Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie will now get to work on a motion calling on Federal Parliament to fly all three national flags – Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander – in the House of Representatives.
The motion has been prompted by the Prime Minister himself after Rebekha raised the absence of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in the chamber during Question Time today.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull invited the Member for Mayo to submit a motion asking the Speaker to amend the Standing Orders of the House.
“I imagine the Honorable Member will seek to move a motion to amend the Standing Orders for that purpose, assuming that is necessary,” the Prime Minister said.
“… We take the Honorable Member’s suggestion on board but I have to say, Mr Speaker, and remind the Honorable Member, while we pay respect to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flags, the flags hanging in each corner of this room is the Flag of Australia.”
In her question, Rebekha said:
“Prime Minister, one of my constituents, an Indigenous man, Mr Hedley Vogt, has approached me regarding an issue close to his heart.
There are four flagpoles in this chamber, and none of them flies the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander flags.
We have seen over the last two days that language matters and actions matter. Yesterday, this House united to condemn racism and discrimination.
In a continuation of that spirit, the spirit of reconciliation, and recognition of the history and culture of Australia’s first peoples will the Government support flying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in this Chamber?”
Rebekha said she was disappointed in the Prime Minister’s initial response to her question.
However, she would be preparing a motion which she hoped would have bipartisan support.
Mr Vogt, who raised the issue of the flags with Rebekha, was born in Central Australia. He now lives in the Adelaide Hills.
He said the three flags were flown “everywhere else” and deserved a place inside the Houses of Parliament.
“They talk about reconciliation, well this would be a visual sign to show reconciliation,” Mr Vogt said after Question Time.
“At least the Prime Minister didn’t say ‘no’ so that’s good.
“Now it’s all part of the political process and if it goes to a vote I hope it will be a conscience vote for all MPs.”
Mr Vogt first raised the issue of the flags with Rebekha more than a year ago.
Subsequent research revealed that the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives had the final decision for the flags that are officially placed in their respective Chambers.
Coincidentally, the Aboriginal Flag was designed by Harold Thomas, who grew up in Willunga (part of Mayo), and was first flown on National Aboriginal Day in Victoria Square in Adelaide in 1971.
Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie