MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire councillors are being asked to fly the Aboriginal flag at half-mast on shire buildings on Australia Day next year, 26 January.
Cr Sarah Race says the gesture would “recognise our First Nations people and their sorrow on this day [26 January was declared a day of mourning by Aboriginal Australians in 1938]”.
Flag protocols set out by the Commonwealth and followed by the shire prevent the Australian national flag being flown at half-mast on Australia Day.
However, the shire’s flag rules allow the Aboriginal flag to be flown at half-mast as a sign of mourning after the death of a local Aboriginal elder or significant person within the community.
Commonwealth rules state that “where one flag is flown at half-mast, the other flags should also be flown at half-mast as a sign of respect”.
Shire officers in the agenda for the public meeting on Tuesday 14 December, said the Aboriginal flag can be flown at half-mast on 26 January but “in doing so will need to retain the national flag at full-mast, contrary to the advice of the Commonwealth flag master”.
The officers said a decision to fly the Aboriginal flag at half-mast has “no apparent legal implications”.
Background on the agenda to Cr Race’s move to lower the Aboriginal flag mentions council’s reconciliation action plan “to walk together with courage to understand, respect, value and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories, arts and cultures as part of the intrinsic identity of the Mornington Peninsula for the benefit of the whole community”.
No mention is made of the Torres Strait islands flag being flown at half-mast or top of the mast on Australia Day.