Friday 29 December saw the City of Greater Dandenong become the second Local Government Area (LGA) in Victoria – and just the third in Australia – to raise the Palestinian flag in support of the people of Gaza. 

As previously reported in AMUST, New South Wales’ Canterbury-Bankstown City Council unanimously voted in late October of last year to fly the Palestinian flag in front of the council chambers (and also at the iconic Paul Keating Park), becoming the first Australian local council to do so.

While the Maribyrnong City Council hoisted the Palestinian flag at its Braybrook Community Hub on Tuesday 12 December in front of several hundred local residents to become the first Victorian Council and second LGA in Australia to display its solitary towards Gaza in this manner.

Fast forward to the end of last month and during a memorable afternoon at Harmony Square, longstanding Councillor and former Mayor of Dandenong Jim Memeti raised the Palestinian flag to the cheers of thousands of onlookers who had gathered at Dandenong’s civic heart to witness the ceremony. 

The flag-raising by Cr Memeti concluded a busy afternoon at the Jummah Prayer for Palestine” gathering, which was organised by Australian International Aid.

Master of Ceremonies Samim Moslih officially opened proceedings before the Azan was recited by Muhammad Sezgin. 

The khutbah was then delivered by Waseem Razvi, the much-admired founding president of the Islamic Research & Educational Academy (IREA). 

Worshippers listening to the khutbah which preceded the raising of the Palestinian flag at Harmony Square in Greater Dandenong

The flag-raising ceremony which followed the religious formalities was the latest step in the City of Greater Dandenong’s concerted campaign to raise awareness about the war in Palestine. 

At its meeting on November 27, Greater Dandenong Council endorsed a motion by Cr Memeti and his colleague Cr Rhonda Garad regarding the conflict in Gaza, condemning any war crimes committed by both Hamas and the state of Israel, along with any Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and racism in all forms, both in Australia and internationally. 

In a strongly-worded letter to Anthony Albanese, Greater Dandenong Mayor Lana Formoso has urged the Australian Prime Minister to “support the motion and work with the United Nations in recognising the devastating crimes against humanity occurring in Gaza and advocate to Australia’s international partners for: a) an immediate ceasefire; b) the unconditional release of all hostages; c) an end to the siege of Gaza, and d) an end to the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. 

The initial decision by Council was for the flag to remain hoisted for seven days, however, Crs Memeti and Garad indicated that they would be pushing hard for an extension until a ceasefire. 

From left: Australian International Aid president Ahmad Hawii and Councillors Jim Memeti and Rhonda Garad.

(Raising the flag) is all about awareness because it’s easy for people to forget that this is happening,” Cr Garad pointed out. 

In raising the flag, Cr Memeti said that this action “echoed the sentiments of the vast majority Greater Dandenong’s diverse community.” 

“We raise the Palestinian flag as a symbol of our unwavering commitment to peace, urging an end to the suffering in Gaza.” 

“In advocating for a permanent ceasefire, we extend our hand in support of justice and humanity.” 

“Let this flag stand as a symbol of hope and optimism, resonating with the collective call for a brighter, more harmonious future.” 

“Together we stand for peace, understanding and a world where every life is valued – free, free Palestine.” 

As previously mentioned, the “Jummah Prayers for Palestine” event was facilitated by Australian International Aid (AIA), a Dandenong-based organisation which has served the community both overseas and locally for over a decade, supporting those who are in desperate need of assistance as a result of war and natural disasters. 

AIA president Ahmad Hawii commented: “it is important to demonstrate the concerns of the community as they are grieving.” 

“This flag is significant and shows that our humanity and grief aren’t selective and serve as a reminder of the ongoing indiscriminate and disproportionate assault on Gaza.”

Thousands of Palestinian supporters including many families attended the flag-raising at Harmony Square.

 

MC Samim Moslih, one of the driving forces behind the day, urged other local Councils to “do more”.

“The sense of belonging and care always starts from the family, the smallest unit of a community, growing to the level of humanity,” Mr Moslih said.

“Somewhere and very close to the family unit is the role of Local Government, the closest of the government layers to the pulse of the people.”
“Local Governments need to open the arms of embrace, become the voice of the voiceless and deal with the pain and hurt being felt by people as a result of the inaction, the apathy and the warmongering.”
“If Councils say or so nothing, this effectively can be seen as clear approval of the genocide of the Palestinians.”
“What Canterbury-Bankstown, Maribyrnong and Greater Dandenong City Councils have done is great, but where are all the others?”

 Like Samim Moslih, AMUST applauds these three Councils for their actions over the past two months as their public hoisting of the Palestinian flag not only displays their constituents’ support of Gaza but also raises awareness among other members of the public, many of whom are sadly oblivious as to what is going on. 

It is heart-breaking that more than 22,000 innocent Palestinians (over half of them children) have lost their lives since the events of October 7, 2023, but it is also important to remember that the Palestinian Catastrophe did not commence on the above date – it is now more than 75 years since the first Nakba, yet what has Australia ever done in all those years, other than pay lip service? 

The Palestinian flag has been flying proudly at the Braybrook Community Hub in Melbourne’s Maribyrnong LGA since Tuesday December 12.

Just as it is tokenistic to only show concern towards those displaying signs of loneliness, distress and mental anguish on one day of the year (R U Okay Day), our governments – federal, state and local need to remember that the situation in Gaza is dire: all day, every day. 

Australia has 537 Local Government Areas in total and it is a sad indictment that only seven of them have passed motions in support of Palestine. 

Even more tellingly, only three LGAs have as yet raised the Palestinian flag. 

We need to do a lot better.

  • A  special event to acknowledge and celebrate some of  the milestones referenced in this article is in the pipeline for Saturday, 27 January at the Coburg Lake Reserve. However, official confirmation of the event was unavailable at the time of our print deadline so we advise Victorian readers to keep an eye on social media for more information.
  • Additional reporting and some photos courtesy of SAHAR FOLADI, Dandenong Star Journal.