"Seeking Cultural Sensitivity."

About: Princess Alexandra Hospital

(as the patient),

Not happy! I had a medical appointment yesterday, I entered the hospital rooms for the visit. I was surrounded by gum leaves, koala's and little Australian flags strung up like Christmas lights. This was going overboard, really did the branches need to be plucked from the tree in the name of this farce? I slowly ventured to the counter, knowing that I was out of my comfort zone, gave the information and had another lady all happy and chirpy, wish me a happy Australia Day...Really? This is an event that we wish each other good tidings?

As I turned to find a seat in the crowded waiting room, I scanned the place something wasn't right, but I just couldn't think what. Maybe it was that my senses were assailed with the Australian vibe. As I waited and looked around the walls to read the posters and signs that I have read a dozen times before, it struck me, what was wrong. The flags!

The place always has the Australian flag, Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islands flag. Today the Australia flag was spread out and covering the other flags. You might think this is not a big issue, but to me it was. This is disrespectful to the people who were here first. This is dismissive of the Reconciliation moves which are why government offices etc have the three flags.

I, ever politely, went up to the counter and said, "um I think the wind has blown the middle flag, and it's covering the other flags". The lady behind the counter, told me "It's for Australia Day, we opened the Australian flag". Another staff member joined in, all smiles and gushed at me that it is just a bit of fun and to brighten up people's day and getting into the spirit of the day, or words to that effect.

I took a deep breath and said, "Under the legislation you can't cover up the Aboriginal and Torres Strait flags with the Australian flag". Okay you and I know that I lied, but I was betting on the staff member not knowing. I was then subjected to a history lesson on how much good has been done in Australia. I don't deny that some wonderful things have happened in this country, I also think some wonderful people are here.

My problem is that someone would cover the other flags and not think it inappropriate. That anybody would not consider the Aboriginal and Torres Strait flags, just as important as the Australian flag, or that they do not represent Australia, just as much as the other flag, that has the Union Jack.

I guess I am just annoyed at the ignorance and the ingrained bigotry. I don't think the English or the American flag would have been covered up, so why cover up these flags? They are recognised flags of recognised people. If a person can be proudly Italian Australian, why can't we be proudly Aboriginal Australian? Why do we get pushed to the side?

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