Should the Australian flag be changed?

0:00

The debate about whether Australia needs a new flag often divides people across the nation.

A survey by Western Sydney University has reignited the contentious issue.

The university's Dr Benjamin Jones is conducting research to find out opinions and attitudes towards the Australian flag.

Dr Jones says Australia stands as one of the only nations to still cling to its colonial past.

He believes it's time for a change.

"I think it fails to represent us as a free and independent country," he said.

"It represents the British dominion that we were in 1901, not the thriving, vibrant, multicultural nation that we are today."

However, Philip Benwell from the Australian Monarchist League argues the current flag reflects Australia's past.

"The flag means a lot to people, particularly those who have fought under the flag and to many Australians who value the flag. It represents our country, our system of government and virtually everything that we are," he said.

As part of The Alternative Australian Flag Survey, Dr Benjamin Jones is asking participants to choose their favourite flag from six popular alternative designs.

                     

Mr Benwell criticised the format of the survey.

"There's nothing wrong about having a survey but in this incidence....there's no alternative viewpoint, there's no provision for people to vote to retain the existing flag and I think that's wrong," he said.

Dr Jones defended his survey, saying there were six different designs that participants can choose their favourite one from.

"They're also given space to say if they don't like any of them and what elements they think should be in there," he said.

"One of the questions does ask if you think the flag should be changed at all."

The survey is partly inspired by the recent two-stage flag referendum in New Zealand.

Dr Jones said Australia had never had a democratic process to choose a new flag.

"We had a competition in 1901 that only offered advice and it needed to have a British emblem in there and a symbol of the British empire and in 1953 the Menzies government simply passed a flags act to say that this is now the Australian national flag," he said.

However Mr Benwell said the Australian flag competition in 1901 resulted in 32,823 entries from Australian men, women and children.

An expert panel of Australian judges assessed the entries and selected what was basically the current Australian flag as the winner and this was proclaimed in February 1903.

A seventh point was added to the Commonwealth Star to represent the territories in 1908. In 1953 the Australian Parliament enacted the Commonwealth Government Flags Act 1953 to confirm, not to establish, the flag as the Australian National Flag.

Furthermore, Mr Benwell questioned the necessity for a change.

"The Australian flag as it stands, represents the people that built up modern Australia," he said.

"It represents the institutions that came to us from the British. We have the English language, our laws came from Britain, our constitution derived from Britain but then became totally Australian. But we shouldn't, because we are Australian, just chuck our past aside."

Participants in the Western Sydney University's Alternative Australian Flag Survey have until Australia Day (January 26) to finalise their selection.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch