The Australian flag, as we know it today, has been in use since 1901. The current design was decided on thanks to a public competition, and was the first flag to be chosen in this way in the world. To make the decision official, then Prime Minister Sir Edmund Barton raised the flag above the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, on the 3rd September 1901. This location was used as it was then the Commonwealth Parliament meeting place. The date has now been declared Australian National Flag Day.
But what of the flag itself? The design itself is rather simple, but in fact there’s a lot of symbolism packed into it.
The base of the flag itself, the blue background with the Union Jack in the left hand corner, is known as the Blue Ensign. It’s used by several territories associated with Britain. The version used here in Australia is a defaced Blue Ensign. That means that we’ve made amendments to the flag to make it our own. There’s many organisations that use a defaced flag, such as UK Borer Agency, the Royal Army Service Corps, and the Northern Lighthouse Board.
Our flag is considered to be a defaced Blue Ensign because six white stars of varying sizes have been added to the design. The large, seven pointed star is known as the Commonwealth Star. That star represents all of the Australian territories. It originally has six points, but a seventh was added in 1908 to represent the Papua and any future territories.
The other white stars are arranged in the shape of the Southern Cross. This is a constellation that can be seen in the night sky, and has been traditionally used to represent Australia since it’s time as a British colony. Ivor Evans, one of the people who designed the flag, also intended the four main stars in the Southern Cross to stand for the four moral virtues: Justice, preference, temperance and fortitude.
Finally, any student who wants to write an essay about the Australian flag needs to focus on the Union Jack. This design is made up of three crosses, representing three saints. The red cross of St. George, the white diagonal cross of St. Andrew, and the red diagonal cross of St. Patrick. These are the patron saints of England, Scotland, and Ireland respectively.
There’s a lot of symbolism packed into the Australian flag. Look a litter closer and you’ll see it for yourself.