Last year, one of my closest friends moved across the world to study abroad in Brisbane, Australia. Throughout the year it has been fascinating to learn about Australian culture from his perspective, in particular regarding the phrases he has picked up since moving there. For example, in order to express that something is very good he will say “good as” and then nothing. At first my reaction was always “Good as what?” But that’s it, just “good as”, an unfinished simile. In one month he will be returning home for two months and to commemorate his return to the States I would like to explore the history and design of the Australian flag.
The Australia flag’s first appearance was on January 1, 1901, selected from among over 30,000 other designs submitted in a public competition. The design was a combination of five very similar entries and was named the “Commonwealth Blue Ensign”. In 1903 King Edward VII approved this flag as well as a Red Ensign flag for Australian use. The blue was intended for strictly official and naval use whereas the red was intended for merchant fleet use. Naturally, this caused a great deal of confusion to the public who began using the two flags interchangeably. It was not until the Flag Act 1953 that the Commonwealth Blue Ensign flag was officially adopted as the emblem of Australia. In 1998 an amendment was passed on the Flag Act 1953 so that the Australia flag can only be altered by agreement of the Australian people.
The design of the Commonwealth Blue Ensign contains three elements on a blue background: the Union Jack, the Commonwealth Star and the Southern Cross. The Union Jack is a representation of Britain’s settlement of Australia in January 1788. It is located in the upper left hand corner. Directly beneath it is the Commonwealth Star which has seven points, six points to represent the six states and a seventh point to show the unity of the six states. On the fly of the flag is the Southern Cross, a constellation only visible from the Southern hemisphere to denote Australia’s geography. The Commonwealth Blue Ensign flag is first and foremost a sign of cultural identity and pride, demonstrating Australia’s commitment to their heritage and tribute to unity.
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