The Reconciliation Flag

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 will reveal.

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, not workers.

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 it.

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.