Changing the Australian Flag

Discussions on flags used in Oceania.
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Leonardo Piccioni
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Re: Changing the Australian Flag

Postby Leonardo Piccioni » 10 Feb 2013 21:53

I don't think you can't put charges on fly on any of those proposals (Blaxland's, Smertios' or "Sovereign Flag" proposal), because the hoists are very distinguishable.
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Philip S. Tibbetts
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Re: Changing the Australian Flag

Postby Philip S. Tibbetts » 10 Feb 2013 23:04

Just because a hoist is distinctive doesn't mean you can put a unique charge in the fly - it'll still be symbolism that is effectively lost. After all that's partly why ensigns are not great flags for independent entities.

Tricolours get away with it because a large portion of the flag will still be visible - at least the edges. But a charge that only appears in the fly and can't be inferred by a pattern (like three identical charges placed in fess) runs a strong chance of simply not being seen when used in a flying flag.

If a charge is not likely to be seen it may be better off not having it at all. If it conveys symbolism that is vital to the entity it is representing then you're better redesigning the whole flag to help convey the message more clearly and effectively.

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Re: Changing the Australian Flag

Postby Leonardo Piccioni » 10 Feb 2013 23:17

After all that's partly why ensigns are not great flags for independent entities.

This argument is invalid: ensigns haven't distinct hoists. Agree with the rest, with reservations.
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Re: Changing the Australian Flag

Postby Philip S. Tibbetts » 10 Feb 2013 23:22

The lower hoist is indistinct but the upper hoist/canton distinctly shows the flag of the authority - in the case of Australia that is Britain. That is pretty much exactly why the ensign was the template of imperial British colonies - the Union Jack takes precedance and is the most distinct part of the flag.

So I don't think the argument is invalid, but sounds like we're not too far away from each other in this debate - more a matter of interpretation than opposing ideology.

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Re: Changing the Australian Flag

Postby Smertios » 11 Feb 2013 13:33

I think that 5 colors is way too much, really. The South African flag is the only flag with more than 4 colors that works relatively well. And even then, it is still hard knowing by heart what color goes where.

As for charges in the fly, I completely agree that they should be avoided, as much as possible. Taking the wind into consideration is essential when designing a flag. Flags exist to fly, after all. The flag of Zambia, for example, becomes a plain green field (similar to the old Libyan flag) when the wind is calm:
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Also, I think it is important to keep tradition in mind. We can come up with tons of great designs, with good color combinations, proper charges etc. But, unless there is a connection to the traditional flags used by the country, it will never "feel" like a good design. Most designs posted here were great, but they didn't seem distinctly Australian, to me. They were mostly good corporate logos. That's why I think that the only possible designs for a new Australian flag are based on either the current flag (maybe with the Union Flag replaced by something else) or on the flags of the ACT and NT. Anything else is too revolutionary to even be considered.

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Re: Changing the Australian Flag

Postby PaulJames » 11 Feb 2013 23:44

Smertios wrote:Also, I think it is important to keep tradition in mind. We can come up with tons of great designs, with good color combinations, proper charges etc. But, unless there is a connection to the traditional flags used by the country, it will never "feel" like a good design. Most designs posted here were great, but they didn't seem distinctly Australian, to me. They were mostly good corporate logos. That's why I think that the only possible designs for a new Australian flag are based on either the current flag (maybe with the Union Flag replaced by something else) or on the flags of the ACT and NT. Anything else is too revolutionary to even be considered.

But neither the ACT nor the NT flag are particularly traditional! One dates from 1978, the other from 1993. I don't know if there were earlier designs in the same format; or was it new and very un-Australian in 1978? ;)

I imagine that many other national flags, including post-colonial ones, have no national tradition behind them. For example, was there a national precedent for the format of the Canadian or South African flags? Perhaps, sometimes, a break with tradition is very deliberate.

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Leonardo Piccioni
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Re: Changing the Australian Flag

Postby Leonardo Piccioni » 12 Feb 2013 01:04

Agree with Paul James. I think tradition lives on people's head and people's heart. And the good feeling relative to current Australian flag is fading away, as successive polls seem to conclude.

Considering the PaulJames' examples - Canada and South Africa - which do you think are more traditional, the flags on the left or in the right? Considering "tradition" as some kind of "resistance against disappearance, or change, of something considered acceptable", where's the biggest tradition? I'm sure that it's on the right.
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Re: Changing the Australian Flag

Postby Smertios » 12 Feb 2013 02:57

PaulJames wrote:But neither the ACT nor the NT flag are particularly traditional! One dates from 1978, the other from 1993. I don't know if there were earlier designs in the same format; or was it new and very un-Australian in 1978? ;)


Tradition is not the same as age. You can have a centuries-old design that is not traditional at all, while a newer flag can be more traditional. A good example is Georgia. The two lags they used in the 20th century were good designs, but they didn't carry any traditional symbolism for the country:
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The new one, adopted in 2004, while never used before, is a combination of different symbols that have represented the country for centuries, all centered around the Saint George's cross:
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The flag of Australia itself isn't that old. It was adopted in 1901. So it is not like tradition takes centuries to be formed. The set up of the NT flag might be from 1978, but it has become a design associated with Australia, as very few countries use that set up. The only one that comes to my mind right now is Portugal.

When the ACT decided to use the same format for their flag, they simply confirmed the tradition.

And even those flags are reminiscent of the British ensigns: there is a large field of a solid color, with either a charge or the arms in the center. In the hoist, instead of a Union Jack, they preferred to go with the Southern Cross.

But kangaroos and boomerangs have never been traditional symbols in Australian flags, except for the boxing kangaroo, I think. And that has never had official status, anyway. The commonwealth star, the southern cross and the aboriginal round sun are probably the best elements to be present in any Australian flag proposal, in my opinion.

I imagine that many other national flags, including post-colonial ones, have no national tradition behind them. For example, was there a national precedent for the format of the Canadian or South African flags? Perhaps, sometimes, a break with tradition is very deliberate.


Do they? Can you list them for me, then? Even if we look at recent post-colonial designs, we will see the attempt to go back to pre-colonial heritage. Take India, for example. Orange had been the color used in Hindu flags for centuries, if not millennia. The banner of the Maratha Empire, for example, was this:
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As for green,it was the traditional color of Muslim flags. The flag of the Mughal Empire, for example, was this:
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They simply added the two traditional religious banners of Indian empires and created the new country's flag. Then they added a white band to separate the two colors, and added the Ashoka Chakra — which was, itself, one of the main symbols of the continent since the Mauryan Dynasty. The flag itself might be young (it was adopted in 1947), but the symbolism goes far beyond that.

The flag os Pakistan, as well, was based in a centuries-old design: the banner of the Sultanate of Delhi, which was a green field with a yellow crescent.

Leonardo Piccioni wrote:Agree with Paul James. I think tradition lives on people's head and people's heart. And the good feeling relative to current Australian flag is fading away, as successive polls seem to conclude.


Actually, that's not what the polls show at all. Support for a new flag was high in the turn of the century, and has been diminishing ever since.

Considering the PaulJames' examples - Canada and South Africa - which do you think are more traditional, the flags on the left or in the right? Considering "tradition" as some kind of "resistance against disappearance, or change, of something considered acceptable", where's the biggest tradition? I'm sure that it's on the right.


“A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.” [1]

Tradition is not resistance to changes. That's a political ideology called conservatism, or traditionalism. "Tradition" is simply the main attribute defended by supporters of that ideology, which doesn't mean only conservatives care about tradition.

Tradition is basically something that exists in any society. Since the scope of this forum is symbolism, we can talk about traditional symbols. They don't necessarily have to be millennia-of-years-old. Take the hammer and sickle, for example. I can easily say that it is a traditional communist symbol, because it is. It was adopted, as a symbol, only in 1917 (and officially, since 1922). But it carried traditional symbolism when it was created already. It was representative os industrial workers and peasants. If we take a better look at it, we will see that, even before those symbols were gathered into one, they were traditional already. The hammer had been a faithful companion to industrial workers since the beginning. The same with the sickle for rural peasants. Those symbols were as traditional as a white coat is to doctors, or a hard hat is to engineers. And the red color used in the USSR flag was also not something new, either. It was the symbol used in the Paris Commune.

What I'm trying to say here is that a tradition doesn't need 100 years to be formed. It can start today, and be accepted as a tradition tomorrow. There are only three requirements for a tradition to exist: it has to be symbolic of a group; it has to be well accepted by the group, as a whole; and it has to be passed from one person to another (and, consequently, from one generation to the next). Age is hardly a factor. Which leads me to the examples you guys gave me:

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This is a very interesting example because it is the exact opposite of what you are claiming. In fact, what happened in the South African case was exactly the same that happened in India: they preferred to create a design that featured an amalgamation of national symbols from both sides.

If you take good look at the current flag, you will notice that the rightmost part features the exact same pattern the old flag has: three bands, red, white and blue. The only difference is that they replaced the orange band by a red one. And the explanation was that they wanted it to represent both Afrikaners (who descended from Dutchmen) and Anglo-South Africans (who descended from Britons). They couldn't use orange, because that would represent only Afrikaners and they couldn't use plain red, because it would represent only Anglo-South Africans.So they went with a mix of the two, and used chili red instead. But besides that, if you take the Y-shaped figured off the flag, you will have the exact same pattern as the old flag. That's not a coincidence, it was made on purpose, so the tradition was not broken.

As for the other set of colors, it was just as traditional. Those were the colors of the ANC, after all:
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And where did the ANC take those colors from? Traditional native South African symbols and banners, like the KwaZulu flag:
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Even the order of the colors was preserved from the ANC flag. It's hard to be more traditional than that.

So, to answer the question of which flag I find more traditional: as one design was based directly on the other, with the addition of other traditional symbols, I have to say that both flags are equally traditional. One is simply younger than the other.

Now, this case is completely different from some of the designs presented in this thread, like these:
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And I'm not trying to diminish the designs or anything. Those are great designs. But I just feel they miss the traditional component that is essential to vexillology. It's that old question that many vexillologists answer to make people understand the art. Why can't the US flag simply be a blue field with USA written in red and fimbriated in white? The answer is simple: it would be a break with the vexillological tradition of the country. That flag would mean nothing to most Americans, whereas, thanks to the passing aspect of traditions, the stars and stripes mean a lot to most Americans.

If we are to follow the example of Indians and South Africans, and create a design composed of an amalgamation of different national symbols, I think the only logical design is this:
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It's exactly the same thing as the South African case. You have the current flag. You remove the bits that are controversial. You add a more native symbol. And voilà. But we all know that flag isn't well accepted. And it probably never will be.

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This is a different case, really. It does break, a bit, with the tradition. But it is not as much as people think. red was already the color used in the Red Ensign (obviously). And the maple leaf was already a genuine Canadian symbol, used in the old flag and in the coat of arms. I'll even go further and say that, if you isolate part of the old flag, you can see the current design quite well:
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What I'm trying to say here is simply that I don't consider it a break in tradition. They simply took the old flag (the red ensign), removed all non-Canadian symbols (leaving only the maple leaf), and rearranged the forms a bit.

I was trying to think of an example of a flag change that really broke the tradition this much, but the truth is that I don't know any. Even the North Korean flag was partially based on the South Korean one. Maybe the only example are the communist states: the USSR, China and Vietnam.

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Leonardo Piccioni
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Re: Changing the Australian Flag

Postby Leonardo Piccioni » 12 Feb 2013 03:47

This is a very interesting example because it is the exact opposite of what you are claiming. In fact, what happened in the South African case was exactly the same that happened in India: they preferred to create a design that featured an amalgamation of national symbols from both sides.

Sorry, but it's exactly what most of the proposals on this thread do.
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On the two flags above, for example, we have very clear references to both current flag (that shows mostly only British symbolism) and the Aboriginal symbolism:
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And you can't simply India and South Africa flags don't work pretty well.
On the first flag, it's added green and gold. You can say they are traditional Australian symbols, because, in your own words "it has to be symbolic of a group; it has to be well accepted by the group, as a whole; and it has to be passed from one person to another (and, consequently, from one generation to the next)." The kangaroo is other strong Australian symbols: it appears on military badges, the Australian roundel, sports, etc., and is as well accepted as an Australian symbol.
Image Image Image
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Re: Changing the Australian Flag

Postby Smertios » 12 Feb 2013 04:13

Leonardo Piccioni wrote:Sorry, but it's exactly what most of the proposals on this thread do.


I don't think most do, really. Even the ones I posted weren't very good in that criteria. But some were very good, in my opinion, including this:

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That's a great design, and it is exactly what I'm talking about. It keeps the traditional elements of both flags, without the need of revolutionary shapes and forms that were never present in any Australian flags. Clearly you can see the difference between the flag above and this one:
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The one above keeps the shapes of the two flags that inspired it. It's not only the colors. The second one is completely random.

As for this:
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My main problem is that the green band doesn't really fit well. I understand that green and gold are the national colors, but it's hard making it work together with the blue, white and red. To me, such a design would have to be either all green and gold, or all blue, red and white. And considering the tradition set by the current flag, I'd say that the "blue" side has precedence.

On the two flags above, for example, we have very clear references to both current flag (that shows mostly only British symbolism) and the Aboriginal symbolism


I agree, for the second one. You'll see that i didn't post it in my last post. But the first one doesn't "feel" like the current Australian flag at all.

And you can't simply India and South Africa flags don't work pretty well.
On the first flag, it's added green and gold. You can say they are traditional Australian symbols, because, in your own words "it has to be symbolic of a group;


They are traditional as colors, not as symbols. That is the same problem with the boomerang flag I posted above. It has all traditional colors, but the shapes are all new and revolutionary. In the end of the day, one doesn't have the impression that it looks like the current Australian flag at all. That is a different case for your second flag there, of course, which works pretty well

it has to be well accepted by the group, as a whole; and it has to be passed from one person to another (and, consequently, from one generation to the next)." The kangaroo is other strong Australian symbols: it appears on military badges, the Australian roundel, sports, etc., and is as well accepted as an Australian symbol.


The kangaroo is a traditional symbol, certainly, but it has never been used in flags, except in the boxing kangaroo one, which isn't exactly seen as anything other than a sports flag. It's different from a truly national symbol. How would you feel, for example, if I suggested replacing the current Brazilian anthem with Pra Frente, Brasil, which has always been a popular sports song, praising the football team and all? It would be quite weird, don't you think?

I don't really have a problem with green and gold, but I don't think new set ups should be made like that. This flag was probably the best design posted in this thread so far, for these reasons I gave right now:
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Most of the designs here were great from the vexillological point of view, but they all failed to make a strong connection with the current symbols. The flag above is the only one that a person will be able to look at and see the old Australian and Aboriginal flags adapted into a new one.

I think I'd just make the stars in the Southern Cross a bit smaller, though.


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