A short piece to commemorate Australia’s national flag day on 3 September
Sean Jacobs, Online Opinion, 20 August 2014
‘Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart,’ supposedly said Winston Churchill. ‘Show me an old Liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains.’
Today it’s common to hear that young Australians aren’t interested in politics. This coincides with a perceived weariness toward democracy not just in Australia but supposedly increasing across the Western world.
Certainly, the unique benefits of Australia’s formal institutions, from the rule of law to parliamentary democracy, don’t always invite tender reflection among a young population charging ahead with unprecedented affluence and opportunities. Promoting national icons like the Australian Flag, therefore, has its obvious hurdles.
Designed by public competition in 1901, around 33,000 entrants answered Prime Minister Edmund Barton’s advertisement for a National Flag in the Government Gazette. A diverse cast of five, which even included a schoolboy, an architect and an 18-year old female artist, emerged as combined winners due to their virtually identical designs. Since 1901the Flag has endured as Australia’s peak national symbol – from the war-ravaged Western Front to the tranquillity of schoolyards, cultural ceremonies and sporting events across the country.