Is it only once every four years that we can have a discussion about the Australian flag?
And does the debate always have to descend into a bare-knuckled brawl? As it has this year, with the wearing of an Aboriginal flag t-shirt by Aussie Olympic boxer, Damien Hooper at the London Olympics.
For a reminder of the Cathy Freeman (left) flag brouhaha at the 1994 Commonwealth Games, see below.*
It comes home to me when the kids watch the team parade at the opening ceremony and delight at the distinctive flags of Burundi, the Seychelles, Canada and Cambodia.
They ask: “Why does our flag have the English flag on it and why does the New Zealand flag have it too… and, hey, so does Tuvalu!”
Well spotted, kids.
These three are the only independent nations in the world to sport the Union Jack. In all other flags where it is carried, it is to signify a British colony or dependency.
You may well say: “oh no… here we go again”! Because it’s the same bloody argument we have over and over and don’t seem to have the collective will or ability to move any further along.
I call your attention to this poster produced for the Sydney 2000 games by AusFlag. Colony, state, nation, fire brigade or yacht club? Good question still being asked a decade later.
Our nation and its people.
Our past, present and future.
Our equality and diversity.
Our hopes and aspirations.
“We can do much better. Help us create a flag which tells ‘our story’, not someone else’s,” says Ausflag.
That’s a lot of responsibility for one small piece of cloth to carry.
But somehow the Canadians managed to change their flag in 1965 from the Canadian Red Ensign without becoming a republic. (Let’s not frighten the horses.)
The pride in the red and white Maple Leaf is always something to envy. “The flag is the symbol of the nation’s unity, for it, beyond any doubt, represents all the citizens of Canada without distinction of race, language, belief or opinion,” said the speaker of the Canadian parliament on the day the flag was raised.
Why, oh why, can’t we do the same?
The same tired old arguments come up:
Our soldiers fought and died under this flag. Does that mean Canada has no respect for its soldiers in World War I and II?
It means we are part of the Commonwealth. Not necessarily – see above.
We’ve got other things to think about. We always will have… NEXT.
It is popular and people like it. Yes, and until 1974 we all happily sang “God Save the Queen” until a national competition gave us the new anthem “Advance Australia Fair,” enshrined as our anthem 20 years later. It’s an anthem that now brings people to tears and is sung with rousing voice and emotion.
We’ll never be able to make a decision everyone agrees with… Now this is one is true, and is the worst excuse going for doing nothing at all.
Wouldn’t it be great for all of us to stand to attention to a new flag for the 2016 Olympics in Rio?
My kids will be 18 and 16 years old then and I’d just love them to jump off the couch and cheer a new symbol of pride and confidence from the Land Down Under.
More flag designs from Ausflag:
*The Aboriginal flag (designed by Harold Thomas) and inspired by the colours of our land was first flown on National Aborigine’s Day in Victoria Square in Adelaide on 12 July, 1971. It has also been used in Canberra at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy since 1972.
Cathy Freeman caused controversy at the 1994 Commonwealth Games by waving both the Aboriginal flag and Australian National flag during her victory lap of the arena after winning the 200m sprint. The protocol at the time was that only a country’s national flag is meant to be displayed. Despite strong criticism, Freeman again carried both flags again after winning the 400m race.
*Homepage photograph shows the design of a flag entered into a Sun Herald competition asking readers for a new design for the Australian flag. This design by John Joseph of Epping, NSW who says his design reflects “the past, present and future of our nation”. Photo: Andrew Meares