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Australian Flag

Waving the Australian Flag, or Not

After passing the citizenship test and taking the pledge of allegiance, new Australians can proudly put their hands over their hearts and shed a tear as the Australian flag is raised. Alternatively, they follow the lead of many Australian celebrities by declaring the Australian flag is rubbish and a new one is required.

 On Australian Day 2015, Ray Martin, a former host of the critical news show A Current Affair, became the latest celebrity to use his powers of persuasion to change the flag. According to Martin, the current Australia Flag had little historical relevance because the soldiers of World War 1 and 2 didn’t fight under it. Similar arguments had previously been made by academic John Blaxland and columnist Peter Fitzsimmons

Presumably, the reference to military history was a planned strategy to get soldiers on side in the belief that they would be the passionate defenders of the flag. In theory, if the soldiers defected, the rest of the Australian population would follow. The main problem with the theory was that most of the Australian soldiers who didn’t fight under the flag in World War 1 and 2 are now dead. Meanwhile, most Australian soldiers who are still alive fought under the Australian flag in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, the soldiers who might be receptive to the argument are dead while the soldiers that are still alive might be offended that their very existence was ignored. Perhaps it wasn't the most well-thought out battle strategy by the advocates for change.

Other arguments made by Martin and Fitzsimmons was that the Union Jack in the flag's corner was a symbol of colonisation and that Australia needed to de-colonise. This was a particularly odd argument from Fiztsimmons, who was an ex-rugby player and a columnist who promotes rugby over Australian football. Surely someone concerned about the British legacy in Australia would want rugby gone!

In any case, even if the Union Jack was removed nd rugby were banned, the legacy of British colonisation would still exist with Australians speaking the English language, playing cricket, using the adversarial legal system, studying Shakespeare, watching Dr Who and the continued presence of people of British descent in Australia.

For Australians who really dislike the national flag and want to do something other than whinge, there are alternative flags that can be waved. One of these is the Eureka Flag, which was arguably Australia’s first patriotic symbol. It was designed by a Canadian Digger Lieutenant Ross during the Eureka uprising in Ballarat, Victoria, in 1854. The flag's five stars represent the Southern Cross. The white cross joining the stars represents unity in defiance. The blue background represents the blue shirts worn by the diggers.

Eureka Flag Symbol

The Boxing Kangaroo is another alternative. This was unveiled as the marketing icon of the 1983 America’s Cup challenge that ended America’s 132 year dominance of the event. It perhaps struck a chord because it seemed to symbolise the Australian underdog's sense of self belief. 

Boxing Kangaroo

The Aboriginal flag provides a partial alternative.  It was designed by Aboriginal artist Harold Thomas in 1971 to signal Aborigines as a distinct group. The black is said to represent the Aboriginal people, the red the earth and their spiritual relationship to the land, and the yellow the sun, the giver of life. Thomas said he deliberately put black on top of the red to make the flag appear more disturbing and reflect its protest function.

Ironically, many governments now fly the Aboriginal flag aside the official flag. Perhaps it is there way of saying that even though their policies have resulted in Aborigines being defined by statistics of disadvantage, at least they have Aboriginal welfare at hear. A further irony is that many non-Aborigines want to be represented by the flag as well. So much so, they have called for the flag to replace the Union Jack on Australia's official flag. This is unlikely to occur as Harold Thomas has declared his desire for it to remain separate. It was, after all, his chief reason for designing it.



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