Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9287

Mr NIKOLIC (Bass) (13:08): I thank the member for Ryan for bringing this motion to the House just ahead of National Flag Day which commemorates the original unfurling of the Australian national flag on 3 September 1901. It gives me great pleasure with the members for McEwen and Hasluck to support this motion as something very close to my heart and to Tasmanian hearts—Australia's principal national emblem, our national flag and the renewed importance of continuing to honour it.

Residents of Tasmania have special reason to celebrate the Australian National Flag Day on 3 September given the role of some of its citizens in creating the flag, a role that was both pivotal and enduring. In 1849 a group of Launceston women made a large silk flag to a design by local Minister John West for the Tasmanian campaign to end the transportation of convicts from Britain. That design comprised the British blue ensign with the stars of the Southern Cross. Thereafter, Reverend West took the flag to an anti-transportation conference in Melbourne in 1851 where it was accepted as a symbol of unity of the Australian colonies.

Remember, this was 50 years before Federation and the competition that would eventually select the Australian national flag. That competition, in 1901, saw nearly 33,000 entries received, and the Australian flag was created from five similar designs. It was noted at the time that the composite winner bore a remarkable resemblance to the silk flag produced by the Launceston ladies 50 years earlier. The stars on the Southern Cross were coloured yellow, but the similarity was remarkable and clearly highlighted the fact that the flag produced by those Launceston ladies 50 years earlier had found its way into the hearts of many across the Australian colonies. The Launceston-design flag was presented to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in 1896, where it now resides, and I had the very great privilege of seeing this rare, original flag displayed at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston just two weeks ago. As the curator unrolled it, many metres long, there was no doubt of the lineage and connection of this flag, produced 50 years earlier, with the one our country selected in 1901. Launcestonians should be justifiably proud of this lineage and connection. Parochially, I see this as yet another case of Tasmania and Tasmanians punching above their weight in terms of enduring national influence.

The winning flag from the 1901 competition was unfurled for the first time on 3 September 1901 above the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, which was then the seat of the federal parliament. It is a flag that continues to stir the soul whenever it is displayed in Lions and Rotary clubs, RSLs and schools right around the country or when it rises in celebration of yet another Australian sporting victory. On a more personal note, our national flag is a daily reminder to me of its ability to unite and inspire all Australians, regardless of race, creed or background. It is a very tangible symbol of collective Australian unity in arguably the most efficiently functioning multicultural democracy in the world. Daily media reports about troubles in other lands seek only to highlight and reinforce Australia's unique international standing and good fortune. Truly Australia remains the lucky country.

I came to Australia and Australian citizenship from Europe in May 1965. Almost 50 years later, amongst my proudest boasts as an Australian citizen are and will always remain the opportunity to, with my wife, Christine, raise a family of three children in this wonderful and free country and the opportunity and privilege to serve for over three decades as an officer in the Australian Regular Army and to lead our soldiers in both peace and war under this flag, now in its 114th year. May it continue to fly proudly above us for another century and more. On that note, I close by encouraging everyone to fly the Australian flag on 3 September as a reminder of the common pride we have in our nation, our unique connection to its origins and a collective countenance to ensure that our best days under this flag lie ahead of us.