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Union Jacks and Southern Skies - part one, section two

Competition for a Flag

Viewing the necessity for a flag to represent the new Commonwealth of Australia, the Imperial Authorities, through the British Secretary of State for the Commonwealth, requested the Australian Government to suggest a flag design.(3) To achieve this, the Government decided to hold a flag competition.

However, the groundwork for such a competition had already been laid by a Melbourne journal, The Review of Reviews for Australasia. Indeed, a Melbourne newspaper, the Evening Herald, had previously conducted its own flag competition.

In October 1900, the Review of Reviews, had announced a competition to design a flag for the soon-to-be Australian Commonwealth. The 1st of February 1901 was originally set as the closing date for the competition. The Premiers of the six Australian colonies had agreed to act as judges, with the first prize being 50 (quite a large sum in those days).(4)

While the competition was still under way the Federal Government announced that it was also going to hold a flag competition, offering a prize of 75. It was then agreed that the two competitions would combine, so that "entries sent to the journal should be considered as entries for the government competition, and visa versa". The Review of Reviews increased its prize to 75, and the Havelock Tobacco Company made a donation of 50, bringing the prize to 200. New judges were chosen as the State Premiers felt that they should not judge a Commonwealth contest.(5)

The Government published the details of its competition in the Government Gazette of 29th April 1901, but gave no requirements as to the design of the flag. The earlier flag competition of the Evening Herald, had stipulated that the flag must include both the Union Jack and the Southern Cross. The Review of Reviews, in the preamble accompanying its own "Conditions of Competition", noted this condition of the Herald's competition, and specifically wrote that "it seems unwise to fetter the competition with any such absolute limitations". However, in the same preamble, the Review of Reviews clearly stated that any entry for the flag competition "which omitted these symbols might have small chance of success", as well as putting forward the challenge to create a flag "which shall at once express kinship with the Empire".(6)

Union Jacks and Southern Skies

Australian Nationalism Information Database -