Proposed new Australian republic flag

Nov 27, 2013
  • Article by Online Editor

It’s not only Governor General Quentin Bryce controversially flying in the face of the monarchists, John Warwicker, Professor of Design at Monash Art Design & Architecture and Founder of English design studio, Tomato, has designed a proposed new Australian republic flag as part of ‘On Top of the World: Flags for Melbourne’, Stewart Russell’s project for Melbourne Now that commissioned 16 artists to create flags for specific sites and to hang in the Great Hall at the NGV.

At first glance the flag, which is flying atop the Exhibition Building this week, looks like the Aboriginal flag. But, look again. Warwicker’s new design proposal is strikingly simple, essentially re-imagining the present Australian flag. It respects the genre of flag design and subtly reorders the 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.”

John Warwicker of Monash Art Design & Architecture and Tomato’s proposed new Australian republic flag flying atop the Exhibition Building.


His design acknowledges the indigenous ground and people’s relationship to the land. Also represented is the sky and the Southern Cross. “It’s important that the new flag is inclusive to all Australians – past, present and future and a symbol of reconciliation between our Indigenous deep past and the relatively recent colonisation. This flag recognises both in, I hope, respectful harmony.

“The flag, with the 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. For the Indigenous population it is stability, the ever since and the ever more,” Warwicker says.

He adds that the Southern Cross 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, the sun and the red ground represents the destination. The sun also represents the potential.”

“It may be heretical,” he continues, “but the 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 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.

Other MADA artists involved in ‘On Top of the World: Flags for Melbourne’ are Professor of Fine Art Callum Morton (Haymarket roundabout), Tom Nicholson (Trades Hall) and Brook Andrew (Flinders St).

‘On Top of the World: Flags for Melbourne’ is on display in the Great Hall at National Gallery of Victoria NGVI.

Conversation • 5 comments

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27 Nov 13 at 2:49 PM • Sarah Hobday-North

NOWarchitecture Directors Judith North and Neville Cowland entered the 1997 Ausflag competition and came second in the people’s choice with a similar concept. See the link for the winners of the competition.

This is a discussion that has been on the table for a long time! Also see the results from the 1991 competition at

27 Nov 13 at 4:45 PM • Ben Fitzgerald

Having one national flag (the Aboriginal flag) represented in another of the same nations flag (Australia) would weaken the importance of the included flag. The Aboriginal communities deserve to have a flag with a strong identity. This new design would weaken that.

10 Dec 13 at 7:56 AM • Andrew Ryan

Check a range of great alternatives here:

17 Aug 14 at 6:45 AM • John Clarke

I like this design very much, and I like the thinking behind it. However, even while being attracted by this design I can see problems with its symbolism – by incorporating the Aboriginal flag it has immediately signalled non-inclusion of Torres Strait Islanders who are also Australia’s First peoples, the blue colour reminds us of our confused colonial past where we adopted what is officially described as a “defaced ensign” of another country but which was after all supposed to be red; and the popular southern cross is so small here that it would be difficult to see when the flag is flown and appears like an afterthought. In short, too many design features trying to do too much. We’ll never get consensus on a new flag. As was the case with Canada we just need one imposed, there’ll be a few years of hysterical complaints and then we’ll all start to associate it with the country that we love and through that association we’ll come to love the new flag as well. Seeing this design flying atop the Exhibition Buildings makes me realise that the design feature that stands out is the golden disk of the sun. What more appropriate symbol for Australia is that? The life giver, the outdoor lifestyle, the special light of our landscape art. Why not a flag that is simply the golden disk of the sun on a solid background – either brown for the earth, blue for the sky, green as an allusion to blooming wattle. No need to over design.

30 Jul 15 at 6:59 AM • JDM

Appropriating the Aboriginal flag to integrate into another flag, would undermine its meaning and uniqueness as a symbol of Aboriginal Australia. Additionally it risks alienating the part of Australian society that is not Aboriginal (inc. Torres Strait Islanders).

Also, the Southern Cross is not explicitly Australian but could represent any nation under it in the southern hemisphere, the Crux constellation is also visible from several places in the northern hemisphere. In terms of cultural significance, the Crux, like all constellations, played an important role in the belief systems of many cultures in the southern hemisphere.

Several other nations also carry the Southern Cross on their national flags, such as; Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and New Zealand. It also appears on numerous provincial flags in the southern hemisphere.


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