Why the Flag Should Change

Australia′s flag has changed many times. Our present flag dates from only 1953. It is usual for national flags to change from time to time as a nation evolves. The latest version of the British flag dates from 1801, that of Canada 1965, South Africa 1994, France 1848, Israel 1948, Japan 1854, Spain 1936 and USA 1960.

Australia and New Zealand are the only two major independent Commonwealth countries which retain British Ensigns as their national flags.

On 1 October 1995, the Pacific nation of Tuvalu removed the Union Jack from its national flag, partly in protest at the way Britain ignored Tuvalu′s plight in being at risk of disappearing under rising sea levels.

Ausflag believes Australia should adopt a new national flag because:

  • It is not uniquely Australian. The Australian flag is virtually indistinguishable from the New Zealand flag. At a short distance the two flags are almost identical. At international events, the New Zealand flag has been raised mistakenly for the Australian flag. When Australia′s then Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, visited Ottawa in Canada in 1985 the New Zealand flag was mistakenly raised in his honour.
  • As a defaced British Ensign it is an Imperial flag which signifies our subordination to Britain.
  • There are over fifty sovereign nations in the Commonwealth, some have remained monarchies, some have become republics. Only two (Australia and New Zealand) still retain British Ensigns as their national flags. Fiji left the Commonwealth in 1987 and Tuvalu dropped the Union Jack from its flag on 1 October 1995. All the other Commonwealth countries have chosen flags which clearly identify their sovereignty, independence and nationhood.
  • The 1900 Australian Constitution and Statute of Westminster Act (adopted by Australia in 1942) and the proclamation of the Australia Act in 1986 make it quite plain that the British Parliament has no control over the independent Commonwealth of Australia. The two systems of Government are completely separate. However, the current Australian flag implies that Australia is a colony, homeland, protectorate or dominion of Great Britain, like Hong Kong or the Falkland Islands.
  • In Heraldry, the upper left hand corner of the flag (called the canton) is the position of honour. The implication is that Britain still commands our loyalty more than does Australia. The British Empire no longer exists, Australia now participates as an equal member of the Commonwealth of Nations, not as a colony, but as a sovereign independent nation.
  • Some of the world′s flags are unrecognisable by many people. However, it is not so much that the lack of recognition, but the aspect of confusion which makes it so important that Australia has a flag of its own. When Australians travel abroad displaying the flag, what registers is not that others do not recognise our flag, but that they ask which part of Britain we come from. It is vital for our future development that we are perceived by our neighbours and the rest of the world as a mature nation, not as a child still clutching at its mother′s skirts.
  • In 1965, Canada changed its flag from a British Red Ensign to the red and white Maple Leaf. Prime Minister Lester Pearson declared at the time "the crying need in Canada is for a patriotism that puts Canada ahead of its parts, with national symbols that encourage national unity and reflect Canada′s status as an independent sovereign nation". The Canadian Maple Leaf flag has been an unqualified success in giving Canada its own national and international identity and national pride. Some argue that the removal of the Union Jack from our flag necessarily means that we will become a republic; yet thirty years after the hoisting of the maple leaf flag, Canada remains a Constitutional Monarchy.
  • Australians have not always "fought under" the present flag. The only war (undeclared) where servicemen "fought under" Australia′s current flags was the Vietnam War. The Union Jack was the only flag used on our side during the Boer War, the Union Jack was again predominant in the First World War (it being the senior flag until 1953). And there was confusion among the Union Jack, the defaced Red Ensign, and the defaced Blue Ensign. The famous Changi Flag, which flew at the liberation of Singapore in 1945 was a Red Ensign. The United Nations flag was the flag we "fought under" in the Korean War. In any event, Australians did not literally "fight under" any flag. Flags were not used in battles lest they be beacons for opposing forces.
  • Also, the Australian Naval Ensign and Australian Air Force Ensign have been changed since these major wars – the Australian Naval Ensign was changed in 1967 and the Australian Air Force Ensign has been changed twice, the last change was in 1982. These changes were not considered to be disrespectful to our Naval and Air Force officers who served in wars under different flags.
  • Australia changed its National Anthem from God Save The Queen to Advance Australia Fair in 1984. Our National Anthem is one of Australia′s symbols as is our National Flag. We adopted our own National Anthem without it being thought of as disrespectful to our ex-servicemen who fought wars for Australia under a different national anthem. Adopting a new national flag would be no different.