'Today we right the wrong': NAIDOC Week kicks off

NAIDOC Week has kicked off with a flag-raising ceremony at the Gladstone Regional Council chambers.
NAIDOC Week has kicked off with a flag-raising ceremony at the Gladstone Regional Council chambers. Mike Richards GLA030717NADOC

TO MARK the start of NAIDOC week, the Gladstone Regional Council has 'righted a wrong' they did in the past.

"We raised the Aboriginal flag within days of taking office, but we didn't put up the Torres Strait Island flag," Mayor Matt Burnett said.

"And today we will right that wrong ... the Torres Strait Island flag will be put up every single day alongside [the others]."

Charles Coleman, the man who raised the flag outside the Gladstone Regional Council offices this morning, said he was honoured and proud to be given the duty.

"That's going to be up forever ... it's very good to see up there," he said.

Flag raising ceremony celebrating the start of NAIDOC week.
Flag raising ceremony celebrating the start of NAIDOC week. Mike Richards GLA030717NADOC

"My dad was a Torres Strait Islander and I'm a Byellee man too.

"(My father and grandfather) were instrumental in the early days ... so that flag going up is giving recognition to my forefathers."

Mr Coleman said he was quite emotional given the weight of the event.

"It's about time," he said.

NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, and a week celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is held every year.

At the beginning of today's commencement ceremony, Uncle Richard Johnson welcomed the diverse range of people in attendance.

"We expect and embrace your culture, language and place in our society," Uncle Richard said.

He said everyone there and "all departments should be congratulated for acknowledging indigenous cultures."

Those in attendance were treated to a song sung by Jessica Johnson.

"This song encompasses every part of our community... the people, the natural resources... the elders," Uncle Richard said.

Once the singer and accompanying didgeridoo player finished their performance, cries from the audience sung out: "Our language matters!"

>> Don't miss out on NAIDOC Ball

The significance of the morning was made even more apparent when Uncle Richard talked about the need for a treaty with Australia's first nations people.

"We've been on this path for a long time," he said.

"Treaty is not a new word ... there has to be a relationship between Australia and it's indigenous peoples.

"Every group in every community has to have a say ... so we're not waiting any more."


Uncle Richard acknowledged the steps Gladstone had already taken.

"In order to respect our needs, wants and requests, councils like Gladstone's have signed an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA)."

Cr Burnett said in addition to signing the agreement early on, council is now working on adopting an Acknowledgement and Welcome to Country policy.

Cr Matt Burnett speaking at the NAIDOC Week commencement ceremony.
Cr Matt Burnett speaking at the NAIDOC Week commencement ceremony. Mike Richards GLA030717NADOC

"We've drafted it and now it's nearly ready to be put into place," he said.

Cr Burnett said the policy addressed the idea that only traditional owners of the land can and should be allowed to welcome people to the country, while anyone else can merely acknowledge others' presence.

"This week is always locked into our calendar... and it's a week great of events ending with a ball," Cr Burnett said.

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