The iconic symbols of Australia include the Sydney Opera House, the boomerang, the kangaroo and the emu. But what about the Australian national flag? Like any other flag the Australian flag is full of symbolism and stirs pride in Australians, young and old alike. The origins of the flag are plain to see: Australia was settled by the British in 1788 and remained a colony until its independence in 1901. However, Australia remains a member of the Commonwealth and, as such, has chosen to retain the British Union Flag in the national flag. The 6 stars represent the Southern Cross constellation which have, by themselves, grown to become a very commonly seen symbol of Australia. This constellation is very prominent in the southern hemisphere and clearly visible in the night sky above Australia. Each of the stars is seven-pointed and are known as Commonwealth Stars. Originally there were six points to represent the 6 colonies that made up Australia (New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, Northern Territory and South Australia). Later they were changed to 7 points to represent the extra colony of Papua New Guinea, which was at the time a dependent territory. Most countries use the colours in their flag as their national colours, but not Australia. Australia’s national colours – as used in sport and elsewhere – are the vibrant green and gold, not the red, white and blue of the flag. This is almost certainly a move away from the colours that are found in the British flag. The future of the Australian flag is up for debate. Could a new flag with the green and gold colours, the distinctive shapes of a kangaroo and a boomerang replace the ex-colonial look of the current flag? A referendum on becoming a republic is currently not high on the political agenda in Australia, but surely it’s only a matter of time.
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