Misplaced Pride

by on 20 November, 2015

Earlier today, the University of Western Australia replaced the WA State Flag with a ‘pride flag’ until further notice. UWA students Liam Staltari and Rebecca Lawrence respond.

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In the latest manifestation of extreme political correctness, the University of Western Australia has today lowered the State Flag of Western Australia from its flagpole and instead raised the ‘Pride’ Flag – a rainbow flag considered a symbol of gay pride and the movement for same-sex marriage. The three flagpoles usually display the Australian National Flag, the WA State Flag and the Aboriginal Flag, rightfully enjoying pride of place in front of the University’s iconic Winthrop Hall.

Opposition to the University’s knee-jerk reaction to a vocal minority of student activists does not imply opposition to their inalienable right to champion the causes that are closest to them. However, we suggest that the continued social engineering being pursued by higher education institutions, including UWA, is inappropriate and must come to an end. This is just the latest example.

Following the Aboriginal Flag’s replacement with the ‘Pride’ flag on Thursday the 19th, it did not take long for the perpetually-outraged UWA Student Guild to lead a backlash alongside the Western Australian Student Aboriginal Corporation (WASAC). In a sadly predictable response, Vice-Chancellor Paul Johnson subsequently ordered that the WA State Flag be removed and replaced with the Aboriginal Flag, with both the Pride and the National Flags to continue to fly.

In removing the state flag in favour of another, the University opens itself up to significant potential reputational damage. While it may not seem important to some, raising the flags of our nation and our state each day is a significant symbol of respect to the community that all of us call home. Irrespective of one’s race or sexual orientation, in the state and national flags we find a reminder that there is more that unites our diverse community than divides us, and while many on the Left may fail to admit it, it is this concept that truly embodies the beauty of our pluralistic society. Indeed, the Western Australian Flag speaks to the coming together of all people, not simply those who belong to a particular minority.

Moreover, the removal of the WA State Flag to accommodate a display of political correctness as part of a single-issue campaign like that concerning same-sex marriage is unwarranted and disrespectful. The Western Australian Flag is a symbol of the proud and rich history of our State, pre-dating even the Australian National Flag itself. Its lasting relevance was recently re-affirmed when the WA State Parliament passed the State Flag Act 2006. At this time, Hon Colin Barnett MLA (now Premier of Western Australia), posited that

“The flag is a symbol of our shared history, culture and identity, which has been forged through triumph and adversity.

Our flag represents the pride we have in the achievements of all Western Australians”.

In this we can see that ‘pride’ is multi-faceted, and it is certainly not zero-sum.

Yet it is the simplest point that may well be the most poignant. Before all else, these flags are flown on the grounds of the University of Western Australia. For the oldest and most distinguished place of learning in this state, which bears its name for good reason, to fail to fly the flag of that same state, is unacceptable. This is an organisation that was established under, and remains governed by, an Act of WA State Parliament.

More than that, this is an institution which invites bright minds from across the state to share in its academic life, and to embody the very best ideals of our state. To be sure, tolerance and diversity are among them, but so too is a lasting respect for our shared history and identity.

Universities have always been a haven for free expression, a hub for exploring challenging ideas, and a breeding ground for new and exciting innovation. This is not a bad thing – indeed, it is the opposite. However, we mustn’t forget that the University of Western Australia is also a public institution, with a history that now spans over a century and an academic tradition that transcends any individual campaign or partisan cleavage.

And as such, sometimes it is necessary for the University Executive to stand their ground in denying the demands of a vocal minority of students. While both the UWA Student Guild and WASAC have a legitimate role to play in advocating for the rights of different groups on campus, it is vital that this be done through the right avenues and that the Guild in particular seeks to represent all students, not just particular cohorts. Suggesting that the WA State Flag (or, as pictured below, the Australian National Flag itself) be lowered to make way for an unofficial flag to be flown on a public university campus is certainly not one of those avenues.

WASAC

It would not have been disrespectful for the Vice-Chancellor to have tempered this demand with another alternative. Yet once again, the same tired pattern of bowing to the wishes of the mobilised Left – be it contrary to free expression or to the heritage of the WA community – rises to the fore.

In closing, it should be noted that this controversy has prompted a review of the processes surrounding flag-flying at UWA. As was said at the outset, this is not a matter of petty political point-scoring, nor is it a means to attack any one group – if you feel strongly about the need to respect this key symbol of our state then we strongly encourage you to make a submission to this review.

If this is a lesson that still must be learned by some, then there is no more fitting an institution to teach it than the University of Western Australia.

becandliam

Liam Staltari is a sitting UWA Student Guild Councillor, a 2016 UWA Delegate to the National Union of Students and the President of the WA Union of Liberal Students. Rebecca Lawrence is a past UWA Student Guild Councillor, a two-time UWA Delegate to the National Union of Students and the Treasurer of the WA Union of Liberal Students. They are both currently in their third year of UWA’s Bachelor of Philosophy (Hons.) Undergraduate Degree.

10 thoughts on “Misplaced Pride

  1. as a heterosexual male studying at uwa , i feel that i have not been given equal respect and treatment , when the gay flag was raised i feel threaten and disadvantaged studying at uwa as a straight male , i feel utterly disgusted that a gay person demands to be treated specially and not on equal standing and a student guild supporting and backing the movement up , gay are as much as capable as u and i and raising their pride flag is only a symbol of how backwards this sociality has become . the aboriginal flag was raised to remind us that we are in noogar land and to honor and respect them for that purpose , i have no clue what does the pride flag represent but discrimination to both hetro and homosexuals.

  2. You felt threatened, and disadvantaged? By the Pride flag? Are you serious? What an utterly ridiculous statement. That, along with the fact that you believe raising the pride flag is “only a symbol of how backwards this society has become” and that you have “no clue” as to what the Pride Flag represents, only adds to how close minded, and ignorant you comment makes you appear to be, as an individual, regardless of your gender or sexual orientation. The University has obviously chosen to stand hand in hand with the LGBTIQ+ community, during their Pride Celebrations. This act of generosity is about all about inclusion, and certainly does NOT discriminate against heterosexuals, or homosexuals.

  3. As a Liberal-leaning student studying at UWA, I find both the Guild’s outrage as well as this article to be symptoms of student politicians living a world that is far removed from what students care about. Sorry, Liam, Rebecca, and the Guild, but normal students, regardless of their political preference, couldn’t care less what flags are flying outside uni as we walk in the morning. We want a good education, good facilities and good student culture.

    I get this might be a little publicity stunt for you, but please pick better issues to be outraged about next time. Trust me there are plenty.

  4. when u endorse some one sexuality it means ur accepting of a difference but at the same time ur sending a message that being gay is ok cause ur special when ur different ,when u are really not special , your one of us there is no need to stand out and say ur loud and proud , a person sexuaility should remain in the bed room and not at uni .a university should have no place in a person gender and only his passion to learn , you supporting the raising for the gay flag in uni only shows that ur the bigot who thinks differently of them and not me who sees them as equal , look in the mirror the bigot smiling back a u .

  5. As a left leaning person, I agree that this is unacceptable. I know the State Government pays many of the bills, but what the heck. I identify as a pirate, can we please fly the Jolly Roger?

  6. I think we can confidently dismiss “Gordon Tom” as a troll. An actual university student would have at least some command of the English language. Pass this off as a satire.

  7. Oh how on script you are vanity

    anyone who disagrees with the LGBT agenda is labelled as “close minded” “ignorant” and “ridiculous”

    vanity you have forgotten to label Gordo a “bigot”

    No view matters but the homosexual lobby’s view, any dissent is met with abuse, belittling and mockery by the gay lobby

    the rainbow flag is divisive.

  8. Alexander – on script also

    it is so ironic how the gay lobby are so eager to abuse and hurl stones at anyone who disgrees

  9. I am heterosexual, an LGBT supporter, Indigenous Australian, Australian and a student at UWA. I do see your perspective on the Western Australian flag being symbolic of our unity, but that is why then the Australian flag was created. The Australian flag signifies the unity between all of Australia, all people from state and territory alike – it is our national flag.

    Just like the Australian flag, the Aboriginal flag is a unifying one for Indigenous Australians. The Aboriginal community within Australia is so unbelievably diverse that many years ago, before settlement, there were resentful perceptions and wars between them much like between differing countries today. The Aboriginal flag represents the unity between what is left of the 500+ Indigenous tribes of Australia, as well as the respect and the acknowledgment which we search for in every day of our lives. It is the national ‘Indigenous Australian’ flag.

    A simple act like flying the Aboriginal flag is so powerful, and taking it down can make a whole social group of people feel uncomfortable, not only in their own country but their own ‘safe’ learning environment as well. Not everyone was born with ‘white privilege’, it’s the 21st century, let’s move on Australia.

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