A New Flag for Australia
Some Suggestions by Douglas Dowell

Introduction

The Australian Flag Today
Courtesy of the World Flags Database
The Australian flag is currently a British Blue Ensign, defaced with the Southern Cross and the Federation Star. Its progenitor was designed by six people (independently) for a competition in 1901 to find a national flag and was adopted in 1903. The flag was intended to symbolise "kinship with the Empire", following the pattern for British colonies the world over - a Red or Blue Ensign with a distinguishing badge in the fly. (The Red and Blue Ensigns are still used by the United Kingdom, as merchant and government/RNR flags at sea.) However, it was not until 1953 that the Blue Ensign was made Australia's national flag, which took precedence over all others (including the Union Flag). Before this, the Red Ensign and the Union Flag were also common.

Today, the question is whether the flag is still an appropriate symbol for Australia. It was created for a Dominion of the British Empire; the decades since have seen the whittling away of the constitutional links between the UK and Australia. (Even their Heads of State are now legally separate.) The two are now separate countries, though they are still close allies; besides, Britain is now a member of the EU, and Australia is also turning to her neighbours for economic reasons. The emotional ties have also been weakening; a common language (more or less!) has been maintained, but Australians are becoming less and less "British" in ethnic terms, loyalty to the Crown is declining, and so forth. An ex-colonial flag seems to have far less significance for Australia than it did in 1903.

Finally, the Union Flag is such a striking symbol of the UK that the current flag cannot be considered "quintessentially Australian" - it is British with "a little bit of Australia in the bottom and the far right". Can that be right for a fully independent state?


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