The Australian flag was chosen in 1901, when a competition was held to design our country’s flag. The guidelines of this competition included that the Union Jack and Southern Cross should appear on the flag. However, I believe that in the year 2001, the Australian flag needs to be changed. During the course of this essay, I will show that the Australian flag does not represent all Australians, in particular, Aboriginal Australians and that the symbols on our flag are no longer relevant and are not unique to Australia. I will also show that the present flag is not instantly recognisable and is too similar to flags of other countries.
The current Australian flag does not represent all Australians, in particular, Aborigines. As a nation, Australia is heading towards Aboriginal reconciliation and by changing our flag to include Aboriginal elements, we would take reconciliation a major step further. By acknowledging publicly that Aborigines are a part of our nation, not only are we making it clear to Aborigines that we want to reconcile, but we are also sending out a message to other countries that we are proud to be a multi-cultural country. Our current flag suggests that as a country, we value Great Britain more highly than our own native people.
Yet when the AGB conducted a nation-wide survey it discovered that 66% of those polled supported elements of the Aboriginal flag appearing on a new Australian flag. This is another example of our current flag not representing Australians. The Union Jack featured on the Australian flag may once have been relevant, but today holds no special significance for Australia. The Union Jack, a prominent aspect of our flag, symbolises the uniting of England, Scotland and Ireland, to form Great Britain. This was an historic event but even so this is not important to Australia.
Some people believe the Union Jack is vital for our flag to symbolise our ties with Britain. However these people often over look the fact that Australia, which is often referred to as the ? Land of Migrants,’ is made up of a population of which almost 40% of the people are not born here. Much of our population has migrated form other parts of Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. Therefore our ties with Britain are less important and meaningful. If we remove the Union Jack from our flag, this does not mean that Great Britain will not assist us if we find ourselves in need of their aid.
Canada changed its flag without changing its relationship with Great Britain. A country’s flag needs to be easily recognisable, which is another requirement our current flag fails to meet. A flag is used so people can instantly recognise the country it represents. Yet, when the Australian flag is flown, foreigners do not easily associate it with Australia and are often confused. This is because our flag is too similar to New Zealand’s flag, as it also features the Southern Cross and the Union Jack. The only difference between the Australian flag and the New Zealand flag is Australia’s federation star.
This is similar to the issue of Australia’s national anthem. Our former national anthem was God Save the Queen. A national anthem also needs to be instantly recognisable and because this anthem was also used by the UK the change to another anthem was made. This was mainly because it was too confusing at international events, such as the Olympics. Our present flag also features symbols that are not unique to Australia and do not set us apart from other countries. The Southern Cross, for example, is associated with many other countries in the southern hemisphere, not just Australia.
The Southern Cross appears on the national flags of Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa, Solomon Islands, New Zealand and Brazil. The Australian flag should consist of truly Australian elements, to create a unique and original flag. Canada, a former British colony did not originally have a distinct flag which set them apart form other countries, as their flag was derived form Great Britain’s flag. To set themselves apart form Great Britain they adopted a flag with a unique Canadian symbol, the maple leaf. The Australian flag is well overdue for a change.
The current flag is outdated and the Southern Cross and the Union Jack are no longer relevant or unique to Australia. The present Australian flag also fails to be instantly recognisable, confusing foreigners, as it is too similar to many other countries. Yet, for me, the most important reason the flag needs changing is to represent Aboriginal Australia and to encourage Aboriginal Reconciliation, by creating a flag that incorporates Aboriginal elements and our native history. By doing this we would be representing all Australians. Clearly, the Australian flag should be changed.
John Key has addressed reporters: “Obviously I’m naturally a bit disappointed that the flag didn’t change tonight.”
He said that, once final votes have been counted, more than one million people will have voted for Lockwood’s design, showing “widespread support”. He also said that the result was closer than polling suggested it would be.
Key says the “discussion about nationhood” was valuable even if it did not result in a change of flag.
“I think, for me, personally, I’ll now be supporting the current New Zealand flag ... what this process has shown over the last three or four months is that as a country we can get out and fly our flag. ...
“My only request to New Zealanders now would be to rally behind the flag that has been chosen by the majority of New Zealanders – to go out and use it, to wave it, to be proud of it, to celebrate the fact that we’ve got an amazing country.”
Asked by a reporter how he felt when he saw the result, he said “naturally a little bit disappointed” and reiterated the closeness of the result, compared to polls that suggested 65-25 in favour of the current flag.
Key said the reasons for change were accepted by a lot of New Zealanders, but they wanted to retain ties with British history through the Union Jack rather than move forward into the future with a silver fern.
“That wasn’t my view of things, but I respect the view of New Zealanders, but it was a healthy debate to have. ... You can’t shy away from having a debate about nationhood.”
He refuted a reporter’s suggestion that the $26m process had “come to nothing”, again reiterating that support for change was up on previous indications. “Just because it didn’t achieve the outcome that I would have wanted doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a worthwhile process. ...
“You’ve got to say, a lot of votes swung.”