Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australia Day 4: Pick a flag - any flag

As Bev's said in her post here, flag waving is something that's done a lot on Australia Day, but not so much for the rest of the year. Above is a window display on Australia day at Queenscliffe. The shop was shut, and I'm sure the staff were all at the beach or the barbie, with young Shane wondering who's lifted his beach ball and waistcoat.

The flag is also seen a lot on cars around Australia day, but not often as large and frequent as on this ex-US Naval Jeep. Perhaps he wanted the nationality of the owner to be unmistakable?

One of the great things about Australia is how many things actually are a mess, and don't make a lot of sense. This includes our flag, which isn't even all ours. The Australian flag can be easily confused for the New Zealand one, both being a quarter borrowed from Great Britain's Union Flag, and with stars on. (The Kiwi's one has fewer stars, and their stars are red.) To confuse matters further I thought I'd do a quick survey of some of Australia's flags. So here's a selection.

Seen here being dropped (with accessories) in front of Melbourne to open the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Museum's Pageant, this is the RAAF Ensign. The bit with the kangaroo in the roundel is folded over, of course.

The Royal Australian Navy Ensign has a white ground with blue stars, and is similar in colours to the Royal Naval ensign.

The Merchant Ensign for civil ships is identical, to both the flag and the Navy's ensign, but on a red ground. Seen above aboard a Sydney harbour ferry and below next to the Australian flag, flying by Cape Schanck Lighthouse on Victoria's coast.

Seen by another lighthouse, Cape Ottway, this photograph by Pam shows the Australian flag again, but partnered with the Aboriginal flag.

The Aboriginal flag has an interesting story behind it, and is unusual among these flags in that although they are all meant to be cared for within a set of rules, it is actually copyright, with the intellectual property belonging to its designer. Today a hoo-hah (as reported in The Age) over Google using the flag as part of a competition design on their website brought this into focus. Winning designer schoolgirl Jessie Du, 11, is a student at Rydalmere East Public School. Her design had the koala and possum beside the central yellow disc of the Aboriginal flag, but;

"The designer of the flag, Harold Thomas, who owns the copyright to the flag, refused to give Google permission to reproduce the design on its website, Google said." The Age went on to state: "Thomas, who lives in Humpty Doo in the Northern Territory, said he refused only because Google did not approach him in a respectful way and had demanded to reproduce the flag without charge."

How very Australian. And very Australian too is flags at the cricket, as seen here at the MCG.

So you were wondering what it is made up of, right? The Australian flag is composed of three parts: The Union Flag (often known by its nickname the Union Jack) in the top left corner, the 'Star of Federation' in the bottom left corner, and The Southern Cross, taking up the right half of the flag. The Star of Federation is a seven pointed star, representing each of six states with a point on the star, and one more point for Australia's territories. The Southern Cross is a constellation that can be seen from all of Australia's states and territories, of course. The Union flag ensures that Australia carries (combined) the full set of the flags of the countries that make up Great Britain, while failing to do the same for its own states and territories. Very Australian.

As Australia is a federated country, each state does have its own flag. This is the Victorian example, with its own Southern Cross.

There is another flag that most Australians would recognise, that comes in pairs. One example is seen here, and it's the flag you swim between at the beach if you want the lifeguard's cover. I'm not sure how fast you need to pedal to stay on the water, or if it's for the fish - you know, that 'one that needs a bicycle'...

Sorry. So to finish, I'd like to introduce another nation's flag. The 26th of January is shared with India as they celebrate their Republic Day, and despite the recent sad events, most Indians share a great time and their marvelous culture with us in Australia. This final picture was taken on Australia day a couple of years ago as the Indian contingent in the parade passed by.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What an informative post. We have your flag tucked away to fly when our family visits. It's fun to see a street lined with the Stars and Stripes - except for us with the Aussie flag.

(You know what obnoxious flag wavers we all are over here!)

Happy Australia Day.