The Aboriginal flag will permanently replace the NSW flag on the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia

Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Australia’s Aboriginal flag will replace the New South Wales state flag on the Sydney Harbor Bridge, after authorities scrapped a 25 million Australian dollar ($17 million) scheme that would have allowed both.

In a statement announcing the decision on Monday, New South Wales (NSW) Premier Dominic Perrottet said the monument will provide a « daily reminder of our nation’s rich history ».

The state government first announced its intention to permanently install an Aboriginal flag on the iconic bridge – alongside state and national flags – earlier this year, when it pledged to build a third mast 20 meters high (66 feet).

The state provided funding for the project as part of the Closing the Gap initiative, a national campaign to close the gaps in health and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal Australians. indigenous.

But the program’s multimillion-dollar price tag raised eyebrows for many Australians, including Perrottet, who expressed surprise at the figure.

When asked in June why the flagpole was so expensive, the Prime Minister told reporters: « I don’t know, but apparently it is. » He then joked, « I’m going to go to (hardware) Bunnings myself and get up there and put the pole up. »

Perrottet reportedly ordered a cost review. In a news release announcing the new plan on Monday, Minister of State for Indigenous Affairs Ben Franklin said the money would be reallocated to other initiatives that « will deliver real results for Indigenous peoples in New South Wales ».

People wave the Australian Aboriginal flag as protesters take part in an ‘Invasion Day’ protest on Australia Day in Sydney on January 26, 2022. Credit: Steven Saphore/AFP/Getty Images

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Designed by Indigenous artist Harold Thomas in 1971, the Aboriginal flag currently flies over the bridge for 19 days a year, including during National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) week, which ended on Sunday.

The decision to install it permanently follows a five-year « Fund the Flag » campaign and petition that has attracted more than 175,000 signatures.

Officially recognized since 1995, the red, black and yellow flag has become an emblem for Aboriginal Australians and is often seen flying from government buildings. But its use has long been hampered by a trade dispute, after a company that licensed its creator’s image began demanding payments from various organizations that used it.

In January, following the highly publicized « Free the Flag » campaign, the Australian national government purchased the copyrights in a deal worth more than 20 million Australian dollars (14 million dollars), making them freely available to the public.

The yellow circle in the design represents the sun, the black band symbolizes the indigenous peoples and the red part relates to their blood and the earth.

The NSW flag, on the other hand, is based on the British Blue Ensign used by various countries and territories that are – or once were – associated with the United Kingdom. As part of Monday’s announcement, officials said they would instead create a new home for a « prominent » state flag as part of a new downtown redevelopment project.

Earlier this month, officials in neighboring Victoria state announced that the Aboriginal flag would also fly permanently above Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge.

Top image: The Aboriginal flag seen flying alongside the Australian flag on Sydney Harbor Bridge during Australia Day celebrations in January 2022.

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