Australia's three flags tell the unvarnished story of our nation
Patrick Gorman MP
THE WEST AUSTRALIAN
3 SEPTEMBER 2022
September is a patriotic month.
It begins with Wattle Day, we celebrate Flag Day and ends with the AFL grand final.
All moments to reflect on the nation we love and how we bring people together for a better future.
When Anthony Albanese took to the podium for his first press conference as Prime Minister at Parliament House, he stood not in front of one flag, but three. The Australian national flag. The Australian Aboriginal flag. The Torres Strait Islander flag.
To some, this change may have appeared insignificant.
To others it instantly represented another step towards greater inclusion.
A reminder of where we are as a nation, and where we can walk to together.
On seeing all three flags behind the Prime Minister of Australia, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Linda Burney MP, got a lump in her throat.
“The thoughtfulness, the nod to respect (and) the inclusivity of the gesture was something everyone noticed and really appreciated,” she reflected.
Some may say symbols don’t matter.
But they do.
Because symbols, however small, always represent something bigger.
In this case, they represented renewal, a fresh start, and the Albanese Government’s deep desire to build stronger foundations with First Nations people.
This is why on the 3rd of September each year we recognise Flag Day.
The Australian national flag is an expression of Australian identity and pride.
It has been 51 years since the Australian Aboriginal flag was flown for the first time.
Today we see it fly alongside the blue sea, green land, white Dhari headdress and five-pointed star of the Torres Strait Islander flag.
These flags remind us all of the courage and resilience of First Australians.
Challenging us to reflect on the true and unvarnished history of our nation.
Standing alongside the Australian national flag they invite us to continue to build an ever more inclusive Australia.
The opportunity to imagine the inclusivity an Indigenous Voice to Parliament could bring.
Because the work of building Australia is never done.
Upon Federation on 1 January 1901 the Australian flag had not yet been chosen.
It would take another eight months before the design was announced.
It took two years for it to then be approved by King Edward VII and then another 50 years before the flag was protected in the Flags Act 1953.
However, our flags are not Australia’s only national symbols.
The opal is another.
Australia first began mining opals for commercial purposes in the early 1900s, but Dreaming stories tell us First Nations people have admired opals for millennia.
The Dreaming goes that their vibrant colours would form when a rainbow touched the earth.
The golden wattle is similarly iconic, and also holds special significance for First Nations people.
Whether soaked in water and honey to produce a sweet, toffee-like substance, or stripped for its antiseptic-rich tannins, the golden wattle has for thousands of years been a source of nourishment and healing.
The wattle is adaptable and resilient, found right across our continent and kept alive by tough seeds able to survive even the worst drought, wind, or fire.
The wattle’s resilience officially represents the spirit of the Australian people.
They welcome people into a deeper understanding of Australian history.
That is why I have sent every school in Australia a pack of educational resources around the importance of our national symbols.
Educating children on the history of our flags, our symbols, our country.
Supporting Australia’s teachers to teach the deep lessons of our history.
Enabling our country to continue to grow and thrive for centuries to come, just like the golden wattle.
Patrick Gorman is the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Member for Perth.