Is it time for a new Australian flag?

By AAP with AG Staff 26 January 2011
Reading Time: 2 Minutes Print this page
Simon McKeon joins a group of prominent Australian of the Year awardees who are calling for a new national flag.

THE NEW AUSTRALIAN OF the Year, Simon McKeon, has backed his predecessor’s calls for a new national flag. Last year’s Australian of the Year, Patrick McGorry, is among a group of high profile Australians who say it’s time the nation “grew up”.

More than a dozen Australians of the Year dating back to the 1960s, including the Clean Up campaigner Ian Kiernan, swimmers Dawn Fraser and Shane Gould, and scientist Tim Flannery, have signed a statement calling for change.

The newly crowned Australian of the Year on Wednesday backed their stance. “I don’t want to take away our links with the mother country at all, but the reality is we ought to be able to stand on our own two feet,” Simon told journalists.

Supportive of change

“For me, I’m supportive of a change of flag, but I’m more supportive of let’s bring on the agenda of a very simple question: Do a clear majority of Australians support a republic or not? All the other issues that flow from that such as the model of a republic, the flag, the anthem, even the date that we celebrate today, for me they are secondary issues,” he says.

“There is only so much oxygen we can have at any one point in time to devote to this, but inevitably there will be a republic one day.”

Patrick McGorry, a mental health expert, said the present flag design causes confusion overseas and embarrassment at home. “It’s time Australia grew up. Right now, it’s a bit like a slowly maturing Generation-Y adolescent; a 27-year-old who just won’t leave home,” he said on Wednesday, adding it was tine for the nation to move into “independent adulthood”.

Representative of history

Not everyone is in agreement. NSW Premier Kristina Keneally says that the Australian flag represents who we are and will always have a place in Australian history.

“I do respect the flag and it is a symbol of our national identity and it has a strong history,” she told reporters at the Sydney Opera House today. “No matter what happens in the future … I would say this: the Australian flag represents who we are, the Australian flag will always have a strong place in our national identity and today it is the flag of this nation and it should be afforded that respect.”

However, the Premier says she also strongly supports Australia one day becoming a republic. She is spending today with her family at the Yabun Festival, which recognises the ongoing contribution of Aboriginal people to Australian culture, before heading to Hyde Park for the Lord Mayor’s Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony.

Ausflag, which drafted the statement calling for change, believes it can secure support from other Australia Day award recipients. It’s also seeking formal commitments from former prime ministers such as Paul Keating, Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser.