If we don’t rebel, if we’re not physically in an active rebellion, then it’s spiritual death.” ― Chris Hedges

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Australian Independence and The tradition of Australian flags

Aboriginal Australian Flag

The tradition of Australian flags can be divided into the three periods, the colonial period, the federation period and the modern period. The colonial period denotes early representations of defaced British Ensigns incorporating a mixture of British and Australian imagery. The federation period extends from 1901 to 1971 when the Blue and Red defaced British ensigns were adopted as flags to represent Australian ethnicity by the Australian Federal government. The modern period begins with the flying of the Aboriginal Flag as Australians incorporated Australian imagery into flags outside of the British Ensign tradition.

In terms of independent heraldic traditions being developed in Australia the Eureka Stockade flag was the most significant of the colonial period. The Eureka flag was unique for its time in that it did not carry any European imagery. Through Peter Lalor's speech at Bakery Hill, the Southern Cross was indelibly entwined with Australian liberty. The significant event of the federation period was the Flag Act of 1954 officially adopting the Blue Ensign as the Australian National Flag over the British Union Flag. The modern era has produced flags of great beauty and meaning such as the Aboriginal Flag, the Boxing Kangaroo flag, the Torres Strait Islander Flag and the development of the unique Australian Pale design.

The Eureka Stockade Flag

The Eureka Stockade Rebellion occurred on the Victorian gold fields at Ballarat in 1854. Victorian Governor Charles Hotham was facing a budget crunch and decided to alleviate the problems by applying a mining tax. The heavy handed collection and enforcement of this tax by state and local authorities pushed the miners to collectively make a stand for their rights. The tax collection was often arbitrary and unreasonable resulting in the detainment of numerous diggers and often innocent bystanders. The corruption of local officials in Ballarat was endemic. Subsequently the miners gathered and organized as the Ballarat Reform League to reclaim their rights and make a formal stand against tyranny.

Once it became known that Hotham intended to send troopers to Ballarat to quell any further discontent, the miners built a stockade on the hill at the Eureka diggings and raised the Southern Cross Flag. The Southern Cross Flag was a blue flag with a silver cross. At each end of the cross was a white star. The centre carried a larger white star. The flag was known to the miners as the Southern Cross Flag, by others as the 'digger’s flag' and has been later referred to as the Starry Banner by some Australian historians. Raffaello Carboni was an eye witness to the raising of the Southern Cross flag;

"The 'SOUTHERN CROSS' was hoisted up the flag staff - a very splendid pole, eighty feet in length, and straight as an arrow. This maiden appearance of our standard, in the midst of armed men, sturdy, self over-working gold-diggers of all languages and colours was a fascinating object to behold. There is no flag in old Europe half so beautiful as the 'Southern Cross' of the Ballarat miners, first hoisted on the old spot, Bakery Hill. The flag is silk, blue ground, with a large silver cross, similar to the one in our southern firmament; no device or arms, exceedingly chaste and natural."

The Eureka flag was the first popular Australian flag which did not contain any British, European or North American imagery. Australian liberty was forever tied to the Southern Cross when Peter Lalor made a speech entwining the pursuit of liberty with the image of the Southern Cross. Raffaello Carboni recorded the moment as the armed diggers gathered around Lalor and the flag;

“... Lalor who now knelt down, the head uncovered, and with the right hand pointing to the standard exclaimed in a firm measured tone”:-


A universal well rounded “AMEN”, was the determined reply; some five hundred right hands stretched towards our flag."

The diggers at Bakery Hill all swore on the Southern Cross. This is made more important through the fact that the miners were an international group that included natural born Australians, Irish, English, Scottish, Americans, Germans, Italians and Armenians plus many other nationalities. The flag is now on display at the Ballarat Art Gallery. Like the American Star Spangled Banner it is less than complete as many took small squares from it as souvenirs and an early curator gave samples of the flag to anyone who asked. The flag of Eureka or the Southern Cross flag was by far the most important flag in Australia's colonial vexillogical period.

Conditions imposed on decision for Australian Flag design....

Flags of Federation

With Australia federating in 1901 there was held a competition for the flag which was to represent Australia's new self determination and self governance. The judging of the entries was based on loyalty to the British Empire, Australian federation, history, heraldry as well as ease and cost of manufacture. The first judging requirement essentially ensured that a design incorporating a defaced British Ensign be entered. Of the thirty two thousand entries, there were five designs which were surprisingly similar. All five incorporated a defaced blue ensign, a federal star under the canton and a southern cross in the fly. The Blue Ensign design was a balanced and attractive design. It was subsequently adopted as the flag to represent the Australian Federal Government.

ASSI Australian South Sea Islanders Flag

With a pre-condition for the incorporation of a symbol of loyalty to the colonial over-lords of a foreign monarch and government; this competition was corrupt from the out-set. That this travesty of self determination and self governance was an insult to the new federation of states demands redress.

No more Kow-towing fealty towards a belligerent post-colonial anachronism. With the Australia Act of 1985 there is no monarch, queen, king or emperor of any foreign nation that is the monarch or ruler of this nation of Australia.

We should with our National Flag represent the people that make up this nation and work towards its prosperity and the quality of life of its inhabitants, its cultural history and its hopes and aspiration of unity in a reconciled environment of trust and solidarity of cause. Australia, for Australians, no other external interest, financial or political will find purchase in the new Nationhood of Australia.

Australian Torres Strait Islanders Flag

The only international responsibility we should accept is to help those less fortunate, stand by those subjected to tyranny or oppression, both financial and militaristic and to ensure through our independence and self-reliance a single-mindedness of purpose that we will live free and we will support those who wish to be so.

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