Posted on January 18, 2024

Tasmanian Parliament Takes Down Aboriginal Flag for Danish to Celebrate Queen Mary

Madeleine Rojahn, ABC, January 15, 2024

Tasmania’s Aboriginal community has called for an apology and proper consultation after the Aboriginal flag over Parliament House was taken down yesterday in favour of the Danish flag.

The national Australian flag and the Tasmanian flag continued to fly over parliament on Monday on the other two flagpoles.

The Danish flag was flown for one day to honour the new Queen of Denmark, Tasmanian-born Mary Donaldson.

Nala Mansell, from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC), said the move was “a classic example” of the “lack of respect that the parliament have for Aboriginal people, Aboriginal land, the Aboriginal flag”.

“Once again, there was no consultation with the Aboriginal community about flying the flag in the first place, and there’s never any discussions with the Aboriginal community about removing the flag for any reason,” she said.

Speaker of the House of Assembly Mark Shelton and Premier Jeremy Rockliff said the decision was made by following flag protocols.

“The request was for one day to recognise a special day that was happening and the connection between the Danish and Tasmanian people,” Mr Shelton said.

“I understand the Aboriginal concerns but it was one day and the Aboriginal flag is back up and flying now.”

Mr Rockliff said the state was “proud of our Mary, and all that Mary has achieved and now as the Queen of Denmark”.

“And so in line with national protocols, the Danish flag was installed for one day,” he said.

“The Aboriginal flag has been reinstalled now, as appropriate.”

In a statement, a parliament spokesperson said “the order of precedence”, which determined which flags were flown, “is provided by the Department of Premier and Cabinet”.

Opposition Leader Rebecca White said it was time to review the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s protocols for flags.

“We shouldn’t be disrespecting one culture when we’re looking to support another culture, we should be able to do that without offending any group, and I am sorry to see that the Aboriginal community of Tasmania has been offended by this,” Ms White said.

“I would hope that we would be able to find a way for the Tasmanian parliament to recognise significant events and occasions and perhaps install a new flag pole — it wouldn’t cost very much money.”

Greens ‘disturbed’ by flag choice

The decision also drew criticism from the Tasmanian Greens, who have written to the leaders of each house of parliament on the matter.

Greens leader Rosalie Woodruff said she was “disturbed” and “shocked” by the decision.

“Of course, we all understand … the mood of support and joy in the community of Mary Donaldson becoming the Queen of Denmark, but that has no bearing on the respect that needs to be shown for Tasmanian Aboriginal people,” she said.

Dr Woodruff said she believed there was “another solution”.

“I know there are international flag protocols which provide for multiple flags being flown on a pole, I know there are possibilities of doing things differently,” she said.

‘Opportunity’ to improve consultation

Ms Mansell said her community was not consulted when the decision to fly the Aboriginal flag permanently was made, or during the decision to take it down.

She said the Tasmanian Parliament should make the most of this opportunity to initiate better consultation over the issue.

“If we were given that opportunity, we would have had discussions with the parliament about the responsibilities that would be involved in the parliament to be able to fly our flag,” Ms Mansell said.

“To us, if someone is going to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag, they do so to show that they have respect for Aboriginal people, and Aboriginal land ownership, and the Aboriginal culture.

“While we have a parliament who continues to destroy Aboriginal heritage, who’s implementing policies that will take away rights of ownership over Aboriginal land, the parliament’s obviously not in a place to be able to fly our flag.”