A Bridge Too Far

NAIDOC Week has come and gone for another year, thank goodness.  As a regular listener to ABC Classic FM, I’m inured to the constant mentions that the broadcast is coming from Gadigal (or whatever) land and treat it as background noise. It is irritating but not enough for me to turn it off.  It rose to a deafening cacophony during NAIDOC. 

That NAIDOC was capped off with the sight of the Wallabies singing the National Anthem in some obscure Aboriginal dialect and the insane decision of NSW Premier Perrottet to replace the NSW state flag on the Harbour Bridge with the Aboriginal one were the last straws for me.  Once upon a time, a few years ago even, I guess I could stomach NAIDOC Week, but recently it has become so ‘in your face’ that it has become intolerable.  I’ve had a gutful.

As regards the Wallabies, what immediately struck me watching this sickening virtue signalling was this: when was the last time anyone saw the members of any national or state football team  join in ‘as one’ to sing the English language version, i.e. the official one, of the National Anthem?  

As to the Harbour Bridge issue, that brought to mind Uluru. In deference to Aboriginal ownership, we now no longer refer to it as Ayres Rock and we accede to the wish not to climb it, despite the fact that there was never any tradition of not climbing.   But the Harbour Bridge owes nothing whatsoever to Aboriginal tradition, history or technology.  It was built by the people of New South Wales.  Sixteen of them lost their lives in its construction.  And yet the Premier of New South Wales has unilaterally decided to remove the flag symbolizing the efforts and sacrifices of those people and replace it with the Aboriginal flag.  This was not done at the behest of the Commonwealth government.  It was Perrottet’s own weak-kneed initiative.  So much for federalism.

Which brings me to recognition.

The claim is made that recognition, in the Constitution, of Aboriginal people as the original owners/inhabitants of this continent will make them feel empowered and give them confidence to stride ahead into the future.  Some will tell you this recognition is purely symbolic.  Mostly it is white supporters who push this line.  The most influential Indigenous activists reject mere symbolism.  They are quite open about the fact that they want some form of self-government.  However, for the moment let’s look at the idea of symbolic recognition.

My question is this: what would be the game-changing factor in this symbolic gesture that would trump all the other gestures and practical actions that have gone before?  What is it about a mention in a document (which most Australians have never and will never read) , that would succeed where the gestures and measures outlined below have apparently failed?

Why wouldn’t Aborigines already feel empowered and included when they see their flag flying outside every public building in the land?

Why wouldn’t Aborigines already feel empowered and included when they are acknowledged at every public event?

Why wouldn’t Aborigines already feel empowered and included when they are invited to welcome us to their country at almost every public event?

Why would not Indigenous people already feel empowered and included when they see their culture mandated as a cross curriculum imperative in our schools?

Why wouldn’t Aborigines feel empowered and included when they see their culture front and centre at the opening ceremony of all major sporting events?

Why wouldn’t Aborigines already feel empowered and included when they remember that in 1970 Lionel Rose was named the ninth Australian of the Year, the first of nine who have been so honoured in the 62-year history of the award?  That in 1995, David Unaipon featured on our $50 note?  That in 1972 Pastor Douglas Nicholls was knighted and in 1976 became Governor of South Australia?

I could go on, but I’m sure you get my point.

The real agenda, hinted at in the Uluru Statement and openly expressed by many of the leading Indigenous activists, is for a separate Aboriginal sovereignty, of equal standing with the sovereignty that already forms the basis of Australia.  This would be a recipe for disaster.  Potentially, you might find yourself subject to a different set of laws than your next-door neighbour. 

Here is an example already in train.  The Yuin people of South-Eastern NSW have lodged a land title claim for the entire south coast for NSW, from Sutherland Shire to the Victorian border, including the inshore waters out to three nautical miles.  One of the things sought is the unrestricted right to fish these waters. At the moment, Yuin people can take fish for consumption without having a fishing licence, but they are governed by bag limits, which are greater than for the general populace (ten abalone vs two, and twenty fish vs ten).  But they can also apply to exceed these limits for ‘cultural purposes’.

Yuin man Kevin Mason says he has been fishing in his ancestral waters since he was a boy, providing much needed food for his community on the New South Wales South Coast.  “That’s our livelihood, it’s the life blood of Aboriginal people,” he said. “How to feed [mob], that’s been handed down to me and I’ll hand it down to my next generation.”  The  proponents claim that the Yuin are a traditional fishing community and fishing is an essential cultural imperative for them, which leads one to wonder why Mr Mason has to feed his mob.  Why aren’t they all doing it?

The proponents of this claim say that if they are successful it will open up commercial opportunities.  If the claim is successful, it is possible the ruling might allow traditional owners to restrict access to other Australians.

People’s freedom to do what they like, or what they are used to doing in the past, is being constrained all the time in the name of the common good.  Mr Mason might like to consider that restrictions on his fishing rights are offset by his ownership of a tinnie which considerably enhances his ability to catch fish, and his ownership of a fridge that allows him to store his catch, and that he doesn’t have to eat fish every day.  When not fishing, he can eat a pizza and watch the footy on his flat screen TV, if he so desires.

In 2013, the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Recognition Act which recognized the prior occupation of the continent.  This Act was intended to kick-start the process for a referendum on constitutional recognition. It allowed the Parliament to establish a review for the way forward and allowed two years for this process to commence.  That review never took place and was eventually overtaken by the process of establishing the Uluru Statement.  The Act lapsed in 2015.  It could easily be resurrected in limited form to provide the same official recognition as the 2013 Act, from our foremost Parliament.  It would be a foolish government that ever sought to repeal such an act.

Recently, in the wake of the childish actions of The Green’s Adam Bandt in ignoring the Australian flag, Tony Abbott suggested it might be time to reconsider the prominence given to the Aboriginal flag.  Good on him I say, but let’s not stop there.  Let’s cut back drastically on all this pointless and divisive symbolism.  Let’s trash the ubiquitous welcome to country, the acknowledgement of traditional owners, the Aboriginal motifs on Qantas aircraft, the Aboriginal pride football rounds and all the rest of it.  Aboriginal people are good at a lot of things but, just lately, they seem to excel at whingeing.

27 thoughts on “A Bridge Too Far

  • Claude James says:

    Yes, the idiotic ideology that now dominates policies and PR schemes regarding Aborigines will not help a single Aborigine to live a productive flourishing life.
    But consider this:
    Idiotic ideas -based on determined, deliberate anti-realism- now dominate all of Australian policy-making, PR/propaganda, and use of resources.
    This is clear.
    Now, will a critical mass of clear-eyed, realistic, pragmatic pro-Western Australians now self-organise and self-fund -and establish and manage the necessary never-ending project to ensure Australia’s membership of a revitalised, renovated, up-to-date-date Western Civ?

  • call it out says:

    I’m with you Peter. None of that confected nonsense of welcome to country, smoking ceremonies, endless AFL indigenous rounds, manufactured golden ages of noble savages, bending of knees, young indigenous lads imitating gangsters with their rap culture ( a copy itself not of African culture, but of white trash culture.)
    And the ubiquitous indigenous flag…special occasions and places only please.
    Let’s show some restraint, respect, and awareness of the way things were, and are now.

  • Lawriewal says:

    A quote from the NSW Premier;
    Our Indigenous history should be celebrated and acknowledged, so young Australians understand the rich and enduring culture that we have here with our past,” Mr Perrottet said.
    Peter, I’m with you, I too have had a gutful!
    “Rich & Enduring Culture”; what fictional irresponsible rot!

  • john.singer says:

    We have been told there will be a referendum on the “Voice” so do not take any actions that favours a Yes or a No decision before the result is known. You put the flag there in favour above the official State flag and you risk involving the race Relations Commissioner and a host of legal problems.

  • Biggles says:

    All this kotowing to Aboriginal ‘culture’ I call Abwank. As an aside, I eschew Their ABC in all its manifestations. The banality of its classical music offering has gradually become unbearable. Try receiving swissradioclassic on your computer, Peter. If you agree that it is streets ahead of the ABC’s pap, see your local audio shop for a ‘black box’, (about $400), which will allow you to hear it via your sound system. Brilliant!

  • cbattle1 says:

    It is just so wrong displaying the “Aboriginal Flag” as co-equal to the national flag of Australia. Where is the patriotism, the Australian national identity? The edifice of Australia appears to be increasingly “white-anted” by the politics of Identity. Doesn’t the LBGT+ community have the same right as Aboriginal people to fly their rainbow flag on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge? IMHO, Australia is not being threatened by Russia or China, but it is already under attack from forces within!

  • STD says:

    Courtesy of their ABC.

  • Daffy says:

    The complete misunderstanding of the function of the Constitution astounds me. Oh, well, not really, I guess. As we know it is a dry as dust legal document that sets out the powers and relationships between the states and the Commonwealth. It’s as boring as almost every other constitution. The canny recognition boosters probably know this, so their not very hidden agenda is to have a sovereign state of their own; probably Queensland, because it has good coal for export, to also have Powers and a relationship with the Commonwealth.
    Second point.
    I studiously avoid NAIDOC week (National association of industry developers and organisational commerce?), but must develop a counter. My current counters are: Earth Day to turn all my lights on in celebration of the bounty of our world. I studiously check my phone, my papers, or scratch my…no not them, ear during the chant of AOC – acknowledgement of country while I gaze around the room. A friend calls Sorry Day ‘Rescue Day’. Good for him. But for some bizarre reasons, perhaps under the misapprehension of being ‘nice’ or ‘inclusive’ or even ‘respectful’ it seems that the increasingly irrelevant churches are right into the NAIDOC (Never An Indication of Devotion Or Charity) game. I attended an electronically offered conference where all the churchy worthies announced the putative ‘traditional’ land they were on…like this was serious, or even factual, and disregarded which tribe invaded and occupied which other tribe’s land. Loopy is as loopy does, I guess.

  • Ceres says:

    I’ve had a gutful too.
    Look to NZ and the preferential treatment of maori which has translated into financial advantage on many fronts.
    Suggest the same could happen here.
    “If the claim is successful, it is possible the ruling might allow traditional owners to restrict access to other Australians.”. Code for – restrict access unless you non aborigines pay.

  • NFriar says:


    ” IMHO, Australia is not being threatened by Russia or China, but it is already under attack from forces within!”

    Thank you 🙂
    This I have been saying for about 4 years!

  • restt says:

    The native title claim that you reference in extremely important. Aboriginals currently may have non exclusive rights to carry on traditional rites. When those traditions are extinguished, so are the rights. Realistically nearly all traditions have been extinguished and so should non exclusive native title. When you fish in a boat, sell the fish to others (outside your kin) to get money for grog etc your traditions are clearly extinguished.

    It really is time to repeal the Native Title Act and ensure it is consistent with limited land rights consistent with the Mabo decision which also said that there is NO COMPENSATION PAYABLE. Huge tracks of land Aboriginals just passed over should not be subject to Native title – the place you lived like the TSI should be the only land capable of any Native title.

    If an Aboriginal has native title they should not be allowed to leave their traditional land. This is the reality of the pre-contact Aboriginal. Once you move into the world – traditions die. If you stay on native title land you should not get one cent of taxpayers money to pay for your private land. You loved for 50,000 years without money … just keep going

  • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    Just as no one can force us to buy halal branded products, no one can force us to enter an establishment displaying a flag that doesn’t mean anything much for in the much lauded 40/60/100/ or forever thousands of years they didn’t have the know how to process either flax or cotton to make said flag, invent a wheel, write, simple stuff like that.

  • rosross says:

    Note to NSW Transport:

    How dare you put the Aboriginal flag in prominence on our bridge?

    Sydney Harbour Bridge is an Australian icon and is important to all Australians. Aboriginal peoples had absolutely nothing to do with building the Sydney Harbour Bridge which exists because the British and then Europeans arrived in this country.

    A number of Australians died building our bridge and it should not be identified as part of the Aboriginal agenda which has grown in recent years. There is only one flag which has a right to fly on OUR bridge and that is the Australian flag, the flag which represents every single Australian REGARDLESS of whether or not they have a bit of Aboriginal ancestry. I repeat, how dare you use our bridge in a campaign which divides Australia on racist grounds?

  • cbattle1 says:

    You have very well summed up the reality of the situation!
    Thank you for the acknowledgement!

  • NFriar says:

    How dare Transport NSW shut down comments on this article on their Facebook page!
    “Transport for NSW limited who can comment on this post”.
    So they have to resort to censorship to fool people into believing this is a good thing.

    Have you noticed Channel 10 now broadcasts from such and such a country?
    (same as ABC that we pay for!!).
    They had the weather map with tribal names on capital cities during naidoc – we expect that.
    These subliminal messages a nothing less than brainwashing.

    Great paper Peter O’Brien – please how do we stop this?

  • 27hugo27 says:

    PO, Biggles and NFriar – you’ve hit on my great bugbear , the takeover of our history (without our consent) by the likes of the ABC ( I never watch 10 , but am not surprised at their new policy) and so many institutions ! I listen to classic ABC every day and must tolerate the insufferably smug blow-in Russell Torrens blithely using Aboriginal names for wherever someone is listening , dispensing altogether with the English ones now , not to mention the shoe-horning in of his rainbow and green opinions. I barely listened in Naidoc week , so disgusted i was a the prostration of the presenters , and the dissonance of the so called “music” which if we’re honest is just sticks and didgereedoos with barely a note to be heard . And the worst part is that my taxes are funding their activism and that the whole core of classical music is being eaten away by these philistines in intellectual clothing .

  • Rotorjoe says:

    In a recent ABC Radio National (where else?) interview, the NAIDOC Australian Elder of the Year Jack Charles complained that he was re-traumatised by being asked for some evidence of his Aboriginality, in order to collect a Stolen Generation compensation payment from the Victorian Government.

    I understand that at the recent Catholic Plenary Council a proposal was put forward, and hopefully soundly rejected, to include in the Liturgy of the Mass the Welcome to Country/Acknowledgement of Inhabitants etc.

    I wonder when this nonsense will stop?

  • tommbell says:

    Election of The Parrot as leader/premier was always a grubby factional deal. Kean’s continuing prominence tells us all we need to know about who was really calling the shots. I recall Alan Jones getting excited about Perrottet – gushing about his conservative credentials. No doubt Jones is a disappointed man!! The Left loves a good race war. It promotes their agenda to divide the country and weaken the capitalist state. Most of our elected “leaders” subscribe to some level of this BS. And whatever you do, don’t mention cannibalism.

  • Carlos says:

    A funny thing happened at ‘The Australian’ in the wee hours of Wednesday 13 July.
    Unable to sleep, I read an article about a proud (insert tribe) woman who, from the look of her, had lost any identifiable resemblance to her aboriginal ancestors. The thing is, she works in a government funded aboriginal NGO, her entire status and income is derived from this source.

    Despite this, she saw herself as “an example of the transformative effects of economic independence”.

    In the comments section, this one had slipped past the censors:

    OR perhaps the transformative effects of exogamy?

    A perfect summary of the state of aboriginal activism and activists. Of course the comment had been put in the memory hole when I checked my iPad several hours later.

    To the author of the comment: Peter1901 I salute you.

    • Roger Franklin says:

      I wonder if Rupert knows (or perhaps no longer cares) that the Australian’s work-experience kids zapping politically incorrect comments, as inculcated by their J-school professors, are costing him readers?

  • Occidental says:

    @carlos, that one word has encapsulated the progress of humanity, the solving of disputes, and the deliverance of our own conquered ancestors. For some reason it is now a dirty word. I blame the academics, who persist in attempting to preserve the past.

  • jbhackett says:

    I returned from a month in Europe to find NAIDOC week in full swing. The media push to sell it was unrelenting-and I was actually quite traumatised by it all. I was told repeatedly that I should be grateful for all that First Nations (sic) culture has contributed to Australia. Well, sorry guys. When you’ve heard Mozart played on the huge organ at beautiful Passau Cathedral, clap sticks and bark humpies don’t cut the mustard.

  • gilmay97 says:


    Australian Flag
    We only have one national flag and that is what should be displayed on government buildings, unless there are diplomatic reasons and or foreign guests present where we honour their presence by flying their national flag.
    The aboriginal flag was privately owned by non aboriginal ‘WAM Clothing’, in 1919 aboriginal businesses and others were ordered to stop using the flag by copyright owners Semele Moore and Been Wooster. This privately owned flag was allowed to be flown on public property and government buildings without any consideration of allowing other privately owned flags the same privilege.

    Aboriginal Flag
    Being a privately owned flag, it was inappropriate and wrongful for it to be used on any government buildings or at official functions — Unless all other privately owned flags have similar rights

    Returned and Services League of Australia Flag
    That would be far more appropriate and of greater meaning, and pride, to more people to have the RSL Flag-of-honour flying beside our national flag.

    Eureka Flag
    Our historic Eureaka Flag that was once part of our original Federation Flag would be far more represntative, and historically important to more people than the aboriginal flag from WAM Clothing.
    It was a deliberate discrimination against all other flag owners not allowing and encouraging them to fly their flag equally on every government building that flies an aboriginal flag. Community sporting clubs and football clubs’ flags nationwide would hold far more supporters than there are aboriginals and have contributed far more to the community. Bunnings and Michelin would have far more customers and supporters together in excess of aboriginal numbers, and their flags look more colourful and be more appropriate to more people having done far more for Australian than those under the Aboriginal flag.

    When a small population of descendants of Indian and mixed-race aboriginals are permitted to fly their flag, then other migrant groups many who combined are far greater in number, were not given the same right to fly their flag — it is a deliberate continued racial discrimination instigated, promoted, and carried out by politicians, social ‘nutters’, and fools.
    Tactical political pressure was put on the Federal Government to buy the aboriginal vote and copyright from ‘WAM Clothing’ and give unrestricted use to aboriginal organisation free of charge — to win votes. This commercial purchase made from taxpayer’s money specifically for political purposes is just blatant discrimination against other organisations.
    On the 25 January 2022 the government announced it had paid $20 million of taxpayer’s money to buy the copyright from ‘WAM Clothing’, a blatant disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money promoting disunity and division in the community — when our education and hospital systems urgently need $20 million funding and our national debt due to covid is massive. The government wastes our money on unnecessary petty issues of copyright ownership for an ugly divisive flag.
    Australia has a national flag that and only that should be flown on government buildings — otherwise it is a massive discrimination against all other racial and community groups who have a flag to fly— no doubt done just before an election to win votes — and lost a lot of votes.
    And of course, not a murmur about buying votes from the ALP or Greens, happy to waste your money and give it away. Maybe we need a mandatory fifteen-percent contribution paid from political parties on all public monies paid just for electoral winning ‘pork-barrelling’ purposes that are not essential or contributory to the wide benefit of the people and families?
    NOUN: Slang: the use of government funds for projects designed to please voters and win votes.

    A genuine indigenous man suggested the flag below could be a more appropriate representation Flag of the more-white-than-black people who appear to have taken over many aboriginal organisations and government departments, appearing more interested in scamming money than helping real aboriginal people in need?

    Is this a more realistic aboriginal flag?
    Aboriginal groups are all very happy to forgive unproven and many falsely claimed ancient atrocities if enough money is paid to people totally unrelated to alleged victims who died centuries ago — but not prepared to pay compensation for their atrocities upon others by aboriginals as recorded in historical documents — what was done long ago must be put aside as errors of history, never to be repeated.

  • gilmay97 says:

    The current aboriginals need do to a realistic: ‘Welcome to Country and Reality’
    We acknowledge the original occupiers of the land and their people the land was stolen from and later stolen by others as our ancestors stole it from those before us, we acknowledge the ownership of the land belongs to all Australians who call this wonderful country home”.
    Maybe we should also be acknowledging: ‘Welcome to History’: Those claiming traditional ownership arrived here 4,230 years ago from India displaced, killed, and stole the land from the previous occupiers — who had done the same to other occupiers before them.
    The Indian aboriginals take issue that the European migrants dispossessed them the same as their ancestors treated other native people taking their land. These issues took place long ago and are irrelevant today, being obsessed with ancient historical issues wanting to blame today’s people for what was done centuries ago by unknown people to other unknown people all now dead, indicates a serious psychiatric problem. That will be healed immediately if we pay them a lot of money — Come in suckers.

  • wardcj2018 says:

    Most Australians must be confused by NADOC nonsense. I came here in the early 1960s and became a citizen. Never without a job, I served this country through the dangerous years 1960s-90s and while I voted Yes in the referendum, I have been aghast at the billions of dollars spent on what some have loosely called “the aboriginal industry” with absolutely no result for indigenous people. I’m sick and tired of the virtue-signalling crowd and the aboriginalisation of name places on maps and signs. The cancel culture lobby must be greatly pleased with what they define as progress. As I don’t venture out much these days, I was genuinely appalled by Wretched Condie, Anglican Bishop of Tasmania flying the aboriginal flag over St David’s Cathedral in Hobart for the whole of NAIDOC week. I wonder how many of his declining flock had a say in this egregious act.

  • wardcj2018 says:

    I forgot to add there was no Australian or Tasmanian flag over the Anglican Cathedral and Council offices followed the act.

  • rickhurst says:

    Totally agree with wardcj2018 my sentiments exactly and very well expressed.
    Should you ever go into politics you would have my vote!!!

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