For much of the past several decades, people have proposed to change the Australian flag, due to the presence of the flag of the United Kingdom in the upper left quarter, the canton. This debate most notably rose to prominence in the 1990s with then-Prime Minister Paul Keating publicly supporting the adoption of a new flag. However, the debate until recently has remained in the background, due to both a lack of a design for supporters to rally around, and the lack of public discussion, especially among national politicians.
As someone who believes that a new Australian flag is long overdue, I advocate changing it to the Southern Horizon design, which I actively promote through social media. If Southern Horizon is a design you support, visit us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/southernhorizonflag. The page is relatively new, but we have already made gains in obtaining support among the public, and have received a mostly positive reception so far. I will now return to discussing why a new flag is necessary.
The main point of objection to the current design is and has always been that the British flag is on the place of honour, the canton. The position it occupies implies that Australia is a colony controlled by Britain, and is not an independent nation. No Australian should be forced to salute the flag of another country when saluting their own. The British flag also denies the fact that Australia’s heritage is not only British, but also includes Aborigines, Torres Strait Islanders, the Irish, New Zealanders, the Chinese, and many other cultural groups.
In comparison to the Australian flag, symbolism on the United States’ flag is derived from national institutions and not foreign powers, as the thirteen stripes represent the original thirteen colonies (in the same way that the Federation Star represents our states and territories). And in the place of honour on the U.S. flag are the stars representing the states, not another country. The U.S. flag is able to unite the American populace, because all the symbolism derives from institutions of the American people, and not from a former colonial power.
A frequent criticism to change is that changing the flag would be disrespectful to former soldiers. I refute this idea on two bases:
Firstly, soldiers fight for their values and country, and changes in national flag have not stopped nations who have done this from paying their respects in any way. A nation which has already gone down this path is Canada, which changed its flag from a British-derived one to the current design in 1965, and now has a well-recognised flag which is unmistakably Canadian. And this has been no barrier to Canadians respecting their war dead.
Secondly, there is a strong misconception that the Australian Blue Ensign was Australia’s flag in WWI and WWII. Historical analysis shows that Australians have fought under a range of flags, including the Blue Ensign, the Union Jack, and the Red Ensign, which has generally fallen into disuse (except for maritime vessels). In the same sense that abandoning the Union Jack and the Red Ensign did not disrespect the Australian soldiers who fought under it, changing our flag to a new design will not disrespect those who fought for Australia. Ultimately, soldiers fight for our country, and our values, which a change in flag will not affect.
The lack of appropriate cultural symbols leads to the situation where many Australians do not feel comfortable with the Australian flag, or feel no association with it as a national symbol. If the national flag is unable to unite us, due to poor or anachronistic symbolism (i.e. the Union Jack), then it is time to adopt a design which can.
The Southern Horizon flag, designed by Brett Moxey, is the most suitable design to replace the current Australian version. The Southern Horizon uses the Southern Cross and Federation Star to form the night sky, and our national colours (derived from the wattle) to form the Australian landscape. It incorporates nationally intrinsic icons, including civic and landscape elements.
The Southern Horizon design is the best design for a new Australian flag for the following reasons.
Firstly, the design is aesthetically pleasing. Over the course of the past several decades, no flag design has been able to capture the public imagination, due to either the contentious placement of symbols, or a general unattractiveness of the design. The placement of elements in the Southern Horizon creates a positive aesthetic, and one with broad appeal.
Secondly, the design has no divisive or strange elements. In my personal experience, the biggest design faux pas was one which had a leaping kangaroo on the left side, with the Federation Star below the kangaroo’s rear, making it appear that the kangaroo had pooped it out. The design instantly looked poor as a result. Southern Horizon does not possess any contentious, or odd elements.
Lastly, as the design focuses on using Australia’s landscape and civic emblems, the flag represents continuity with the best parts of the current design. The Federation Star and the Southern Cross have been preserved, but are reconfigured so as to form the Australian night sky. Thus, this flag not only represents change from British rule, but also the continuity of our existing national symbols.
While this may lead to the criticism that Indigenous Australian elements should be incorporated into the flag, the design attempts to be as inclusive as possible in accordance with the ideals of multiculturalism. Unlike the Union Jack, the elements from the current flag are linked with Australia’s natural elements, and therefore can be used in an inclusive way. The Southern Cross in the night sky, and the land formed in the lower half of Southern Horizon are elements which all Australians share, and are therefore are able to be as inclusive as possible of all Australians. The use of civic symbols and the Australian landscape is therefore a further drawcard for the Southern Horizon design.
Ultimately, we need to change the Australian flag, and it is a reform that is long overdue. We would gain a national symbol that would unite, and no longer divide us. And Southern Horizon, combining both old and new, continuity and change, is the flag which can achieve this.