Aussies ignore flag ban at Big Day Out festival

Friday, January 26, 2007

Flag of Australia.
Photo from the Big Day Out music festival (2004 edition)

Despite pleas from Big Day Out promoters to leave the national flag of Australia at home, many of the 55,000 music lovers have turned up to the Sydney event covered in it.

Co-promoter Ken West caused a stir when the flag was "banned" from this year's Big Day Out in Sydney after organisers branded it a "gang colour" and symbol of hate. Organizers of the rock festival had planned to confiscate any flag or bandanna bearing the national symbol at the gate. The organizers defended their action claiming Sydney was "a hot bed of racism." They had already moved the event from the traditional time, Australia Day, to avoid these "nationalistic overtones." The Prime Minister John Howard responded by declaring that the Big Day Out should have been cancelled unless organisers reversed their decision to ban the flag.

After widespread outrage on talkback radio, and condemnation of their action by the Prime Minister and state Premiers, Australians have literally worn their hearts on their sleeves by draping the Aussie flag over their shoulders or wearing t-shirts, tattoos or bikinis with it printed on it. Event organisers allowed hundreds of fans to bring Australian flags to the event, backing down on their earlier call to leave the emblem at home.

Melissa-Rose Heap, 18-years-old, of Kogarah, said she and her friends had fashioned the Australian flag into dresses after the banning controversy.

"We made them into dresses because they said we weren't allowed to, and that's not right," she said. "They shouldn't be able to tell anyone that we can't be proud of Australia."