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Aboriginal flag to fly ?

Aboriginal flag to fly ?

25 September 1998

In a break with Olympic tradition, two extra flags will officially be allowed to fly over the Sydney 2000 Games if a new Aboriginal push to change the rules is successful.

SOCOG's National Indigenous Advisory Committee will start work next month to try to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow the two officially gazetted indigenous flags of Australia to be flown at Homebush stadium and other fields of competition.

Its members will also lobby visiting IOC members, especially indigenous representatives from Samoa, Thailand and Switzerland, to overhaul the flag rules, said the chairwoman of the committee, Ms Lowitja O'Donoghue.

"We'll probably have to fight hard for it, given the hoo-haover Cathy Freeman draping herself in the flag," she said, referring to the storm sparked when Australia's foremost Aboriginal athlete made a victory lap wrapped in her people's flag following a win at the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

Ms Freeman, who is holidaying in the United States, was not available for comment yesterday, but another advisory committee member, Mr Charles Perkins said: "It is not going to kill anyone to have the flag there.

"It pulls a lot of Aboriginal people in and it feels like they have some ownership of the Games."

The SOCOG program manager for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Mr Gary Ella, said: "It would be recognition that we are the first inhabitants of this land.

"One of the things people may not be aware of is that if Cathy Freeman flies the Aboriginal flag after winning, she would be disqualified under the Olympic charter."

The NSW convener of the Flag Society of Australia, Mr Tony Burton, said that according to IOC protocol, four flags could be flown at Olympic Games venues - the Olympic five-ring flag, the official flag of either the city of Sydney or SOCOG, the NSW flag and the Australian national flag.

The red, yellow and black Aboriginal flag and the green, white and blue Torres Strait Islander flag are official flags, like the six State and two Territory flags, but they do not have status as representative flags of a sovereign State.

This page last updated: Saturday 20 March 2010

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