At the dawn of the twentieth century, dozens of British colonies and dominions proudly waved flags with the iconic Union Flag in the top corner. As the empire dissolved in the wake of World War II, a process of decolonisation took place and new flags were raised, flags that symbolised independence.
With New Zealand set to vote on a new flag in March 2016, Australia stands as one of the only nations to still cling to its colonial past. Like the republic, the issue of a new Australian flag will not go away until it is finally addressed. There is a lot of confusion about the origins and meaning of our current flag as there are about Australian history more generally.
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The Southern Cross
The Southern Cross flag is an iconic Australian symbol associated with the Diggers who fought at the Eureka Stockade. The advantage of this flag is that it has a revolutionary history going back to 1854. It is the first flag to be called “the Australian Flag” and it was flown as an act of rebellion against unjust mining taxes. The original Southern Cross is kept at the Museum of Australian Democracy in Ballarat.
A possible disadvantage is that the flag has been appropriated by many groups; unions, communists, white nationalists, and most recently, the Reclaim Australia movement. Some may say it has too much ideological baggage but it is certainly an powerful flag with an indisputable place in Australian history.
The Reconciliation Flag was designed by ANU academic, Dr John Blaxland. The flag is deliberately complex. The argument here is that a new flag should be embedded with meaning. It should be unique and show the world who we are as a people.
The traditional Aboriginal colours of red, yellow, and black acknowledge our first peoples. The seven point star represents Federation. It is comprised of 250 small yellow dots, representing the distinct indigenous cultures that occupied this land. The red, white and blue indicate our British institutions. The Southern Cross is green and gold, like the Wattle.
The Southern Horizons flag goes the other way to Blaxland and offers a simple but instantly recognisable design. It maintains the Federation Star and the Southern Cross — the two most popular elements of the Blue Ensign.
The national colours of green and gold are represented in a wave. This not only makes the flag unique but also represents the hills and plains and Australia’s beaches. Significantly, the Federation Star is in the top left signifying that the people and our democratic system, not the British, are the ultimate source of power in this nation.
Ausflag, an independent lobby group for a new national flag, designed a Sporting Flag in 2013.The immediate aim was to give Australian sports fans a patriotic flag to wave, especially during the Ashes and other competitions against England or Great Britain.
The flag is another credible alternative to the national flag. The strength of this design is its simplicity, something schoolchildren could draw. It is apolitical with no ideological baggage of the left or right. It represents multicultural Australia, rather than privileging British heritage.
The Southern Stars flag has two basic elements. The green and yellow represent the colours of our floral emblem, the Golden Wattle. They also represent the iconic Green and Gold worn by our sports women and men. When we present ourselves on the world stage, these are our distinctive colours. Similarly, the Southern Cross is a national treasure. Since the battle of Eureka in 1854, the Southern Cross has been a symbol of Australian democracy and independence.
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