Australian National Flag: History, Meaning, and Important Facts

Australia, one of the most developed nations in the world, has a flag that has survived a century of fame and success. It is laden with a rich historical background that accounts for its meaning and facts. This Historyplex article tells you all.
Historyplex Staff
Last Updated: Apr 4, 2018
National Dilemma
On the note that there are speculations about changing the national flag of Australia, many have voiced the inclusion of the 'kangaroo' into the flag, as it represents pace and forwardness.
A nation is born from the sacrifices made by its countrymen. Every country is unique in its own way, and has a symbol to mark its uniqueness from the rest. The best symbol invented by men was the flag. To this day, every country has a flag that silently, yet in prowess and vigor narrates the tales of its history that it has lived. A flag is also an identity of a nation to the rest of the world. Australia, like many other countries, which were colonies of the British, has ceremoniously freed itself from this rancor, and has established a foothold on the current global scenario, as one of the most progressive nations of the world, and to celebrate its freedom and establish an identity of its own, the formation of a national flag was a top priority.
Backdrop of the Flag - History
In 1990, a journal in Australia had organized a competition to design the new flag for the newly formed Commonwealth of Australia. The entries of the journal were accepted by the government, and on January 1, 1901, the government announced the competition to be held on April 29, 1901. In all, there were 32,823 participants, consisting of adults, teenagers, and children. In the presence of Lady Hopetoun, the wife of the Governor General, and the then-Prime Minister of the new state, Sir Edmund Barton, five participants were selected by a jury of experts as the designers of the new national identity―the National Flag.
Facts about the Flag - Preview
  • September 3, 1901 was the day when the Australian National Flag was hoisted for the first time at the Exhibition Building, Melbourne.
  • On August 28, 1996, Sir William Deane, General of the Commonwealth of Australia, officially announced September 3 as the day to celebrate the Flag Day.
  • In 1901, one of the designers who participated in a nationwide competition to design the National Flag of free Australia was Ivor Evans, who was a 14-year-old school goer.
  • The Commonwealth star, also famous by the name of Federation Star, represents the six original states, which after the federation, together became the Commonwealth of Australia. However, in 1909, a seventh point was added to the star, which to this day, marks the addition of any new territory. This was in the light of addition of the territory of Papua, way back in 1905.
  • There are, in all, seven days, when the Nation Flag of Australia is flown. These are primarily the days that commemorate the historical importance of the island country.
  • The Australian flag is hoisted in a half-mast position as a symbol of mourning. On ANZAC Day, it is flown at half-mast position till noon.
  • The Australian Flag Act was passed in 1953.
  • The prize money for designing the Australian National Flag was set at 200 pounds; each participant had earned 40 pounds.
Elements of the Flag - Meaning
The Union Jack
The Union Jack on the first quarter, also known as Canton on the left of the flag, symbolizes loyalty. This symbol is a part of the British Ensign. The Australian flag bears this in order to respect its correlation with the European lineage.
The Southern Cross
The Southern Cross is a constellation of stars, which is visible in the night sky on the Southern Hemisphere. It is visible from any place in the country. The inclusion of this symbol on the Australian flag is to show the position of Australia in the future. It exemplifies that Australia would be shining just like the bright stars. This is also representative of the geographical position of the country. The sailors in the olden days used this for navigation. It occupies the second and the fourth quarter of the flag.
The Commonwealth Star
The Commonwealth Star celebrates the conglomeration of the six states and the territories, which together form the Commonwealth of Australia. It is placed on the fourth quarter of the flag, and symbolizes federation, to uphold the sentiment of 'many in one', and 'unity'.
Colors on the Flag
The colors of the Australian Flag are the traditional mix of British colors, which happen to be red, white, and blue. The color blue is a depiction of the British Blue Ensign. On the Australian flag, the blue color shows the sea, which surrounds the country. It also upholds the virtues of loyalty, justice, and truth. Red indicates bravery and strength. White symbolizes peace.
Many are of the opinion that the National Flag of Australia needs a transformation. This is so because it bears the Union Jack, and thus represents a British Connection, even though it's an autonomous state in its own right. To add to it, there are many other countries in the world, for instance New Zealand, that also showcase similar elements on its National Flag. Now the question raised by many is, if a national flag is supposed to make a country unique, then is the Australian Flag serving the purpose by still retaining the Union Jack? Others argue that the Union Jack testifies for the great history it shared along with the British. But the main question is, if this somehow connects Australians with the British, then what is the standing point of the native, aboriginal Australians? This question remains unanswered even today.