Many Australians were outraged last month to discover it was going to cost a whopping $25 million to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
They may be even more frustrated now to know that Victoria has announced a similar move, essentially for free and six months earlier.
Victorian Roads Minister Ben Carroll announced this week the Aboriginal flag would fly permanently alongside the Australian flag on the West Gate Bridge from Sunday, replacing the Victorian state flag.
Given the flag pole already exists, news.com.au was told the only cost to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag would be to replace the actual flag when needed due to weather damage.
The Victorian Government will now undertake work to determine what it would take, including costs, to add two additional flag poles, which would allow the state flag to be flown again, as well as the Torres Strait Islander flag.
This is the opposite to the NSW Government’s approach, which committed to spend $25 million on adding a third flag pole to the Harbour Bridge to fly the Aboriginal flag.
In the meantime, the Australian flag and NSW state flag will remain atop the two existing flag poles.
News.com.au asked NSW Transport on Tuesday why the state decided to install a new flag pole for the Aboriginal flag rather than replace the state flag like Victoria had done.
The department did not answer the question, but said the Aboriginal flag was on track to fly on top of the bridge by the end of the year.
“A permanent Aboriginal flag is a significant milestone towards reconciliation, acknowledging Australia’s traditional custodians and our collective history of Australia,” a spokeswoman said. “Flying the flag is an important gesture towards addressing inequality.”
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet claimed to have been surprised by his state’s own planned spend of $25 million when the taxpayer-funded budget for the project was revealed last month. He promised to review the cost amid backlash.
The hefty price tag included a new pole for the Aboriginal flag and refurbishment of the two existing poles, with project described as complex.
Wiradjuri and Badu Island woman Lynda-June Coe told the ABC the issue of the $25 million flag pole was “bittersweet”.
“I do understand the many voices from our community stating that $25 million could easily be injected into other areas that our mob have been crying out for a long time,” she said.
“I can’t help but feel proud but also at the same time I feel a little bit robbed to be honest.”
Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Shane Phillips said the NSW Government needed to be “called out” for mishandling the important task and said it was being used to divide people.
News.com.au asked the Victorian Roads Minister’s office why it made its decision to remove the state flag so the Aboriginal flag could have a permanent spot immediately.
“Flying the Aboriginal flag permanently on top of the West Gate Bridge from the end of NAIDOC Week is part our acknowledgment and celebration of First Peoples’ history, heritage and culture,” a Victorian government spokeswoman said.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags have flown on a rotational basis on the West Gate Bridge during Reconciliation and NAIDOC weeks since 2019. NAIDOC Week ends on Sunday but the Aboriginal flag will remain.
Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation chair Kelly Lehmann said flying the flag permanently demonstrated a commitment of inclusiveness, recognition and respect to Aboriginal communities in Victoria.
“This is a significant first step, and we look forward to seeing ways in which the Torres Strait Islander flag can also be flown in the future,” she said.