A significant piece of Australian history was unfurled on 3 September 1901 when the new Australian flag was flown for the first time over the Royal Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne.
In earlier days, the British Union flag was used as the flag of Australia but an emerging national identity provided the drive for a distinctive Australian banner.
After Federation on 1 January 1901, the newly formed Government of the Commonwealth of Australia held a competition for the design od an Australian flag which attracted over 32,000 entries for the £200 prize – a considerable sum of money at the time. The entries were displayed at the Exhibition Building with the judges taking six days to select the winners.
Five of the entries were virtually identical –a dark blue background with the Union flag in the top left above a large single star, and a depiction of the Southern Cross to the right – chosen as the winning design.
The Government decided to split the prize and each of the five successful entrants – including a fourteen year-old boy, Ivor Evans – received £40.
Not everyone was pleased with the design though. It was very similar to the flag of Victoria and opponents, particularly from within the NSW Government, lamented the fact that it was “too Victorian”.
However the flag was ratified on 11 February 1903 when the Prime Minister, Edmund Barton announced that King Edward VII had officially recognised the design as “the flag of Australia”.
On the 4th September The Argus reported on the unfurling:
In years to come the flag which floated yesterday in the Exhibition-building over her
Excellency the Countess of Hopetoun, who stood for Great Britain, and the Prime
Minister (Mr Barton), who stood for Australia, will, in all human probability, become the
emblem upon which the millions of the free people of the Commonwealth will gaze with a thrill of national pride.
Image: Australian Flag, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons