On this day in 1965 Canadians inaugurated the red maple leaf flag. The now-iconic design was born out of a bitter national debate, with some people reluctant to let go of the previous national symbol, the Canadian Red Ensign with a prominent union jack in the corner.
Virtually all modern nations have a flag these days, often with colourful histories on how the designs came to be. In a 1958 public opinion poll, some 60% of Canadians wanted a maple leaf on their flag—and they got one.
Top: previous Canadian flag design; Bottom: the red maple leaf flag adopted in 1965.
The new design meant Canadians also got a truly original flag without the union jack reference, which to many symbolises ties with colonialism.
Australia still flies a flag that won a design competition in 1901, although these days the Commonwealth Star has seven points—one more point than originally proposed (an addition that symbolises territories and any future states of Australia).
Cover of a monthly journal Review of Reviews shows the winner of the 1901 Federal Flag design competition. There was also a version with a red background, intended for official and naval use.
Just like Canadians did in the 1950s, Australians periodically engage in debate over changing our national symbol to something more distinctive; calls to ditch the union jack often go hand in hand with republican sentiments.
Politics aside, there is a serious practical question—if we elect to make a change, what would the new Australian flag look like?
Here are just a few of the national flag versions that have been proposed in the last 30 years.
The Green Kangaroo
A flag design proposed in 1987 by Sydney-based design firm Lunn-Dyer and Associates. This was created for a competition hosted by Ausflag, an apolitical lobby group that has spent several decades advocating for a new flag.
The Down Under Flag
A proposal created by Austrian-born New Zealand artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser in 1986. The red half-circle at the top symbolises Uluru, positioned to show "Australia holding the earth from down under.”
The Canadian Commonwealth Star
A 1998 proposal by Ashok Nallawalla, who explains that the design was directly inspired by the clean lines of the Canadian maple. Two variations allow for either an eight-pointed Commonwealth Star (above) or the more traditional seven-pointed one.
The Golden Star
This design by Franck Gentil won the 2000 Ausflag competition. “It is an evolution of our current flag design, retaining the features which Australians love, but making the flag truly Australian,” stated the jury.
Advance Australia Flag
This flag design was created in 1999 by Russell Kennedy, a visual communication design lecturer at Deakin University. It has been designed with various colour combinations, including a reconciliation design (featuring Aboriginal colours), as well as ensigns for all states and territories.
The Golden Wattle Star
A 2015 creation by Jeremy Matthews, this flag has been proposed as a national flag by the Wattle Day Association. The plant became the Australian national floral emblem in 1988, and the individual flowers arranged around the Commonwealth Star “suggest the idea of diversity and the unity of our nation.”
The Unity Flag
A 2016 design by Murray Bunton, this flag incorporates a new point into the Commonwealth Star to represent the first peoples and a chevron to symbolise a golden boomerang that points towards a brighter dawn.
Right now there are no plans to change the Australian flag. But in case such a time arrives, you can peruse many more proposed Australian flag designs on the Ausflag website.
Header image: A Golden Wattle Flag flown on a flagpole. PHOTO COURTESY GoldenWattleFlag.com
Copyright of all the flag images shown here belongs to their respective owners.