"The Voice of the Australian Flag"
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I am the national flag of the Commonwealth of Australia. I belong to you & every Australian, equally & freely.
I was conceived before the dawn of the century.
Designed by Ivor Evans, I was chosen over & above some 32,000 contenders.
Although I was never an orphan, I was adopted on that sparkling Spring day, the 3rd September, 1901, when I flew above the Exhibition Building in Melbourne. I was hailed & celebrated by people standing on the threshold of nationhood. They took me to their hearts.
In that official ceremony, in the presence of our first Prime Minister, I became the chief symbol of a new nation, embracing the ideals of self-determination, national sovereignty & personal freedom under God.
I have been hoisted aloft over many buildings, from humble homes to the Houses of Parliament. I have listened to every Prime Minister declare his allegiance to me, to our Monarch, & to our Constitution. I have witnessed the pledge of each one to protect & defend those freedoms we all cherish, even above life itself.
I am carried with pride in ceremonies & processions. I have draped the caskets of your national heroes carried to their last resting place. The caskets of Kings & Queens, eminent Statesmen, Generals, Admirals, humble Privates & the Unknown Soldier.
Wherever free men gather, wherever there is justice, faith, hope, charity & truth; there too, am I.
At the tender age of 14 years, I received my baptism of fire in World War I. I flew proudly in those early days as we heard the call to do battle alongside those of our own kin. I was carried up the steep hills of Gallipoli & I was there with the men in the trenches. I watched Simpson bring out the wounded on his doughy little donkey. I breathed the dust of the deserts & rode in glory with the Light Horse Brigade. I saw our finest sons fall & lie still. They had given their last full measure of devotion. The war was over for them forever, but I kept my lonely vigil over their graves & stayed to watch the flowers grow amid the crosses, row upon row, in Flanders Fields. Oh, young Australia, I was there with your fathers whom I longed to comfort. Look at me again.
Lest you forget.
You know me by my distinctive emblems.
The *Union Jack is the tie that binds us to your ancestors & rich heritage down through the centuries.
The upright red cross on a white field is the Cross of St George, Patron Saint of England. This Cross was there when King John set his royal seal on Magna Carta in 1215 & it was there when Simon de Montfort brought together the very first Parliament in 1265, making England truly the Mother of Parliaments.
I proudly wear two other crosses. The white diagonal cross on a blue field is the Cross of St Andrew, Patron Saint of Scotland. The red diagonal cross on a white field is the Cross of St Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland. These three crosses which perhaps you scarcely understand, unite our heritage in this wonderful land & forge our future in an inseparable bond. The blazing Southern Cross marks our way ahead while the seven-pointed Federation Star joins our states & territories in a single, yet united, commonwealth. All this set in a field of blue - the blue of our southern skies & of the endless ocean washing our golden, sandy beaches & coral shores. We are the heirs to a culture, rich & diverse. We are the offspring child of a great empire. We have a glorious tomorrow. We are one.
Lest you forget.
I have been to many places. I have seen many things.
With our explorers, I’ve crossed the icy wastes of Antarctica & climbed the heights of Mt Everest. I look down with pride on our mighty sportsmen & women as they win honours for their country all over the world. At every official or memorable event in this land, I hold the position of honour.
Following World War I, we frolicked in our newfound liberty, growth, prosperity, increase & our common wealth. But far to the north, in Russia, a new tyranny spewed forth, slaughtering the rich & regal, the lowly & humble, usurping the sovereignty of nations not of its own. We watched from afar, protected by the border of oceans. Then came 1939 & once again, we heard the beat of the warmonger’s drums. Again, my heart went out to our brave soldiers, sailors & airmen. I was there with them. In the Middle East, in New Guinea, Borneo & many other places. I was trodden in the mud red with the blood of those brave young Australians so ruthlessly murdered in prison of war camps.
Lest you forget.
Finally, in ’45, peace at last. So we thought. With just a few short years rest, I was again carried into battle, caught up in further hostilities by those promoting war. I watched & praised the endurance & spirit of our volunteers in Korea. I, too, felt the sufferings of our brave sons & daughters in the forces in Vietnam.
Lest you forget.
I am well-known & remembered in many places. I am flown every day in the school at Villers-Bretonneux, in France, where grateful children & teachers do not forget their debt to Australian soldiers. I am many things to many people. To some, I am yesterday, today & tomorrow, an inseparable link in the chain that binds men to God & country. And because I am on the side of God through our great heritage, there are the God-less who seek to destroy me & replace those three Christian crosses with plants or animals, but they dare not. Why? Because today, I am everywhere. In the homes of the humble & the mansions of millionaires. I am in the cities, the suburbs & in country towns. From coast to coast, right across this great nation, I am raised with pride & dignity. Oh, my people, you have given so much to be Australian & I am proud that we are one. Bonded through trial & triumph. Look at me & remember our heritage & realise our great future. Together, we will grow, & all the world will know.
You must never allow those who seek to reduce diversity into dust, to grind our treasures into a melting pot. And as you consider the future of your own true identity, remember, I was there in your every hour of loss, your every moment of glory. So too, I will be there in all your tomorrows, though proud, loyal & glorious through all my short history, there is one thing for which I need you most of all. I cannot fasten myself to the flagstaff.
Lest you forget.
The above verse is from the song "The Voice of the Australian Flag", performed by Larry Hannigan.
*'Union Jack' was officially acknowledged as an alternative name for the Union Flag by the Admiralty and Parliament in the early 20th century. The term 'jack' refers to the flag that is flown from the bowsprit of of a ship, often denoting nationality. The Union Flag is commonly known as the Union Jack, although the exact origin of the name is unclear. One explanation is that it gets its name from the 'jack staff' of naval vessels from which the original Union Flag was flown.
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THE HISTORY OF THE AUSTRALIAN FLAG
Following Federation as a new nation (the Commonwealth of Australia) on 1st January, 1901 the Commonwealth Government announced a Federal Flag design competition on 29th April, 1901. The review of Review for Australiasia, a Melbourne journal, had initiated an Australian flag competition in 1900, a unique event at the time. 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 Building, Melbourne, where Lady Hopetoun, wife of the Governor-General, opened a display of the entries in the competition. The Prime Minister of Australia, Sir 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 constellation 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 of 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 emphasized when the act of parliament received royal assent from Queen Elizabeth II, on Her Majesty’s 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.
The Australian National Flag identifies a free and democratic people in a nation united in purpose. Our national flag belongs equally to all Australians whatever their origins. Each of the symbols on the flag has a special meaning for Australians. The stars of the Southern Cross represent our geographic position in the Southern Hemisphere; the Commonwealth star stands for our federation of States and Territories; the Crosses represent the principles on which our nation is based, namely, parliamentary democracy, rule of law and freedom of speech.
In 1996 the Governor-General, Sir William Deane, proclaimed 3rd September as Australian National Flag Day, to commemorate the day in 1901 on which our national flag of "Stars and Crosses" was first flown. It is the right and privilege of every Australian to fly the Australian National Flag.
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