As a Yanyuwa and Garrawa woman, and as Chair of the Senate Select Committee on the Aboriginal Flag, it is culturally important to follow what we say in Yanyuwa, is the wurrama (authority) of the Aboriginal flag.
In Yanyuwa culture, decisions are made collectively about kin, country and the wurrama by the Jungkayi (guardian) and the Ngimarringki (Traditional Owner) with the aim of peaceful outcomes for the people.
The cultural context is also respectfully seen from a Yawuru viewpoint with my Labor colleague in Western Australia Senator Pat Dodson.
It is also seen from a Gunnai-Gunditjmara cultural viewpoint with Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, who joins this committee as her first task as the new Senator for Victoria.
This cultural view was naturally immersed in this Senate inquiry, along with the processes of the Australian Parliament, as we tried to navigate a respectful way through this serious dilemma between First Nations people and the copyrights of the creator of the Aboriginal flag, Mr Harold Thomas.
The committee considered it important to hear Mr Thomas' views, as an Aboriginal artist and the copyright holder of the Aboriginal flag. To that end, the committee did reach out to Mr Thomas and invite him to make a written submission or appear at a public hearing. Mr Thomas declined those invitations and alerted the committee to confidential negotiations underway with the Commonwealth government.
Deputy Chair Senator Perin Davey (NSW) joined us in determining a way forward through this inquiry, along with Senator Andrew Bragg (NSW), Senator Matt O'Sullivan (WA), Senator Amanda Stoker (QLD), Senator Sue Lines (WA) and Senator Rachel Siewert (WA).
My sincere thanks go to all who provided evidence to the committee, in written submissions and as witnesses at hearings. Thank you also to the committee secretariat and my staff, Martha Tattersall and Mandy Taylor.
The responsibility of this inquiry weighed greatly. The 50th anniversary of the Aboriginal flag is in July 2021: will it be a celebration or a commemoration?
Senator Malarndirri McCarthy