Australian National Flag day
Today is Australian National Flag day, the day on which we celebrate with pride the anniversary of our flag first being unfurled on 3 September 1901. And this year we can also celebrate another significant anniversary. It is the 60th anniversary of our National Flag.
Confused? Our flag was first flown in 1901, so why is it only 60 years since it became our national flag?
The answer to this question shows that our flag has a history connected with our sense of ourselves as a nation, and our ties with the United Kingdom.
The Australian flag was first flown in 1901 but the version with the blue field or background, the Blue Ensign, was officially for use by the Commonwealth Government only; state and local governments, other organisations and private individuals were to use the Red Ensign, the version with a red field. Although this arrangement remained in force for many years the Blue Ensign gradually crept into more widespread use so that by the 1940s two prime ministers, Robert Menzies and Ben Chifley encouraged Australians to fly the Blue Ensign as the flag of Australia. In 1951 King George VI approved the confirmation of the Blue Ensign as the Australian National Flag, and the Flags Act was passed by parliament late in 1953.
The Flags Act 1953 came into effect in 1954 when it was given Royal Assent by the Queen during her first visit to Australia in 1954. In fact, this act was the first one ever to receive assent by a reigning monarch on Australian soil.
Like many other aspects of our history this story shows how we Australians live our democracy: the Blue Ensign was increasing seen by Australians as our flag and eventually it became the Australian National Flag in law. It also shows the length of our ties with the United Kingdom even as we came to see ourselves as a nation.
So, Australian National Flag Day is a good opportunity to remind ourselves of our history – it is sewn into our National Flag.