Eureka Rebellion, 1854
In 1854, disgruntled gold miners in Ballarat raised what would eventually become known as the Eureka flag. There had been other flags with the Southern Cross before, but I believe this was the first that featured just the cross with no Union Jack. The rebellion was put down when the government stormed the blockade on 3 December 1854.
In the nearly 160 years since then, the flag has taken on some pretty ugly connotations. At first it was just a nationalist symbol, one especially favoured by unions and the political left, but in recent decades it’s been adopted by opponents of immigration, white supremacists, and neo-nazis.
(designer: Henry Ross)
Australia (civil air ensign), 1935-1948
There are only a handful of countries with special flags for civil aviation, and almost all of them are former British colonies with flags on the British model. Australia’s flag includes the Southern Cross from its national flag but rotated 45° counter-clockwise so the smallest star fits nicely within the dark blue cross. Since 1948 the stars have been white.
The unveiling of the memorial to the 1st Anzac Division. Hundreds of Australian soldiers are gathered here for the ceremony. An Australian flag has been placed across the memorial. For such a formal and sombre occasion, the muddy and water-logged field they are standing in appears out of place.
Whilst scenes such as this were commonly used as propaganda, intended to boost morale amongst the troops and provide reassurance to those at home, they also manage to provide an insight into the experience of war.
The Men From Snowy River, 1916
This flag was carried on one of Australia’s many recruitment or “snowball” marches, named for the hope that they would gather men like a snowball rolling down a hill. The recruits that joined up with this particular snowball march were appropriately called “Snowies.”
The march started in Delegate, New South Wales on 6 January 1916. Three weeks and 350km later, 144 recruits arrived in Goulburn, 39 of which would die over the course of the war.
The flag is an interesting one, a British Red Ensign with an Australian Red Ensign tucked into its top-right corner. So you’ve got a quarter-size Union Jack right next to a tiny little sixteenth-size Union Jack. You can see an amazing photograph of the original on the Australian War Memorial’s website.
Murrawarri Republic, since 2013
The Murrawarri people of Australia declared an independent republic earlier this month. I doubt we’re going to see a new country born any time soon, but we’ve at least gotten an interesting new flag out of it. The brown and blue stripes represent earth and sky, or the people and water. The white star represents ancestral spirits which return to the earth on shooting stars, and it has eight points for the eight Murrawarri clans.
Missing camp- the flags represent the nationalities of campers and staff
Governor of South Australia, 1870-1876
South Australia’s first flag was a blue ensign with the Southern Cross and its two pointer stars, Alpha and Beta Centauri. The governor’s flag, adopted at the same time, used a different badge: the southern cross on a black disc.
Why black? Well I mean it stands to reason right? That is the colour of the night sky after all. A better question would be how come so many flags have their stars on blue.
In 1853, a paddle steamer named the Mary Ann journeyed down Australia’s longest river. It was the first steamboat on the Murray, and when it arrived at Goolwa a flag was raised in its honour. A written description of that flag survived: It had four blue stripes, a Union Jack in the upper left corner, and a red cross with five stars on it.
160 years later, two different reconstructions of that flag are flown by ships in Murray–Darling basin. The Upper Murray flag (top) is flown in Victoria and New South Wales, while the Lower Murray Flag (bottom) is flown in South Australia. Both flags feature all the elements from the written description, but each interpretation is slightly different.
The two flags have also taken on different meanings. The stars on the Upper Murray flag are sometimes said to represent five major floods, while the stripes on the Lower Murray flag symbolize the Murray, Darling, Murrumbidgee, and Goulburn rivers.
Fiji (proposed), 2013
Kevin Barr, an Australian-born catholic priest and 32-year resident of Fiji, stirred up a bit of a tempest last month when he jokingly suggested replacing the Union Jack on the Fijian flag with the flag of China.
That little jab pissed off Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, who had indicated in a New Year’s Address that he planned to change the flag. The Commodore personally sent Barr a series of angry texts and phone calls, calling him a “fucked up priest” and threatening to deport him. But after some public outcry and the intervention of the Australian High Commission, the Fijian government stood down.
(designer: Father Kevin Barr)
Australia (proposed sporting flag), 2013
Australia Day was this past weekend, and the AusFlag organization took the opportunity to propose a new Australian sporting flag. AusFlag has made a number of proposals to change the national flag in the past, but this is the first time they’ve tried this more modest tactic.
Of course, Australia already has an unofficial sporting flag, the much-loved boxing kangaroo. Like this proposal, it uses the Australian national colours of green and gold. Time will tell if this new flag can take its place.
(designer: Dr. Anthony Gooley)
Canada (proposed, 1895)
"The advocates of a maple leaf do not seem to recognize that such an emblem only symbolizes weakness and decay; they regard Summer beauty as everything, and overlook the fact that a floral decoration is not at home "in the battle and the breeze," that storm and tempest so familiar to us seafaring people is not the place for a fragile leaf or wreath of leaves."
— “NEW FLAG FOR THE DOMINION.; CANADA WISHES TO HAVE A DISTINCTIVE EMBLEM”, The New York Times, 13 August 1895, p. 4.
Originally from the Halifax Morning Herald, this 19th century article isn’t just opposed to the the maple leaf as a national symbol, but also the 1868 red ensign (“not distinguishable at any distance”), and the beaver (“belongs to the same family (rodents) as rats and mice”).
Instead, it endorses a proposal by Sir Sandford Fleming, a.k.a. the time zone guy. He wanted the Canadian flag to feature a seven-pointed north star, with each point representing a province. If this idea sounds familiar, it’s because the Australians used the exact same symbol on their flag only a few years later.
The idea of a north star flag popped up again in the 1930s but it didn’t get much traction. By that time the maple leaf was firmly ensconced as Canada’s national symbol, objections of seafaring people notwithstanding.