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Flag change proposals for the Australian Capital Territory

Last modified: 2015-06-22 by ian macdonald
Keywords: australian capital territory | canberra | bluebell | stars: southern cross | southern cross |
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Bluebell proposals

[Proposal for ACT flag] and [Proposal for ACT flag] both images by Ivo Ostyn, contributed 16 June 2005

Here are two options for an alternative ACT (Australian Capital Territory) flag.

As the designer of the current ACT flag I would like to just explain to anybody who is interested the following.

The current flag was chosen in a referendum by the people of the ACT in 1993. It was one of five designs I drew up for the protocol section of the ACT government after receiving instructions as to what had to be included in the designs. These elements were, the colours blue, gold and white (Colours of the ACT) a 'Modified coat of arms' and the Southern Cross. All five designs had these elements included. I was paid for the designs.

I am an Architectural draftsman by trade with a keen interest in graphic design, flags and heraldry. I thought the design process for a new ACT flag would be a constructive happy process where hopefully my skills and knowledge would be put to good use but unfortunately this was not the end result!

I was not happy with the design results particularly with the 'Modified coat of arms' as I new it to be faulty in strict heraldic terms and it was to complex for it to be useful in a flag anyway. I always feel that a flag should be simple and uncomplicated in design and striking in appearance. A school child should be able to draw the flag easily. Unfortunately the current flag fails in this.

I expressed my concerns to the relevant people who were responsible for the flag process but alas it all fell on deaf ears. The 'Modified coat of arms' was a must have item at this particular time in the flag process. I always felt that using the 'Modified-coat-of-arms' was a big mistake and using the much simpler floral emblem would have been a much better choice.

I submitted an alternative design of my own using the floral emblem of the ACT which I felt was more appropriate and more relevant but this was ignored in the rush to put a flag in place. A change of government, personal preferences by a Chief Minister and poor judgement of design criteria basically led to a sub standard flag. I was very much frustrated by the whole process and not happy with the end result. The bottom line is we could have done better.

Many years later I decided once again to try to convince the government to change the current flag in the hope of correcting the mistakes made in the first attempt. I suggested to them to keep the flag basically the same but delete the silly 'Modified-coat-of-arms' and replace it with the floral emblem of the ACT (the bluebell flower)

I put forward these 2 alternatives designs using the floral emblem. I was fortunate to receive the backing of a local heraldry group and my efforts met with some minor interest by local politicians and the media at the time. Unfortunately a terrible bushfire swept through Canberra at the time and the flag issue became irrelevant. The small flicker of hope for changing the flag faded away quickly and has not re-surfaced since then.
Ivo Ostyn, 16 June 2005

The formal design was one I suggested to the ACT government back in 1992 as a counter proposal to the flags I was commissioned to draw up for them and of which one became the official flag of the ACT. The more free flowing design I designed and drew up in 2002. I put forward both designs to the ACT government late 2002 and early in 2003. I received some favourable responses from local politicians and the media, [before the January 2003 bushfire]. The 'bluebell flower is a small 5 petal flower that grows in clumps in the local region and more so in the nearby alpine mountain regions surrounding the ACT. It is a small delicate flower, mauve in colour. It lends itself well to stylised design and interpretation.
Ivo Ostyn, 17 June 2005

I am sure [the flower] is is Wahlenbergia gloriosa (botanic name) or Royal Bluebell (local name), which is the official Floral Emblem of the Australian Capital Territory. The Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) has a useful web site on the Royal Bluebell here.
Colin Dobson, 10 July 2005

The ANBG site gives this information about the flower and its adoption:

The Royal Bluebell was announced as the floral emblem of the Australian Capital Territory on 26 May 1982 by the Hon. Michael Hodgman, the Minister for the Capital Territory.

This species was the unanimous recommendation of a committee chaired by Dr. Robert Boden, then Director of the Australian National Botanic Gardens. Mr. Max Gray and Professor Lindsay Pryor were invited to join the committee to provide botanical advice on local species to be evaluated as potential floral emblems, and Mrs. Lorna Rudduck and Mr. Derek Wrigley assessed the merits of each species for design purposes. Native occurrence in the Australian Capital Territory was the main criterion accepted by the committee but other desirable features sought in a ranked list of recommendations included horticultural merit and design potential, both in naturalistic and stylised representations.

The genus Wahlenbergia was proposed by Heinrich Schrader, a German botanist, in honour of Georg Goran Wahlenberg (1780-1851), Professor of Botany at Uppsala, Sweden, and described by Albrecht Roth in 1821. The species name gloriosa is Latin for 'superb' or 'glorious', a reference to superb qualities of a plant worthy of cultivation.

The genus Wahlenbergia occurs chiefly in South America, New Zealand and Australia. It belongs to the bluebell family, Campanulaceae, which is distributed mainly in temperate areas of the Northern hemisphere. The use of the common name 'bluebell' for Wahlenbergia species is somewhat confusing as many distantly related genera also share this descriptive common name.

Wahlenbergia gloriosa is a small perennial herb with oblong leaves about 2.5 cm long; the leaf margins are conspicuously waved. The violet blue flowers are up to 2-3 cm in diameter and often appear to have a paler centre due to the light blue base of the petals combined with the purple style which ends in two white stigmas. The flowers may be erect or nodding and are carried on long slender stems.

Royal Bluebell occurs mainly in sub-alpine woodland in the Australian Capital Territory, south-eastern New South Wales and Victoria. It is legally protected throughout its occurrence in the wild.

contributed by Ivan Sache, 15 August 2005

Australian National Flag in canton proposal

From The Canberra Times, 12 February 2002: [page 4]

Redesign bid to make ACT flag easier on the eye

Modifications to the bland ACT flag to make it more aesthetically pleasing could see more Canberrans buying and using it, the Australian National Flag Association said yesterday.

Association ACT president Nigel Morris said he had slightly redesigned the current flag, which was designed and adopted by the ACT Legislative Assembly on March 25, 1993, after design competitions.

Mr Morris recalled going to see the ACT cricket team play and being the only person there with an ACT flag. He thought one of the reasons people were not using it was because it was bland.

His version kept all the existing elements of the flag, and added two more to make it more aesthetically pleasing.

"What I am proposing is a slight improvement to the flag, it is not a radical overhaul to what we have," he said.

"...The upper canton of the flag is the honour point of the flag, and to put the Australian flag there, it has obvious symbolic connotations. It keeps the best points of the existing flag but also enhances the overall meaning. I think people will be more likely to use a flag that highlights the importance of Canberra."

He would take the flag to Probus groups, where we often gave talks, to gauge response to it. If it received a positive response, he would consider organising a petition and lobbying the ACT Government to put the matter to the people at the next election.

The article had an image of the proposed flag. Imagine a gold field with the Australian flag positioned in the top left hand corner. The ACT arms are kind of like a badge in the fly.

In my opinion it is at the very least as good as the current one, although I don't think arms always work on flags. Maybe the Royal Bluebell in the fly might be another option.
Raymond Morris, 22 February 2005

It is worth noting that the lack of ACT flags at the Comets game probably had nothing to do with the design of the flag. The only NSW flags I have seen at quite a few Blues games at the SCG have been the ones on top of the Members and O'Reilly Stands - none in the crowd.
Jonathan Dixon, 1 March 2005

The reaction to the flag was encouraging. A few people said if the Australian flag changed then this would mean the ACT flag would need to be changed again meaning the Morris design was a luxury the ACT could not afford. It was interesting that even folks who thought along those lines still accepted the existing Australian flag as the natural order of things. The symbolism of having the national flag - irrespective of its design - on the flag of Australia's capital territory was a concept that folks had little difficulty understanding.

Mr Morris knows former ACT Chief Minister Gary Humphries and I know he spoke to him about the matter before he moved to the Senate. Humphries had himself floated a proposal for a new ACT flag in 2003 - replacing the coat of arms with the Royal Bluebell. I don't always think arms work on flags and Humphries did argue that school children would have an easier time drawing his flag. Humprhies was ACT opposition leader then and he said quite a number of people have written to him about the ACT flag and the need for change. He did tell Mr. Morris that the public would have to show more interest in the issue before the matter could be considered in the ACT Assembly.
Raymond Morris, 1 March 2005