PM slammed as Aboriginal flag ‘freed’ but indigenous communities remain destitute and poor
The Aboriginal flag is now available for public use, after its designer agreed to a $20 million deal that includes transferring the copyright to the Commonwealth after lengthy negotiations.
However, a statement by the Prime Minister that “We have released the Aboriginal flag for Australians” has drawn strong criticism from Catholic Social Services Australia chairman Francis Sullivan, who says the continued disadvantage and marginalization of peoples First Nations continue across Australia.
Indigenous artist Harold Thomas designed the flag in 1970 to represent Indigenous peoples and their connection to the land, and although it has been used as the official national flag since the turn of the last century, the copyright remains with Mr. Thomas.
Anyone who wanted to use the flag legally had to ask permission or pay a fee.
The government paid $20.05 million to Mr. Thomas and the licensees to extinguish the licenses and secure the copyright.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the flag would be managed in the same way as Australia’s national flag, where its use is free, but must be presented in a “respectful and dignified manner”.
“All Australians can now put the Aboriginal flag on clothing such as jerseys and sports shirts, it can be painted on sports grounds, included on websites, in paintings and other artwork, used digitally and in any other medium without having to ask permission or pay a fee,” Mr. Morrison said.
“We released the Aboriginal flag for Australians.”
Speaking on the eve of Australia Day, Mr Sullivan detailed the disadvantage indigenous communities face, including below average vaccination rates, access to health services, education and social services.
“The suicide rate among First Nations is double that of the general population,” he said.
“Well under a third of First Nations students complete Grade 12, compared to almost 90% of non-Indigenous Australians.
“Twice as many First Nations children under the age of four are at risk of dying when non-Indigenous children and First Nations people make up approximately one-third of all full-time inmates, yet only represent 2% of Australia’s adult population.
“Statistics tell a horrifying story of disrespect and indifference.
“Little will be done by the Commonwealth holding the copyright in the Aboriginal flag to remedy this appalling situation.
“The Prime Minister is saying ‘We have freed the Aboriginal flag for Australians’, how about freeing Indigenous communities from systemic and institutionalized poverty and deprivation,” Mr Sullivan said.