Published on 12 May 2022
Flying the flag
“I think there should be an Aboriginal flag everywhere there is an Australian flag.”
So ended a short email from Aberfoyle Park eight-year-old, Summer, to her local City of Onkaparinga Councillor Marion Themeliotis late last year, asking why the Aboriginal flag didn’t fly alongside the Australian one at her local roundabout.
Little did she know her idea would soon see her being presented with her own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags by Traditional Owner Karl Telfer, a new Aboriginal flag flying high from the roundabout behind them.
Summer, who drives past the Black Road and Flagstaff Hill Road roundabout at Flagstaff Hill with her family each day, said the meeting with Karl—the chairperson of council’s First Nations People Advisory Group—in late April was a special moment.
“I felt shy the whole way through,” she said.
“[But] I felt special that I did a big thing and I was proud of myself.
“It was interesting hearing that the sun on the flag represents the woman, the giver of life. The red bit is the ground and red dust, and the black bit represents the people.
“Lots of people will see the Aboriginal flag every day, so they see that Aboriginal people are equal.”
Karl Telfer said he felt humbled to meet Summer.
“For a young person of Summer’s age to notice the absence of the First Nations flag, and then want to do something about it, was profound, and we thank Summer for her voice and leadership, as this is a clear demonstration of Reconcili-action,” Karl said.
“I felt humbled to meet Summer, and was very happy to meet her family and see the mayor, elected members and council staff present for a such a positive and important historical and bi-cultural outcome for our communities.
“It’s important for young people to feel that they are important and they matter. The voices of all young people must be heard, and the elders are responsible to create that space so this dialogue and conversation can happen respectfully. The young hold new energy/new vision and this should always be supported.”
City of Onkaparinga Acting Mayor Simon McMahon told Summer the flag-raising was democracy in action.
“Never forget what you can do by writing a letter,” he said as Karl presented her with her flags.
From email to action
Summer’s idea to raise the flag was spurred by the fact the Aboriginal and Australian flags fly side-by-side at her school.
Buoyed by Summer's inclusive email, Councillor Themeliotis raised a notice of motion at the November 2021 Strategic Directions Committee meeting for a report to come back to Council regarding the proposal.
“It’s important to recognise the Kaurna people as the Traditional Owners of the land,” Cr Themeliotis told Onkaparinga Now.
“The Aboriginal flag should fly side-by-side with the Australian flag in recognition of the history, stories and connection to the land of the Traditional Owners.”
Council thought it was a fantastic idea, and just before ANZAC Day last month, the new flagpole was installed at the Flagstaff Hill roundabout.
A new Aboriginal flag was simultaneously raised at the roundabout at Griffiths Drive and Grand Boulevard, Seaford, at the suggestion of South Coast Councillor Richard Peat, who told Onkaparinga Now Summer’s email had also inspired him.
“Summer’s questioning made council focus on truthful reconciliation, which our younger generation embraces,” he said.
The raising of the two flags brings them in line with other council locations across the city where both flags already fly together, including at the Noarlunga council offices.