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Is it time for a new flag?

Turnbull supports the idea of Australia becoming a republic. This could reignite conversation about our flag design, writes Taylah Burrows.

The New Zealand government has released four design choices for its flag referendum in early 2016.

All four flag designs, that were submitted by the public, abolish the current use of the Union Jack, a signifier of their position in the Commonwealth.



While it appears the loss of the Union Jack will separate the country from the United Kingdom, New Zealand has no plans to become a republic.

Australia’s newly appointed prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was chairman of the Australian Republican Movement from 1993 to 2000. He has advocated that Australia sees a referendum on our position within the Commonwealth, however recently said he would not make this a priority.

Opposition leader, Bill Shorten, is also in support of a republic. He recently committed to see Australia become independent by 2025.

Vexillologist, Ted Kaye, tells upstart that becoming a republic may be the trigger Australia needs to see a change in its flag.

“The concept of changing the flag without a trigger event is much more difficult at a national and state level than it is when something is happening,” he says.

“I think that the trigger for Australia, as I’m told by Australians, is that becoming a republic will lead people to naturally question why the Union Jack is still on the flag and that question will likely lead to a discussion on flag change for the country.”

In choosing a new flag for Australia, Kaye lists five basic principles in flag design.

  • Simplicity – a flag should be so simple a child can draw it from memory.
  • Meaningful symbolism – a flag’s colours, shapes, divisions and symbols should symbolise what the flag is trying to represent.
  • Basic colours – they should be arranged so that the light colours are separated from dark colours, and two to three colours are enough.
  • No lettering or seals and no coats of arms – these are far too complicated to be recognised from a distance.
  • Distinctive and original – the exception is if you’re trying to show a relationship to another entity.

While a trigger is needed to encourage change, some groups are already working hard to promote new flag designs.

Steven Squires, who is part of a movement called Southern Horizons, tells upstart that Australia needs to change its flag design, namely because the Union Jack is placed on the canton, which is the most honourable spot, of the flag.

“The presence of the Union Jack on the flag means many Australians do not identify strongly with it as a national symbol,” Squires says.

“If the national flag is unable to unite us, due to poor or anachronistic symbolism, then we should adopt a design which can.”

Kaye agrees with this sentiment, particularly given that Australia flies multiple flags, each that represent different groups of people.

“When I see the Australian flag flying I also see the Aboriginal flag and the flag of the Torres Strait Islanders. I understand why those three flags are flied, it’s because the current flag isn’t perceived as representing the Aboriginal population,” Kaye says.

“You need one flag that represents all Australians, not a flag with something on it that represents each Australian regardless of their origin.”


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The Southern Horizon group is already promoting their newly designed flag, with supporters flying the flag across the country.

Their flag features all of the elements of Australia’s current flag, except the Union Jack. It also incorporates Australia’s national colours of green and gold.

Squires says the Southern Horizon flag is the right choice for Australia because it is ethically, politically and religiously neutral.

“By using symbols that are common to the people of Australia, it is a design that can achieve unity among Australia’s pluralistic and diverse society,” he says.

With many political leaders advocating that Australia becomes a republic, Australia may reignite its flag debate sooner than anticipated.


Taylah BurrowsTaylah Burrows is a final year Bachelor of Journalism student, you can follow her on Twitter here: @TaylahBurrows.

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