britain of the Union Jack, and they’d be wrong, of course.

All Australians enjoy the protections and privileges of the government, bureaucratic and legal systems that arrived with the Poms just over 200 years ago, and English is our national language. Indeed, most or even all of the people who have chosen to come to Australia in recent years as migrants or refugees have done so because of the benefits of our British heritage.

Perhaps our Australian flag could be improved by incorporating an element of the Aboriginal flag, but shouldn’t we then incorporate a symbol of other significant groups of people who have contributed to our nation? The Chinese, for example, have had a major impact on Australia since the great gold rushes of the 1800s.

But we live in a British-shaped nation, in Australia not in Aboriginaland, and anyone who’s not happy about that should consider the alternatives more carefully.

Would you embrace the Aboriginal flag as your own? Shouldn't we be proud of our British heritage?

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