Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia for National Flag Day 3 September 2005
National Flag Day – a time of celebration, of recalling our history, of reaffirming and proclaiming our unique national identity as the great southern continent.
One hundred and four years ago the newly federated Australia, emerging from the 19th century and poised on the threshold of a vibrant era of opportunity, sought to create a national flag to symbolically define its nationhood. One can imagine the extraordinary interest in the public design competition which ultimately drew almost 33,000 entries. The winning five designs which were generally identical were adopted as the basis of Australia’s national flag. It has remained thus, largely unchanged, in the years since.
The Australian National Flag continues to be one of the principal symbols of our nation during more than a century of stable democracy, in wars and depressions, as well as the many golden moments of singular accomplishment – including in science, the arts, sport and agriculture. As a diverse community, Australians have achieved distinction in far greater measure than our medium nation status might otherwise suggest.
Indeed, as the constitutional lawyers, Quick and Garran, noted in their commentary on the Australian Constitution, “Never before have a group of self-governing, practically independent communities, without external pressure or foreign complications of any kind, deliberately chosen of their own free will to put aside their provincial jealousies and come together as one people. The Australian Commonwealth, the fifth great federation of the world, came into voluntary being through a deep conviction of national unity.”
I commend National Flag Day to all Australians as an occasion to reflect on what our unified nation has achieved so convincingly. It is a magnificent story of innovation, nous and contribution.