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- History - general
- RAN Ships
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- June 1996 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
“it is probably the most beautiful flag in the world” Dr. H. V. Evatt, former ALP leader and high court judge.)
“Let us give it pre-eminence on all occasions’ (Arthur Calwell- former ALP leader.)
“It represents the principles on which our nation is based” (Nick Greiner, Former Premier of NSW Flag Day Message.)
The Commonwealth Government announced a Federal Flag design competition on the 29th April, 1901. The Review of Reviews for Australasia, Melbourne journal, had initiated an Australian flag competition in 1900. It was agreed that the entries received by this journal would be accepted in the Government’s competition. The contest attracted 32,823 entries from men, women and children. An expert panel of judges assessed the entries using guidelines which included history. heraldry, distinctiveness, utility and cost of manufacture.
On 3rd September 1901 a public ceremony was held at the Royal Exhibition
Buildings, Melbourne, where Lady Hopetoun, wife of the Governor General, opened a display of the entries in the competition. The Prime Minister of Australia, Edmund Barton, announced that five entrants, who had submitted similar designs, were to share the honour of being declared the designers of Australia’s own flag. They were: Ivor Evans, a fourteen-year-old schoolboy from Melbourne; Leslie John Hawkins, a teenager apprenticed to a Sydney optician; Egbert John Nuttall, a Melbourne architect; Annie Dorrington, an artist from Perth; and William Stevens, a ship’s officer from Auckland, New Zealand.
The Commonwealth Government and the Review of Reviews for Australasia provided £75 each and the Havelock Tobacco Company added £50 to this, making a total of £200 prize money, a considerable amount at the time. The five winners received £40 each.
The Australian National Flag features the five stars of the Southern Cross and the Commonwealth Star, and the combined crosses of St. George, St. Andrew and St. Patrick. The union of crosses represents Australia’s early settlers. The Commonwealth Star with its seven points represents the unity of the six Australian states and the seventh point stands for all Australian Territories.
Under the Flags Act, 1953, passed unanimously by parliament, it was confirmed that our Stars and Crosses design be the chief national symbol by law, custom and tradition and that it be honoured with the title Australian National Flag. The new status of the national flag was emphasised when the act of parliament received royal assent from Queen Elizabeth II, when Her Majesty was on her first visit to Australia in 1954.
The Australian rules of flag etiquette are designed to ensure that the National Flag is displayed with the dignity befitting its status. It identifies a free and democratic people in a nation united in purpose. Our National Flag belongs equally to all Australians whatever their origins. Each symbol on the flag has a special meaning for Australians. The stars of the Southern Cross represent our geographical position in the Southern Hemisphere, the Commonwealth Star our federation of States and Territories, and the Crosses represent the principles on which our nation is based – namely, Parliamentary Democracy, Rule of Law and Freedom of Speech. It is the right and privilege of every Australian to fly the Australia National Flag.
“We’ve the stars to show where we’re going and the old flag to show where we’ve been.” (from a poem by Robin Northover)
The Australian National Flag Historical Dates and Documents
- 29.4.1901 Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 27 Design competition for The Flag of Australia announced by the first Australian Prime Minister, Edmund Barton.
- 3.9.1901 First official raising of the blue Australian Flag at the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne.
- 20.2.1903 Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 8 Proclamation that King Edward VII had approved design for the Flag of Australia.
- 19.12.1908 Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 65 (page 1709) announced addition of 7th point to the Commonwealth Star to represent Australian Territories.
- 2.12.1953 Commonwealth Government Flags Act 1953′ (Hansard reports, 20.11.1953 and 2.12.1953) the status of The Flag confirmed by legislation and title to be the Australian National Flag.