Tuesday, 24 May 2022

We have a flag in this country

and it is a flag we should fight to keep. There are plenty of people who would like to see it changed, for  it to become "more representative" or "less divisive" or more or less something else.

The reality is that it is a flag which represents both our past and our future and we need to be reminded of both. It is the one flag which should be used in many places. There is the "Union Jack" in one corner and the "Southern Cross" stars across the other and they should be respected. 

Like it or not we were not a nation until 1901 - Federation. For all the arguments to the contrary the indigenous people of this country were not a nation. They did not travel from west to east or east to west, north to south or south to north in order to form one people. There was no national government. At most there was only limited contact with adjacent tribal groupings. Languages were so diverse they were not understood outside relatively small geographical areas. There are many other arguments against indigenous or "first nation" statehood. We first came together under the Union Jack, as a British colony. The Southern Cross was added later. It's important but it is only part of the story. There are many other things which contributed towards making our flag. This is our national flag. It is supposed to take precedence over all other flags when other flags of this country are flying.

We also have an "Aboriginal" flag. It was first used in 1971 and was finally given an official acknowledgment in 1995. There is also a Torres Strait Island flag - in use since 1992. 

The new government has already breached the accepted protocol on the flying of the flags.It has also made clear its intention to make some other divisive moves under the guise of "accepting" and "uniting" us. Perhaps the intention therefore is to try an persuade us that the national flag is no longer there to unite us but to divide us?

National flags are often items of great pride. There are huge flags - like the one on top of Parliament House in our national capital - and small flags. I remember waving one when Queen Elizabeth came to visit and I was a mere kitten. Almost everyone had one. Later I learned to hoist, lower and fold a flag as part of my Guiding training. We saluted the flag every Friday through primary school. We were taught about the structure and meaning of it.

It concerns me now that, instead of doing those things, the "Aboriginal" flag or the "rainbow" flag or some other flag may get flown  - as if these things take precedence over nationhood. Suggesting that all indigenous people were and are "one" is not correct. I know some who are strongly opposed to the flag which is supposed to represent them. They see it as something which marks them apart from the rest of the country when they want to be part of it - even when they acknowledge that other people feel differently. A male same-sex couple I know well are absolutely opposed to any suggestion that a "rainbow" flag should ever be flown. My own view is that, if they must be flown, neither of these flags should ever take precedence over the national flag - and that is in keeping with the law.  It seems the new government is prepared to flout that law in the name of some sort of pseudo "inclusive" gesture.

I know other people will feel differently, very differently. Much is made of our "multi-cultural" and "diverse" society - all thoroughly acceptable as long as you are not seen as one of the unacceptable persons of "WASP" (white, Anglo Saxon Protestant)  heritage. 

But whatever our backgrounds (and mine is very definitely Scots WASP) we should be able to come together under a flag which acknowledges our past as a nation and the future that is possible only because of it.


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