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Ray Martin is not right

By Brian Holden - posted Friday, 5 February 2010

“I think we have to grow up and move to the next stage” says Ray Martin about our flag.

We do need to grow up - but I take a more serious position on the subject than Ray Martin because I am aware that the DNA of every human on Earth can be traced back to the one woman. We call her Mitochondrial Eve and she lived in Africa about 150,000 years ago. She’s my mum, Ray’s mum, Albert Namatjira’s mum and Osama bin Laden’s mum.

So, one day we might finally grow up and realise that there is only one homo sapiens and there will be no saluting of flags and the world’s resources will be divided fairly. A pipe dream? Not really - because if we don’t, then what remains of our species after massive violence will be living a very basic and altruistic life in order to survive.


Anyway, getting away from the bigger picture, at present we are stuck with having a flag and an anthem and we chase for Olympic glory and other such patriotic things. Greg Barns has contributed an article “Ray Martin is right” to On Line Opinion with which I have a few problems.

He tells us that the premier of Victoria wants to keep the flag that our soldiers died under. While not a compelling point, I differ from Barns in that I believe it to be a reasonable one as we have such little recorded history in this country. Without Gallipoli and Kokoda to get emotional over, we are pretty-well without a national focus. (We have of course a marvellous biological and geological identity - but only a minority of the population seem to be emotionally affected by that fact.)

The boxing kangaroo flag was good in its day. Soon after the America’s Cup series of races had been run my son, while hiking in the US, would hold up the boxing kangaroo flag. He claimed that the first or second car would always stop for him.

So, flags are currently essential for a nation’s identity, and what we have on our flag requires serious thought. When I see kangaroos which have been shot hanging off a fence, I feel it would be hypocritical having a phoney reverence for something we kill for money on our flag. Without the roo, however, our flag designers are somewhat limited.

Any place for indigenous graphics?

When the British arrived, the original inhabitants had no flag as there was no nation. There is no historical Aboriginal flag. While the black, red and yellow flag we see now is highly effective as a symbolic focal point, it is not a traditional indigenous graphic. It is a post-1967 activists’ flag - just as the Eureka flag of 1854 is now the unionists’ banner waved at their demonstrations. Adding the black, red and yellow flag to a new national flag has to be ruled out as we cannot have narrow political viewpoints represented on our flag.


It would also be hypocritical on a flag to have any symbol (such as the boomerang) of a human race we drove away from their food and water and wiped out over half of their population with smallpox. I have it on good authority that the Aborigines are totally fed-up with feel-good symbolic gestures that their financially comfortable non-Aboriginal supporters use to hold their guilt at bay.

(I have my own Aboriginal symbolism. It is a spectacular rock face near where I live. I sometimes imagine Aborigines living close by - a long, long time ago. They saw the spirits of the ancestors in that rock. It is in that timeless rock that I see a memorial to that lost way of life. In this context, coloured bunting on a stick has no relevance.)

Does the Union Jack mean anything now?

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About the Author

Brian Holden has been retired since 1988. He advises that if you can keep physically and mentally active, retirement can be the best time of your life.

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