Flag debate divides council

The Torres Strait Islander flag. Picture: IONEL141

By Casey Neill

Debate over flying the Torres Strait Islander flag produced a “bloody disgusting” personal attack in the Greater Dandenong Council chambers.
At the Monday 23 October meeting, Councillor Angela Long moved that the council permanently fly it on the third flag pole at the civic centre, which is currently used for a council logo flag.
But Cr Tim Dark opposed the motion, and with help from Cr Sampey successfully achieved its deferral.
“Cr Long can pot shot me all she likes and she can run around like the socialist left warrior she sets out to be … ” he said.
Cr Sean O’Reilly immediately interjected, calling Cr Dark’s language “extremely personal and unnecessary”.
Cr Long also responded: “That’s an insult to me and I think that’s bloody disgusting.”
Mayor Jim Memeti told Cr Dark to “please refrain from any personal attacks”.
Cr Dark continued to voice his opposition, reading from the Reconciliation Australia website that it was important to consult with the Torres Strait Islander community before flying the flag.
“Instead, we’re going to leap to conclusions and potentially insult the Torres Strait Islander people,” he said.
Cr Sampey said: “Should we defer until confirmation from the Torres Strait Islanders whether they wish to have their flag flown at all?
“I think it might be more appropriate.”
Crs Dark, Memeti Heang Tak, and Youhorn Chea supported her motion.
In opposition were Crs O’Reilly, Long, Matthew Kirwan and Loi Truong.
Cr Long said she “just can’t get over the fact that someone’s actually opposed it”.
“These are our first people,” she said.
“They should have their flag flown.
“They’re not under the Aboriginal flag.”
Later in the meeting, Cr Long explained that she was on the Inter Council Aboriginal Consultative Committee and “this issue has been thoroughly discussed over the past six months”.
“It was agreed flying both was very important for our Indigenous people,” she said.
Cr Matthew Kirwan explained that Australia had two first peoples – the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders – and that many government buildings flew both.
“They’re actually ethnically different,” he said.
“I’m really surprised this is a controversial matter.”