The Australian Flag

New Australian Flag

My adaptation of Harold Scruby's Kangaroo Flag

What's wrong with the current Australian flag?

Yes, we have an existing National flag, which many people are happy to wave and which is flown above our parliament house in Canberra and above our champion athletes around the world, but really, it is an outdated, inappropriate and vexillologically unsatisfactory cludge, and I for one am sick of it!

The current Australian flag is a defaced Blue Ensign: a blue field with the Union Flag of Great Britain in the canton, and a large white seven-pointed star known as the "Commonwealth Star" in the lower hoist quarter representing the 6 states and additional territories. The fly contains a representation of the constellation of the Southern Cross1.

The current flag was the result of an official competition held by the new Australian Commonwealth Government in 1901 after Federation. Each competitor was required to submit two coloured sketches, a red ensign and a blue ensign. The designs were judged on seven criteria including loyalty to the Empire. Clearly this didn't leave much room to manoeuvre and most of the 32,823 entries incorporated the Union flag and the Southern Cross. Not everyone was impressed with the result. The Bulletin labelled it:

a staled réchauffé of the British flag, with no artistic virtue, no national significance... Minds move slowly: and Australia is still Britain's little boy. What more natural than that he should accept his father's cut-down garments, – lacking the power to protest, and only dimly realising his will. That bastard flag is a true symbol of the bastard state of Australian opinion.

Well that was in more than one hundred years ago and it's fair to say that The Bulletin's opinion is still equally valid. So let's have a look at what is wrong with it.

Current Australian Flag

The Current Australian Flag

Defaced Blue Ensign     Defaced Blue Ensign

Examples of other defaced Blue Ensigns: The Ensign of the British Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses & HM Customs Ensign

Why not just replace the Union Jack with the Aboriginal Flag?

This simplistic notion is a popular among those who have not researched the topic, but it would not work for a number of reasons:

Current Australian Flag with Aboriginal Flag in corner

The Current Australian Flag with the Aboriginal Flag in the canton

Why not just use the Southern Cross?

Flag designers and ordinary Australians have been keen on the idea of a Southern Cross flag, (either stylised or astronomically correct), from before Federation. Who could forget the Eureka Flag: the first great symbol of Australian Independence and Workers' Rights, which is still flown today. Personally, I respect and revere this flag, knowing what it stands for and I wouldn't be upset if it were our National Flag, however, I don't believe it is the best option available for the following reasons:

Eureka Flag

The flag of the Eureka Stockade Rebellion

Of course the Eureka Flag was only the beginning of the country's obsession with the Southern Cross and not only was it used in the current Australian Flag but today it continues to appear on a host of alternatives. Most prominently we have the astronomically correct versions on the simple blue and white and green and gold options. I consider these to be POOR options for the flag of our Nation because:

Southern Cross     Southern Cross

The simple southern cross flag in it's two most favoured incarnations

What are the better alternatives?

There is no limit to the number of quality alternatives to the flags discussed thus far. For a large gallery of these one can do no better than to refer to the AusFlag website. AusFlag deserve considerable credit for their continued efforts to change our flag: running design competitions, educating people about the facts and issues, leading discussion in the media and promoting new designs.

In my opinion the essential requirements for a new Australian Flag are as follows:

Unfortunately, people's obsession with the Southern Cross ruins the great majority of alternative designs since it prevents the use of a symbol that really IS unambiguously Australian. Also it's use is problematic because the constellation is mostly empty space, something that doesn't work well on a flag.

In my estimation, there is no more iconic image of Australia that the kangaroo. Our beloved marsupial occurs naturally nowhere else in the world and is common right across our land. One could make a similar case for the emu or the platypus or a host of others, but the kangaroo remains at the head of the list and is widely recognised throughout the world.

The red-browns and ochres of central Australia are characteristic of this country and greatly loved by all who go there. Similarly the grey-greens of eucalypt foliage and olive-green and gold of our wattles in flower are also characteristic of our country.

No doubt there are a great many designs possible that utilise these facts to achieve a flag that meets my requirements. I'm always open to new ideas, but after looking at alternatives for over a decade, and even trying my own hand at design, I can't go past Harold Scruby's kangaroo in the outback design, albeit adapted by yours truly, that I have posted at the head of this page. The changes I made were to alter the aspect ratio to 2:1, (which is the normal flag aspect), to alter the pure red to a more natural iron-oxide-red from central Australia, to alter the pure yellow to a golden yellow more like the sun, and most noticeably, to use a picture of an actual red kangaroo instead of the more stylised, Qantas-like roo employed by Mr Scruby. Click here for the full screen version.

I don't know about you, but I would far rather have that flag flying over Parliament House than the one we currently have.

Southern Cross     Southern Cross

A few alternatives, using the kangaroo. Not, in my opinion, as good as the version at the top of this page.

Warren Mars - March 28, 2012

1 - Thanks Wikipedia!