Brisbane Times, 26 January 2011.
TO ANYONE who believes Australia′s "badging" debate can be solved by simply replacing the Union Jack with the red, black and yellow of the Aboriginal flag, Lowitja O′Donoghue has some timely advice: forget it.
"We have lost so much, I′m afraid. We don′t want to lose our flag," Dr O′Donoghue, the first Aboriginal woman to be inducted into the Order of Australia, said on the eve of what she still calls "invasion day".
Although she rejects the ′′hybrid′′ flag - popularised by the South Australian artist ′′Talc Alf′′ and others - she would, however, welcome some reference to indigenous people in a new flag, perhaps through the use of red and ochre.
Today′s commitment by Dr O′Donoghue and fellow Australians of the Year to replacing a flag famously described by the American comedian Jerry Seinfeld as "Britain by night" is intended to be the first step in a revitalised campaign.
It is meant to secure broad support for change from an Australian public still seemingly half in love with the national flag, or at least with the fashion options offered by its mix of shapes, angles and colours.
As Patrick McGorry, the 2010 Australian of the Year, explained, the process is meant to be inclusive. For example, it is important, he says, to ensure that English people feel comfortable with a new flag.
Inevitably, though, many supporters of change have taken the potentially more divisive second step, offering designs for a flag that the Ausflag executive director, Harold Scruby, promises will "bring a lump to the throat, a tear to the eye".
Several public competitions have produced a plethora of suggestions. Most retain stars. Many incorporate red, bare land. Some add Australian symbols, such as a kangaroo, much as Canada adopted the maple leaf. Some designers have turned to history of inspiration. There is considerable support for the Eureka flag, a symbol of protest, of defiance, flown by miners during the rebellion in the Victorian goldfields in 1851.
Though the flag has since been hijacked for many causes, it appeals to the 1994 Australian of the Year, Ian Kiernan. "It shows we can stand alone, stand up for ourselves. I don′t think we′d have any difficulty reclaiming it."
The present flag came into being after Federation in 1901, though it was not given royal assent and adopted as the definitive flag until 1954, with the passing of the Flags Act, 1953. Five people shared the prize for the design, which was dismissed by The Bulletin magazine as "a staled ré´chauffé´ [warm up“ of the British flag, with no artistic virtue, no national significance".