MEDIA RELEASE

Wednesday 1 April 1998

Chair of FECCA Joins Ausflag Board

We must have a flag which represents all australians equally

Mr Randolph Alwis, Chairperson of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils has just been appointed to the Ausflag Board.

Mr Alwis said: "Australian citizens of non-British backgrounds now represent a majority of people in this country, yet along with the indigenous people, our original inhabitants, our existence and contribution is not represented or recognised on the Australian flag. It falsely suggests that ethnic Australians are of British origin. We desperately need our own flag, like Canada and South Africa; a flag which represents all Australians equally. Not a flag which implies a superior status to those of British descent, not a flag which implies subordination to the UK, not a flag which suggests we are a British colony. A flag which states clearly and unequivocally, that we are a sovereign, independent, multicultural nation."

Mr Alwis added: "We must begin to realise how the rest of the world sees us. This magnificent island continent with a flag which symbolically looks like a child still clutching at its mother′s skirt.

The suggestion that Australians fought and died for the flag is nonsense. "Most Australians fought under the Union Jack or the Red Ensign. The current Blue Australian Ensign was rarely seen or used until after 1953. Most naval personnel, fought under the British Naval Ensign, which was changed in 1968. Simply because these flags have subsequently changed does not denigrate their magnificent sacrifices one iota. But to prove the point, would there be one Australian who would dare to suggest that those Canadian, South African, New Guinean servicemen and women and those of many other Commonwealth Nations who fought and died alongside Australians in bygone wars, fought and died for a lesser cause or in vain, simply because they have subsequently changed their flags?"

"There is now legislation in place which will ensure that any change to the flag must be put to the Australian people by means of a plebiscite. The Government has just spent $50 million dollars and hosted a two-week, 150 representative Convention on the Constitution. Morgan and AC Nielsen Opinion Polls now show that an absolute majority of Australians want a new design for the Australian flag. We call on the Commonwealth Government to form a bi-partisan committee and commit the required funds to fully research and develop three alternative designs which can be put to the Australian people along with the existing flag, in order that we may hoist a flag of our own before the 2000 Olympics.

The most important symbol at the Olympic Games will not be the person who opens the Games, be that the Queen, Governor-General or Prime Minister; that ceremony will take five minutes. The symbol which will be most visible and dominant throughout the Games, and every time we win gold, silver or bronze, will be the Australian flag.

It is vital for our respect and dignity, when Australia is under the microscope, being watched by 3 billion people around the world, that we are seen as a mature, sovereign, independent, multi-cultural nation, not a British branch office," Mr Alwis said.