Well, it’s Australia Day and what does that usually mean – to many it means barbies, beers, beach, sun, surf with a healthy dose of patriotic flag-weaving and collective gloating on our somewhat unique, diverse and affluent nation. But, to many others it may mean Invasion Day – literally the day that their culture, way of life and people were almost completely taken away by a colonial power. Whereas to many others, and often myself, it is a day for national collective navel-gazing and introspection on where this country has been, where’s it heading, what its symbols and what’s its status in the region and world around us.
A national obsession on this day – rivalling the bbqs, First Fleet re-enactments and games of beach or backyard cricket is looking at the symbols and very core of the nation. As, this country – whilst a modern, multicultural and progressive nation is still a constitutional monarchy with the ultimate Head of State being Queen Elizabeth II and with a national flag visibly displaying the Union Jack ensign on the top left-hand corner, to many a sign that we as a nation have not yet become a fully fledged member of the international community and are still joint at the hip to Mother England.
Anyone who lives or visits Australia would no doubt encounter very early that this isn’t the case. But, symbols are strong and leave lasting impressions and we have to ask whether our flag and current status as a constitutional monarchy accurately reflect the Australia of today. Whilst, at the same time not avoiding, downplaying or ignoring our very history that got us to this point today.
Imagine my delight when I woke up this morning to discover that these very questions were being asked again today with calls from many prominent Australians, including last year’s Australian of the Year – Professor Patrick McGorry, questioning our flag and status as a constitutional monarchy:
”It’s time Australia grew up. Right now, it’s a bit like a slowly maturing, Generation Y adolescent, a 27-year-old who just won’t leave home,” he said yesterday, calling on the nation to move into ”independent adulthood”.
On the flipside, Immigration Minster Chris Bowen has also weighed into the debate, saying his favours the status quo and current flag over any changes at the present time.
A collection of prospective flags are displayed here.
A common argument against flag change and one that’s already featured prominently in comments online so far is that it would dishonour past Australians who fought under the flag if we changed it – I respectfully disagree. As to the many motivations, issues and contributing factors which saw Australian soldiers go to war, I doubt any of them were literally fighting over the piece of cloth we call the Australian flag.
Another argument which always raises its head is the ol’ ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ line. I think this one particularly grating. Under this logic, slavery, sexual inequality, racial injustice and discrimination, and partial suffrage would still be widely practiced in western nations – as if the system ain’t break, don’t bother fixing it regardless of petty side-issues such as universal human rights, liberty, freedom and justice for all. Folks who cling to these views tend to the conservative side of politics and view others as ‘do-gooders’, muck-rakers, elitists and self-loathers upon other things.
Whilst on the other side, many – usually under, more affluent, well-read and traveled – tend to cringe at the imagery our current flag projects across the world, as if we’re still under the thumb of the British Empire. They like to cite Canada’s example, being also a constitutional monarchy but one which changed its British-ensigned flag for a more, universally embraced and symbolically reflective symbol of their nation – the ‘Maple Leaf‘ Flag.
So far, it’s probably not to difficult to determine what foot of the debate I stand on. I have long thought that our nation should stand more on its own feet symbolically and literally by both becoming a republic and by changing our flag to something somewhat more reflective of our history, our present and our future, along with a more reflective symbol of our modern, multicultural society and place in the world – both physically and culturally. This is not a rejection of our past, this is not a rejection of the United Kingdom or our prominently Anglo-Celtic past. But, is more a move towards a more embracing and reflective symbol and vision of our standing in the world both today and in the future.
I was delighted to find on the Wayback Machine that there are still some of my prospective Australian flag designs – some of which I created over 12 years ago – online. Below are some of the better ones I designed at that time, which still hold up fairly well in my opinion despite my relatively novice abilities at designs, and changes in popular design over the years. Some of them are quite similar to designs created by others and still promoted as alternate flags to this day.
An Internet archive of my Australian flags design page can be found here (with an even earlier other version of the page with more flags here) which contains both flags and commentary on the symbolism and reasoning of most of them. Thankfully, most flags are still visible though some have fallen into the ether.
Above is my horizontal boomerang design, it contains a horizontal golden boomerang towards its base, below which is an ochre-coloured Uluru, and above the Southern Cross in the blue sky.
The above flag contains a main body of blue; a gold (or wattle coloured) boomerang; and green to the left of the boomerang, towards the mast. The blue represents the sea surrounding Australia; the boomerang represents Australia's history, reflecting on Australia's Aboriginal culture; and the green represents the rainforests and vegetation of the land. The blue body of the flag features the Southern Cross seen in the skies of the Southern hemisphere.
Blue body and mast with Gold Boomerang
Blue body, Gold Boomerang and Ochre mast
The Kangaroo and Southern Cross design. It contains a black kangaroo in the middle of the Southern Cross in a centrally located ochre coloured sphere, surrounded by a sea of dark blue. The kangaroo in the flag represents Australia's unique flora and fauna, the Southern Cross represents our location in the southern hemisphere, and the colour of ochre symbolises the vast arid lands covering much of Australia. The central sphere symbolises the sun as well as symbolising an island, since Australia is an island continent, surrounded by the dark blue ocean.
For more professional and modern prospective flags be sure to check out Ausflag, who have for a long time been leading proponents for a new Australian flag holding design competitions and inviting artists to create their own designs. Another site to check out is FlagOz, who I believe may have designed the best prospective Australian flag design to date (below).