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Concerns raised over error in GRAI's annual report

Community group GRAI: GLBTI Rights in Ageing has been accused of publishing “disturbing and offensive content” in their annual report.

The non-for-profit organisation has just released their annual report. It contains an image of the Indigenous flag, but the flag is presented upside down.

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Indigenous organisation First People’s Rainbow Mob (FPRM WA), who are described as “acknowledged as [the] peak body for all things Indigenous LGBTQA+ [in] WA”, noticed the error and raised their concern.

The organisation’s founder Jakob James described the depiction of the flag as “disturbing and offensive content.”

“This is not the first incident with GRAI being culturally insensitive through their naivety.” James told OUTinPerth as he called on the organisation to make a public apology and consult with First People’s Rainbow Mob in the future.

“I would like to see GRAI acknowledge that they haven’t felt the need to consult with FPRM WA, that myself has offered many times to which they have ignored.

“I would like to them to acknowledge how offensive regardless of innocent [an] action it is, and to publicly apologise not just to the Aboriginal LGBTQIA+ of Western Australia, but to Aboriginal peoples across the entire country that it was a careless mistake that will never happen again.”

Jakob James

“I would like to see GRAI as an organisation to make a commitment to consult with FPRM WA now and in the future to ensure cultural competence because this is LGBTQIA+ business, something our heterosexual Elders don’t have lived experience with.” James said.

GRAI offers full apology for error

Upon becoming aware of the error GRAI Executive Officer Kedy Kristal immediately apologised for the mistake.

“GRAI unreservedly apologies for this mistake and acknowledges that we have caused hurt to the First Nations people of this land.” Kristal told OUTinPerth.

“We will correct the GRAI 2022-23 Annual report before it is posted on our website.” Kristal said.

Jim Morrison says it’s time for discussions about how we progress reconciliation

Jim Morrison who founded Queers for Reconciliation, and was a founding member of Reconciliation WA, said the error was unfortunate.

Morrison said it was a tough time for Indigenous people in Australia following the defeat of the Voice to Parliament referendum.

“It’s a tough time and unity is now the way forward, keeping in the spirit of reconciliation we need to understand that people sometimes make mistakes and regret it.

“We need to be understanding of people’s mistakes, and First Nations people have been doing that for centuries now, but it doesn’t alter the fact that people seem to be making these sorts of blunders without consideration.”

Morrison, who has been an advocate for the Stolen Generation for decades, said now was an important time for people to come together and speak about the future.

“We need to come together and think about what the future holds for First Nations LGBTQ+ people, particularly with the high suicide rate among First Nations people. We need to be striving together.”

Jim Morrison has observed that in the wake of the 2023 referendum there has been a lot of misinformation about Indigenous rights and culture, and this was having a great effect on younger people.

“The dominant culture need to be more understanding of that and try to rectify what mistakes and blunders they’re experienced because it shouldn’t be happening.

We’re the oldest living culture on the planet and we deserve a bit more respect.”

Jim Morrison

Morrison also flagged that as we move forward with reconciliation there must also be a commitment from all organisations to consult widely, have conversations and gauge people’s feelings on different issues so to ensure that public statements accurately reflect community views.

“I speak for stolen people in this state, and I seek out people’s views, and that’s what you need to. You can’t be dictatorial and say you speak for a group of people, when in fact you don’t. You need to make sure you are seeking the relevant feedback for whatever your about to say and whatever your views are.” Morrison said.

“Moving forward it needs to be in the spirit of reconciliation, understanding and proper consultation and collaboration.” he added calling for more dialogue between community groups.

What does an upside-down flag mean?

Traditionally an upside-down flag is a symbol of distress or used to convey a message that a country is under attack. Australia’s national flag code for the Australian flag says the Australian flag should never be presented upside down, not even in moments of distress.

Presented correctly the Indigenous flag is black on top, and red at the bottom.

There is a history of white supremacist groups in Australia falsely claiming there is a secret connection between Indigenous groups in Australia and communist groups.

In 1980 a book and documentary titled Red Over Black claimed that the Indigenous rights movement was a communist backed plot to erode Australia’s sovereignty.

Last year the ABC reported that this documentary from decades ago was being used by far-right extremist groups to discredit the proposed Voice to Parliament.

In 2015 several Labor politicians including senators Penny Wong and Louise Pratt posed with the Pride flag inadvertently upside down.

Wong and Pratt were captured alongside then Opposition leader Bill Shorten and colleague Tanya Plibersek and future Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as they announced that Labor members would be allowed a conscience vote on marriage equality.

US President Donald Trump has also been photographed holding the Pride flag upside down.

Graeme Watson was a guest speaker at GRAI’s 2022 PrideFEST event. Jim Morrison and Graeme Watson are both presenters at community radio station RTRFM 92.1.   


Do you need some support?

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, support and counselling are available from:

QLife: 1800 184 527 / qlife.org.au (Webchat 3pm – midnight)
QLife are a counselling and referral service for LGBTQIA+ people.

DISCHARGEDinfo@discharged.asn.au / discharged.asn.au
Discharged is a trans-led support service with peer support groups for trans and gender diverse folks.

Lifeline: 13 11 14 / lifeline.org.au

Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 / www.beyondblue.org.au


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