For the last 115 years, our flag has accompanied Australia on its journey of nationhood; a symbol of our historical ties and a symbol of our achievements.
On the third of September 1901, at approximately 2:30pm, a new Australian flag featuring stars and crosses was hoisted for the first time above the Royal Exhibition building in Melbourne—which was the site of our first Federal Parliament.
Prime Minister Edmund Barton announced it as the winning design of a competition which attracted more than 30,000 entries worldwide.
Four Australians and one New Zealander were pronounced joint winners of the competition.
One was a well-known female artist from Perth; one a Melbourne school boy of just 14; another an 18 year old optician’s apprentice; one an architect; and another a First Officer with the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand.
They were from different backgrounds and had diverse skills.
And, yet, those different perspectives led them all to a nearly identical design, combining the Southern Cross and the Union Jack.
Even before this competition, Australians had begun to raise ‘unofficial’ flags—often featuring the Southern Cross in place of the Union Jack.
They had wanted a flag that would represent them and their fledgling nation—a flag that would unite them.
Today, our flag is part of our identity as a nation.
We are a country with a diverse population, yet the flag connects us all.
We express pride in our country with it.
Wherever it is flown, it signifies to others where we live—in the great land under the Southern Cross.
We raise it in triumph at sporting events and we wear it on t-shirts and paint it on our faces to let the world know who we’re cheering for.
With the Olympics only recently wrapping up in Brazil, the first time the Australian flag flew at an Olympics was at the St Louis games in the USA in 1904. In that year the Australian team had a whopping total of one athlete.
The first time it was raised to celebrate an Olympic medal win was at the London games in 1908 for our Rugby team.
Our flag is displayed as a mark of respect and remembrance for our servicemen and women who have served under it.
Nineteen-fourteen was the year the new Australian flag was first flown in an act of war when it flew over the army fort at Queenscliff, Victoria when it opened fire to prevent a German steamer from leaving port.
One flag fact which is partially close me as my great uncle was a POW in Singapore during WW2 is that our flag was the first flag to fly over the liberated Singapore in 1945. This particular flag was one secretly made by POWs in a prison camp.
The Australian flag is our foremost national symbol; a symbol of a peaceful, democratic and just country.
It has been a constant while our society, our nation and our world has undergone monumental change.
On this National Flag Day I encourage you to fly our national symbol with pride to celebrate not just our flag but all it has come to represent.