THE Australian Olympic team and International Olympic Committee (IOC) are ignoring the set precedent for Aboriginal athletes displaying their flag, according to indigenous activist Geoff Clark.
Team officials at London have warned Australian boxer Damien Hooper (pictured) not to repeat his ring entrance with the Aboriginal flag emblazoned across his T-shirt before his opening match this week.
But Mr Clark yesterday called on the IOC to recognise that sprinter Cathy Freeman was allowed to display the gazetted flag at the Sydney Olympics.
As chairman of the now dismantled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), Mr Clark said he met with the IOC in 2000 and convinced them to allow Freeman to carry the Australian and Aboriginal flags after her memorable gold medal 400m race.
“She was a proud Aboriginal person and wanted some acknowledgement for her people and her culture, just like Damien Hooper does now,” Mr Clark told The Standard.
“As far as I was concerned they had changed or relaxed the rules and I can’t see what the difference is now to then.
“The precedent has been set — why is it an issue now?
“The Olympics represent peace and goodwill, but where is the goodwill toward a young athlete who wants to be proud of who he is?
“Don’t we need young Aboriginal role models? You’ve got the intervention, the despair and substance abuse — surely we need to have young Aboriginal children watching TV and see a young Aboriginal boxer displaying his colours in a proud arena.”
Mr Clark said many Aboriginal people were still offended by the Australian flag’s use of the Southern Cross with the United Kingdom’s Union Jack.
“If we’re getting into symbolism and what’s wrong, what we find offensive is the Australian flag displays the Southern Cross without our consent and it’s there in conjunction with the Union Jack, which is extremely offensive to Aboriginal people and lots of Australians.
“That Southern Cross is a creation story. If there’s any break in protocol or offence, the fact is these people are using the Southern Cross without permission from the Aboriginal people.
“We need to clean up a bunch of issues about the flag and how it best represents a united people. The difference is there’s nobody around to advocated on behalf of this young Aboriginal, where before you had the full force of a fully elected Aboriginal body, ATSIC.
“There’s not a voice to defend actions of young indigenous people who want to make a statement.”