An Indigenous activist says she is “ecstatic and over the moon” after winning her five-year battle to fly the Indigenous flag over the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
An Aboriginal activist declared “finally victory” on Monday after the New South Wales government announced that the Aboriginal flag would fly permanently over the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
Kamilaroi yinarr Cheree Toka said she was “ecstatic and delighted” after Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet announced the flag would replace the state banner atop the iconic bridge.
“It is a very proud moment for all First Nations people today and a day of celebration,” she said.
Ms Toka said she already had her next goal in mind: to ensure that indigenous languages are taught in schools in New South Wales.
“I haven’t done enough research yet, but I would love to pursue it,” she said.
“I think it’s really important to teach mother tongues in the school curriculum, to keep this continuous culture alive.
“At a minimum we should be able to introduce ourselves, say hello, it doesn’t have to be anything fluid, but we should be looking at New Zealand and how it works now with a strong acceptance and recognition of the language of their people.”
Ms Toka launched her flag campaign in 2017 and has been there ever since.
An online petition she created garnered more than 177,000 signatures and Ms Toka helped bring the issue to parliament for debate.
When told it would be expensive to put a third mast on the bridge, Ms Toka started an online fundraiser that raised more than $45,000.
However, that was well below the $25 million the state government estimated it would cost to install another pole.
Mr. Perrottet’s government has seriously considered setting up another pole, even going so far as to reserve the money for it in the last budget.
But on Monday he said the government would instead fly the NSW flag elsewhere and let the red-yellow-black Aboriginal flag remain at the top of the bridge, where it was recently installed for NAIDOC week.
“Our nation’s history is rich and enduring and to fly the Aboriginal flag permanently above the Sydney Harbor Bridge is a celebration and recognition of that,” said Mr Perrottet.
The $25 million set aside for the mast will be allocated to the Closing the Gap Indigenous Initiative, a national strategy to reduce the disadvantages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.