The Reconciliation Flag
Once again the design of the Australian
flag is in contention. There is nothing new about this for it
has been raised periodically since the Second World War, notably
during the 1990s Republican Movement debate. Then we saw many
banal - and some ingenious - designs suggested, many featuring
stars, the kangaroo, the land, Aboriginal symbols and boomerangs.
Most used the colours red, white and blue and all excised the
Union Jack. But none ever gained much acceptance: certainly
the government was totally unmoved.
There still is an under-current of active discussion as visits
to the websites of Ozflag and the Australian National Flag Association
The Commonwealth Blue Ensign was designed for Federation in 1901.
It is an amalgamation of the Union Jack with the Southern Cross
(four 7-pointed stars and one 5-pointed) and the larger, seven-pointed,
Commonwealth Star (which represents the six states plus the territories)
on a field of dark blue. Proclaimed in 1903, it is the result
of a competition for which, from the 32,823 entries, five similar
designs were amalgamated.
But, there are only two alternative designs that have any significant
support - the Eureka Flag and the Aboriginal Flag.
The Eureka Flag, a white St George cross, with an eight-pointed
white star in the centre and on the end of each arm, set on a
blue ground (and designated 'The Southern Cross'), was flown
first on 28th November, 1854, at the Eureka Stockade. It was
designed by unknown members of the rebellious gold-miners and
sewn from their women's petticoats. The original flag was souvenired
after the fighting of 3rd December (but in a tattered state)
and donated to the Ballarat Regional Art Gallery in 1895, where
it was hidden away as a shameful symbol of a traitorous act until
1973. Then, resurrected from ignominy to pride and reverence,
it was unveiled by (then) Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, although
its ownership is still in dispute. A huge stylised version of
it now flies proudly over the Eureka Interpretative Centre.
Although it has been adopted by many left-wing and workers' groups,
as well as neo-Nazis and republicans, it actually was a symbol
of free-enterprise miners who were objecting to government controls,
The design of the Aboriginal Flag - a large yellow disc
(representing the sun) on a half black and half red ground (symbolizing
the Aborigines' connection to the land) - is credited to South
Australian artist, Harold Thomas, although this is disputed.
Designed in 1971 for use in a National Aboriginal Day march
in Adelaide, it has since featured on the Aboriginal Tent Embassy,
in Canberra. It was first flown officially in Adelaide in 1995.
However, we have to recognize that neither of these flags will
ever become the national flag. Although the Aboriginal Flag
certainly represents our land iconographically better than the
Union Jack does, it will never be accepted because it specifically
excludes the majority of our people. And the Eureka Flag's political
associations - however ambiguous they may be - effectively disqualify
However, I would like to suggest another alternative. This is
the Reconciliation Flag which - as its title suggests
- is designed to reconcile our different, but related and interacting,
European and Aboriginal heritages and amalgamate them with an
image of the land by both day and night.
The Reconciliation Flag has been derived by the same process
which resulted in the Union Jack - by overlaying the crosses
of St George (England), St Andrew (Scotland) and St Patrick (Ireland).
It combines major elements of the National Blue Ensign (the
Cross) and the Aboriginal Flag (the Sun) on a ground that is
a symbol of the land (and derived from the format of the Aboriginal
Flag). It eliminates the contentious aspects of both flags -
the Union Jack and black exclusiveness.
Its colours, too, are an amalgamation of principles from the
two flags - two taken from each: red and white from the Australian
Flag and red and yellow from the Aboriginal Flag. The existing
blue is replaced by green which, together with the yellow, makes
the colours of the wattle - which have ever been the colours
of Australian national sporting teams and were very popular for
patriotic causes in the first decades of our nation. Other connotations
include: the cross, which recalls our Christian traditions; green,
which recognises our Islamic population; the five-pointed white
star, which is the symbol of the Torres Strait Islands; and the
fact that red, green and white are colours from the flags of
many of our immigrant population.
I hope that the Reconciliation Flag will be accepted as sign
that all can live in peace and harmony in our great country.