Why a New Flag?
It is now more than 120 years since Australia shrugged off its colonial beginnings and became a nation of Federated States.
Those Six states came together to become the Commonwealth of Australia on 1st January, 1901.
Australia borrowed heavily from the British political system.
Our head of State was, and still, is still the British Monarch, currently King Charles III.
The House of Commons, the British lower house remained much the same and became the House of Representatives in Australia.
The House of Lords became the Australian Senate. It has elected representative which has allowed the states and territories to have a equal say in the governing of the country. There are 76 Senators; 12 from each state, and 2 from the mainland territories (ACT & NT). Much more egalitarian than a House of "Lords."
But, surprisingly there was urgency for Australian to become legitimate Australians. It was not until 1949 when Australia enacted the Nationality and Citizenship Act to actually create Australian citizenship. Before that Act, Australians were technically all British subjects.
It is incredible to think that for almost 50 years after Federation, Australians actually remained British citizens and with British passports!
Equally incredible was that our national anthem continued as "God Save the King / Queen" until 1984, when Advance Australia Fair was chosen by Australians, as the National Anthem.
And in 2021, to acknowledge Australia's indigenous past of tens of thousands of years, the lyrics were modified with one single pertinent word. From "young and free" to "one and free."
And yet 120 years on our flag retains the British Union Jack -- with the Southern Cross on it. This is the official description:
A Blue Ensign defaced with the Commonwealth Star in the lower hoist quarter and the five stars of the Southern Cross in the fly half.
Let's look a little closer... A (British) Blue Ensign defaced with the Commonwealth star!
The meaning of deface from Cambridge Dictionary: to damage and spoil the appearance of something by writing or drawing on it.
Synonyms of deface include: spoil, ruin, disfigure, sort, poison.
Did you know that retaining the Union Jack was compulsory part of the contest rules? Read more here
But the Australian Flag was not the flag we recognise today. The Blue ensign was reserved for usage by the Australian Commonwealth.
For civilians and everyone else the Australian Flag was the red ensign . For example, as late as 1966 when Jack Brabham won his F1 world championship, it was awarded under the Red Ensign. Here you can see the Red Ensign in everyday use
In the decades following federation the Red Ensign was the pre-eminent flag in use by private citizens on land. This was largely due to the Commonwealth government and flag suppliers restricting sales of the Commonwealth Blue Ensign, now known as the Australian National Flag, to the general public.
A memo from the Prime Minister's Department dated 6 March 1939 states that: "the Red Ensign is the flag to be flown by the public generally" and the federal government policy was "The flying of the Commonwealth Blue Ensign is reserved for Commonwealth Government use but there is no reservation in the case of the Commonwealth Merchant Flag, or Red Ensign".
In 1940 the Victorian government passed legislation allowing schools to purchase blue ensigns. The following year prime minister Robert Menzies issued a media release recommending that the Blue Ensign be flown at schools, government buildings and by private citizens and continued use of the Red Ensign by merchant ships, providing it was done so respectfully.
Until 1940 the Red Ensign was the flag of the public, with the Blue Ensign -- the current Australian national flag reserved for Government use. Despite this, there remained confusion until the Flags Act 1953 declared the Blue Ensign to be the national flag.
It was not until Sir Robert Menzies recommended the use of the Blue Ensign that the Australian National Flag as we know it became the flag for everyone use. It is unknown as to why Menzies did this, as there is no cabinet documentation and it appears to be a decision made unilaterally by him.
The popular thought was that Menzies, who was an avowed anti-communist, wanted remove the red flag in favour of the blue ensign as the red flag looked too communist -- too much like the Soviet or Chinese communist flags.
Furthermore, Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Australia in 1954 the motivation to remove the red flag have a blue flag that looked less communist? It was the Queen who did proclaimed the current Australian blue flag on that visit. Just a coincidence?
Regardless, blue or red, or 6 or 7 point stars, the current flag is still not a flag that represents all Australians.
Nothing is engraved in stone. As shown flag has been regularly modified and it's usage changed.
The national anthem has been changed to an Australian anthem, and also modified to make it more relevant to all Australians.
Today if we played "God Save the Queen" at an Olympic gold medal presentation to an Australian, all true blue Aussies would be shocked and angered!
In the same manner, Australia needs a new flag that represents all Australians, not just the British colonists.