Is our current flag really due for change? The arguments for and against are laid out well by the Flag Society of Australia, so I’d needn’t repeat them here. I find them somewhat polarized.
Nations are evolving phenomenon, despite what some people like to think. The key word there is ‘evolving’. It is a sad fact that the evolutionary approach to national change which is characteristic of our British political heritage – something once so clearly and proudly understood – has been forgotten. No revolutions for us, thanks. The Australian flag has undergone multiple changes over the past 200+ years. It was only in the early 1950s that the current Commonwealth Blue Ensign was adopted as the national flag, although it was winning design in a popular competition in 1901. Even that original flag’s stars have been modified to what we have today.
A flag must be representative of its people and please most of them. Australia has changed in the last 100 years. The White Australia policy is gone and Aborigines recognized as equals. Australia has become multicultural, although is still predominantly Anglo-Celtic, or European at least. It is an enduring fact that the nation was a project initiated and built primarily by the British people, hence retention of the Union Jack in the canton position. A new national anthem was adopted in the 1970s. We had a referendum in 1999 on becoming a republic, that failed. We’ve had numerous debates about a new flag and competitions, but support for the current flag is still strong.
One of the criticisms about the current flag is that it doesn’t represent indigenous people adequately. The Southern Cross is said to reflect their presence because it was up there in the sky when they arrived. However, that is true for numerous nations and people in the southern hemisphere and it appears identical on at least 4 other national flags (New Zealand, Brazil, Papua New Guinea and Samoa). The Eureka Stockade stylized southern cross is distinctly part of Australia’s revolutionary – and Irish – history. It is fitting that this home-grown revolutionary sentiment is included in the Commonwealth Blue Ensign because Australia is a ‘Commonwealth’ (not a republic) – a word chosen for its Cromwellian connotations. These compromizez [sic] or accommodations are typical of political change with British characteristics. The Commonwealth star is here shown in yellow, matching the colour of the sun in Harold Thomas’s Aboriginal flag. Adding an extra color might be considered inadvisable because good flags are not supposed to have more than 3 colours. It might also be argued that yellow is the colour of a sun, not a star. However, the former is only true if white is considered to be a colour (which it isn’t) and the latter is not true because a star is a sun, seen from afar and this mirrors the vast distance in time since Aborigines arrived in Australia.
Note the above image is imperfect because the Union Jack is larger than 1/4 of the flag and the Eureka cross is slightly stretched width-wise.