Walkabout provides solution to old flags

DRIVING into Roma along the Warrego Hwy, it is hard to miss Walkabout Park.

Halfway between the saleyards and the Big Rig, the grassy expanse is one of the first impressions visitors to the town are presented with.

It is a powerful impression, too.

The focal point of the park is an eye-catching display of Aboriginal artefacts and historical photographs documenting the local Mandandanji history, flanked by an Australian and Aboriginal flag.

Unfortunately, as Muckadilla resident Rob Henderson observed, the two flags have fallen into disrepair, hanging tattered on their poles.

A war veteran and caretaker of Muckadilla War Memorial, Mr Henderson felt something had to be done about the flags.

“I’m an ex-veteran, so that flag does mean a lot,” he said.

“It’s a good idea to promote the local indigenous tribes and it’s all part of our cultural heritage, so it’s good to set something up here.

“But the first thing people see is the display and they look up and see the flags are a bit ratty. Well, ratty is an understatement.”

Mr Henderson was eager to see something done to improve the state of the flags and he tried contacting Maranoa Regional Council staff, who told him they did not have responsibility for the park.

They gave Mr Henderson a phone number, which he said was disconnected when he tried calling.

Unsure where to turn next, Mr Henderson visited the park and, as fate would have it, met the very man he needed to speak with.

Ron Manns, Mandandanji elder and caretaker of the park, spoke with Mr Henderson and explained the park and display were run by the Mandandanji Company and fully funded by donations.

The flags were a particular challenge, constantly battered by Roma’s extreme weather, and Mr Manns said they were on their fourth set of flags in nine years.

To ensure the flags had a longer lifespan, Mr Manns said he planned to mount them inside the existing display case.

Displaying both Australian and Aboriginal flags side by side was an important statement, Mr Manns said.

“We wanted to display Aboriginal art and our culture, but even if you’re not Aboriginal, this is still part of your history and your culture,” he said.

Story first published in The Western Star 2/2/17


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