I am still unsure how, but today I happened upon the Wikipedia page of legendary Australian media figure Ray Martin. For those not in the know, Ray Martin graced Australia’s Channel 9 for some thirty years, starring in variety of shows, from the tabloid trash faux news program “A Current Affair” to the slightly less trashy faux news program “Sixty Minutes”. Well, according to Wikipedia that is. Personally, I just remember him from that god-awful show, “A Current Affair”. Anyway, the section of the page that piqued my interest was one that stated Ray Martin was in favour of changing the Australian Flag to reflect Australia’s increasing multiculturalism. Well, I must say, I wholeheartedly agree.
I went back and checked the Wikipedia’s references, and, the Australian Associated Press story cited, has Ray Martin telling the Herald Sun newspaper “I object to having the British flag in the corner of our flag”. Well, this absolutely blew my mind. Despite the fact that I am also a British citizen, and that most of my ethnicity comes through Sri Lanka (which was also a British colony for a considerable time), the Australian flag has unsettled me for quite some time. If anyone deigned to ask my Mother, she would confirm that this has long been a thorn in my paw. As early as the beginning of High School, I remember being aggravated that “some other countries flag is on my flag”, despite its historical significance. I have long felt that the Australian flag is simply unrepresentative of much of Australia. To prove this I only need point to the recent census, which showed that around 9% of the respondents are not actually citizens of this Australia, and that only around 70% were actually born in Australia. So, already we have a significant proportion of the country whose existence in the country has very little to do with its historical ties to Britain. Are they being represented by a flag adorned with the flag of a nation they have (often) nothing to do with? And this is before we even get to the quite large, quite unappreciated, and quite hard-done by Australian Aboriginal population. How does having the union jack on the Australian Flag represent them and their plight in the slightest? How does it show their part in Australia’s history? It doesn’t. It doesn’t acknowledge the part of Australia’s where the British stole the land from the Aboriginals and committed any number of heinous acts. Or, if it does, it glorifies it. Australia’s flag, then, is unrepresentative. It does not represent the original inhabitants of the land, it doesn’t represent the non anglosaxon members that have contributed throughout its history, and it does not represent its current multiculturalism.
Further along in the news piece, we find a quote from the rather staunch Monarchist and purveyor of big ears, Mr Tony Abbott. Among other things, Mr Abbott is quoted as saying “I think it represents our history and I think it represents our future and it’s a flag we can be proud of” and “We shouldn’t be in any way embarrassed about the fact we were once upon a time a British colony”. Well, while I agree that there is no reason to be embarrassed about Australia once being a British colony, I think I have already shown that the Australian Flag adequately represents neither Australia’s history nor its future. It represents a small faction of Australia, those descended from a small group of English migrants, but not so much everyone else. And this will continue to get worse in the future, as it is the immigrants not the British descendants that are the group that are growing exponentially.
Surprisingly, this is one of the few problems that I see, that I do in fact have a suggestion for fixing. While if you go to the Ausflag website (the group dedicated to getting Australia a more representative flag), there are a myriad of suggestions. I think that Australia should keep its current flag and just lose the Union Jack. Apart from the obvious, there is nothing much wrong with the flag as it stands now. The colours are the colours typically found on flags, and the Southern Cross is something unique to those of us in the Southern Hemisphere. It is ambiguous. It is a symbol that has no special significance to race or creed. It represents Australia as a country, and, probably most importantly, is not something that will necessarily alienate Australian Aboriginals. Plus, leaving a space where the Union Jack used to be will serve as a symbol of what used to be. It acknowledges our history without smacking everyone in the face with it. So, to summarize, I agree with Ray Martin.
Originally posted @ Sakalabujan Magazine