A ‘blackface’ balloon by the name of Golly has been banned from flying at the Canberra Balloon Spectacular 2019 in March because it may be considered racist.
Director of Events ACT, Jo Verden said the decision to reject the balloon application was made after a staff member raised concerns about its name, Black Magic Golly.
Events ACT runs the Enlighten Festival, which opens on 1 March, and is part of the ACT Government. The Balloon Spectacular runs from 9-17 March.
Ms Verden said the use of words and/or visual depictions that may be considered racist and offensive by many in the community, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans, was not supported.
“Progressing reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the broader Canberra community was a key priority for the Government,” she said.
Ms Verden said the balloon owner, Kay Turnbull, who had a long association with the Spectacular and had previously flown Golly during the event, had accepted an offer to fly another balloon.
“We are pleased to be able to welcome her ongoing participation in this popular annual event,” she said.
But a disappointed Ms Turnbull has told the Canberra Times that she wanted the Government to help pay for the cost of a new balloon ‘envelope’.
She said she had flown Golly for 20 years all over Australia without a single complaint and would continue to fly it in Canberra outside of ACT Government events.
She was unsure whether she would participate in next year’s Balloon Spectacular.
Ms Verden said both the ACT Government’s Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs (OATSIA) and the Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body were consulted.