Running a New Design Up The Flagpole

Published:  November 27, 2013
Running a New Design Up The Flagpole

Impeccably timed with Governor General Quentin Bryce’s comments over the weekend, John Warwicker, Professor of Design at Monash Art Design & Architecture and Founder of English design studio, Tomato, has designed a new Australian republic flag as part of On Top of the World: Flags for Melbourne. Forming a part of Stewart Russell’s project for Melbourne Now, selected designers and artists have been invited to create flags for specific sites around the city, and to hang in the Great Hall at the NGV.

Warwicker’s flag, flying atop the Exhibition Building this week, is strikingly simple, essentially bringing together the present Australia flag with the Aboriginal flag. Warwicker’s proposed design acts within the traditional bounds of flag design and subtly re-orders existing elements.

“The change to a republic should – and will not – be one predicated on political and social upheaval, there will be no revolution, just a change in thinking and sense of self,” says Warwicker. “In this context, the minor adjustments seem to be appropriate: a small change meaning a lot. Profundity sometimes comes from small adjustments rather than radical change.”

The foundation of his design acknowledges an indigenous grounding and people’s relationship to the land, and timeless relationship with the sun. “It’s important that the new flag is inclusive to all Australians – past, present and future — and a symbol of reconciliation between our ancient Indigenous past and the relatively recent colonisation. This flag recognises both in, I hope, respectful harmony,” Warwicker explains. “The flag, with its sun, the symbol of life, renewal and hope, is shared between those that were here first, the historical immigrants, our current population and, of course, those that are to come.”

The flag has also retained the Southern Cross, which Warwicker says is representative of all travellers and all stars. “The stars are how we have navigated our way to Australia, so the Southern Cross represents the journey. “Latest research points to a migration from Sri Lanka/India some 35-40,000 years ago, as well as migration south from the land bridge north of present day Australia… so the design is resonant of the fact that we are all migrants and we have navigated our way to Australia by the stars.”

Officially unfurled earlier this week, Warwicker’s design has approval from Harold Thomas, designer of the indigenous flag, and will fly above the Exhibition Building until 23 March 2014.

Republic 2013
Royal Exhibition Building & Great Hall National Gallery of Victoria 4m x 2m digital print on flag bunting
National Gallery of Victoria
On Top of the World: Flags for Melbourne
Curator Stewart Russell On display in the Great Hall at NGV

10 Responses

  1. Nahum

    I’d happily support that, there needs to be more respect shown to the original land owners of this country.

  2. No. No. No. Why is it that we have to try to design flags with such complexity trying to weave in history? Canada have it right in my mind. There should be no reference to history just focus on a symbol that is unique to this country/continent. Australia owns the Southern Cross in my opinion. It belongs to this continent and its in habitats no matter what colour, race or religion. And whats wrong with the gold and green? I reckon a simple gold southern cross on a green background would do the trick and not offend anyone. Wwe have to pick something that is inclusive to all!


  3. Peter Kealey

    This flag design is certainly an improvement over some of the cobbled together, overly complicated flag designs that have been bandied about over the years, however I still feel it needs to be simplified even further. The best international flag designs are extremely simple e.g. The Japanese and Canadian. Basically just two colours (or one if you consider white to not be a ‘colour’) and a simple design element – a circle representing the sun on the Japanese flag and a simplified maple leaf on the Canadian.

  4. Ken Murrey

    Other things aside, the design does not adhere to flag design principles. A primary rule is that colours should be separated by a metal (gold or silver) in order for the flag remains recognisable at a distance. In this case the black and blue, particularly, are indistinguishable.

  5. wee

    The article says “…a symbol of reconciliation between our ancient Indigenous past and the relatively recent colonisation. This flag recognises both in, I hope, respectful harmony”. I’d have to ask where the recognition of the “recent colonisation” is in the flag design. But I agree with some of the other comments. A simple flag with a simple design and preferably in Green and gold seeing as they are already recognised as our national colours. As well as the southern cross, a boomerang is a uniquely Australian symbol and shape.

  6. Kal

    What better way to communicate the ongoing inequality between Aboriginal people and Anglos than by bastardising the Aboriginal flag and slapping a southern cross in the corner as an afterthought? Brilliant. The aesthetic disharmony speaks volumes.

    If we do ever become a republic, I think we need to be very careful not to try and work too much into the design—from both an aesthetic and political perspective. I tend to agree with Brad, that the southern cross on its own is a symbol that represents Australia without alienating any of its citizens. The stars were floating above us before and after British colonisation.

  7. Mister B

    Ugly ugly UGLY!!! Surely design is a visual as well as intellectual excercise? No amount of reconciliation symbolism and talk about respecting cultures is going to make those colours look good together. Sheesh.

  8. Cat

    This flag is a wonderful representation of Australia’s past, present and future. It should not be condemned, but rather paraded through the streets with pride. Anyone who thinks our national flag should be green and gold is evidently ignorant to what it means to be Australian. John Warwicker is a visionary who should be respected and cherished for his work.

  9. Our new flag should equally represent all Australians. It should avoid symbolism that promotes one cultural group over another (much like the Union Jack does). What is required is a unifying symbol that resonates with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

    Appropriating the colours and symbolism of the Aboriginal and TSI flags for another flag, would only undermine their meaning and uniqueness as symbols of Indigenous Australia. In a sense it would make them less able to represent just the Aboriginal people, which is the purpose of the Aboriginal flag.

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