This Thursday marked 110 years since the current design of the Australian national flag made its public debut.
In 1901, Australia’s first Prime Minister Sir Edmund Barton launched an international competition for the public to design a flag for the Commonwealth of Australia. According to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, five near-identical entries were awarded first place after more than 30,000 entries were received.
The original design of the flag featured a Commonwealth star that had only six points, which represented the six states in Australia at the time. However, a new Commonwealth Star was introduced in 1908, with an extra point added to reflect Australia’s territories. The flag has remained unchanged ever since.
While there have been calls for decades for the current design of the flag to be changed and updated, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull publicly declared that he didn’t think the flag would ever change.
“I don’t think the Australian flag will ever be changed,” he said at an Australia Day gathering in Canberra at the time, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “That’s the one [young Australians] have on their backpacks when they are travelling overseas, that’s the flag that our soldiers have on their shoulder patches. That is our flag.”
His comments came after apolitical, non-profit organisation Augflag launched a campaign to change the existing design of the flag. The organisation, which was founded in 1981, has been aiming to secure the public support for the adoption of a new Australian flag for decades.
While the organisation isn’t and has never been anti-British, it is pro-Australian and is calling for a flag that represents the Australian nation and its people, Australia’s past, present and future, the land, the country’s equality and diversity, achieves, as well as Australia’s hopes and aspirations.
“We can do much better,” the organisation’s website states. “Help us create a flag which tells ‘our’ story, not someone else’s.”
A number of flags are selected for submission each year to Augflag, with most ditching the Union Jack but still including the Southern Cross. Earlier this year, the organisation launched a design for a new Australian Flag, which replaced the Union Jack with another Commonwealth Star.
“This new minimalist/evolutionary design is based on the ‘Commonwealth Star’ (commonly known as the Federation Star) replacing the Union Jack,” Augflag Executive Director Harold Scruby said at the time. “It could not be more simple. It′s a natural progression.”
He explained that the current design symbolises Great Britain dominating Australia.
“It depicts Australia as a British colony: A veritable British branch office. This new design puts the Australian Commonwealth in the primary position,” Scruby explained. “It celebrates ‘egalitarianism’ over ‘aristocracy’. It celebrates ‘independence’ over ‘dominance’. It celebrates Australians united by a common interest.”
He added that changing the flag is no more anti-British than when the national anthem was changed from ‘God Save the Queen’ to ‘Advance Australia Fair’.
Meanwhile, a 2016 survey from found 64 per cent of people think the flag should be changed.
Western Sydney University surveyed 8,140 people on six flag designs for Australia in the lead up to Australia Day, with researcher Benjamin Jones explaining at the time that Australians have never truly had a democratic process in choosing the national flag.
He explained that the flag selected in 1901 required a British element and British approval.
Of course, there are plenty of people that think the flag should stay the same, with many sharing their thoughts on Ausflag’s Facebook page.
“No need to waste time and money leave it alone,” one person wrote.
Another added: “Are Australians so scared of change that we have to go with the most boring flag in the history of flags to get the people over the line?”