Land agreement could fall over if councils don't fly flag
A MAJOR land agreement 10 years in the making is being held back because councils have not agreed to hoist the Aboriginal flag.
The Port Curtis Coral Coast people from Gladstone, Bundaberg, Fraser Coast and the North Burnett have refused to sign the agreement - the contents of which are confidential - with councils unless they agree to hoist the red, black and yellow.
If the councils don't fly the flag, Aboriginal leaders say it will set the relationship back a century.
Gidarjil Indigenous Organisation Queensland and Bundaberg man Kerry Blackman said it was a basic request. He has the support of Gooreng Gooreng elder Richard Johnson.
"Is this the early 1900s? Are we still acting on the White Australia mentality?" Mr Blackman said.
"If they will let this one sticking point stand in the way of signing the agreement because of their bigoted attitudes, then it won't be duly authorised and endorsed by traditional owners."
All the councils have signed except Fraser Coast which is expected to vote on the issue in Monday's council meeting.
But the deal, which has been in the making for almost 10 years, isn't valid until traditional owners sign too.
North Burnett mayor Don Waugh said his council flew the flag on "special occasions" such as NAIDOC week and Reconciliation Day and had no plans to change.
"My belief is that the Australian flag is the national flag and covers Aboriginal people too," Cr Waugh said.
"It concerns to be put in this position of do it, or we won't sign. It's holding us to ransom and I don't agree with that."
Gladstone Regional Council mayor Gail Sellers has refused to state her council's position on the issue saying only "it is not appropriate to comment" while the agreement is still being negotiated.
Fraser Coast Regional Council has been flying the indigenous flag every day for years and their mayor Gerard O'Connell can't understand the controversy.
"As a council we have an enormous regard for Butchulla people and flying the flag is a show of respect," Cr O'Connell said.
"...it seems like a perfectly natural thing to do."
It's an issue that has been boiling in Bundaberg for the past year where traditional owners have tried negotiating with the council and held regular protests outside council chambers.
There's been minimal traction and the man behind the protests - Kerry Blackman - is also the man authorised to sign on behalf of the Port Curtis Coral Coast people.