It is time for the community to have a discussion about what, if any, protections are needed around the use of the Eureka flag.
That is the message to come from the Ballarat’s leaders.
The flag has been put firmly on the agenda with many in community believing the meaning behind the flag is being lost by the way it was being used by some.
Ballarat MP Catherine King previously put forth a private members’ bill in 2004 which would see the flag added to Flags Act. However, Ms King said it was not clear how much protection such a move would give the flag.
“If you restricted use it restricts usage with of all groups,” she said.
“I think it is time we had a discussion whether or not its needs further protection. I would be very distressed to see it being used by the far right on election ballot papers.”
Earlier this week The Courier revealed the far right-wing Australia First Party has plans to use the flag as its logo on election ballot papers. While the Australian Electoral Commission could not confirm a submission has been made, the logo is yet to be advertised for objections.
The move has been widely condemned given the party’s policies which include a point that government support of multiculturalism should be abolished.
However, Ms King said over time the flag has been widely used across the political spectrum.
“I think throughout its entire history it has been used by different groups, by the far left and far right,” she said.
“I can’t imagine the miners in 1854 would have possibly envisioned the uses in today’s society.
“I think people in Ballarat know (what the flag represents), we understand its place in history.
“Many people see it in other contexts and don’t understand what its historical standing is.”
Liberal candidate for Ballarat Sarah Wade said she believed the flag needed to be protected in some form.
Ms Wade said regardless of the views of any political party applying to use the flag as a logo, she didn’t see it as appropriate.
“I wouldn’t want to see the flag being used by any political organisation for their own use and I would want it to be protected,” she said.
The City of Ballarat are also considering how best to stop “inappropriate” use of the Eureka flag and passed a motion to further investigate the issue during this week’s council meeting.
Councillor John Philips brought a motion without notice for an urgent report from officers.
“(To propose) mechanisms for protecting the appropriate use of the Eureka flag, being the Australian symbol for democracy and inclusion by prohibiting inappropriate use,” Cr Philips said.
THE ongoing debate over the use of the Eureka flag and the protection of it highlights just how relevant it still is in society.
Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka director Jane Smith said it only reinforced just how passionate Australians were about the flag and the message that come along with it.
“We found a piece of flag that no one knew about and there was massive media interest across the country and we even had a feature in the Wall Street Journal,” she said.
“There is interest out in the (population) and people see it as an important part of Australian history.”
However, that ongoing relevance and connection with many across the country has also created the current debate about whether or not the flag needs to be protected in a formal way.
“If it was designated as a national flag there are protocols that go with the use of the flag and I think that would be appropriate in this instance,” Ms Smith said.
With the far left of the political spectrum along with the far right all believing the flag represents their own struggle, Ms Smith said one of the key messages around the flag was about wanting a better place to live and work.
“I don’t know, I guess they see it as a really important part of our history,” she said.
“I don’t like seeing images of people looking angry wearing the Eureka flag, for me it is about fighting injustice.
“It has become a national symbol and then people have their different versions of what Australia should be and that can sometimes be against what Eureka was all about. In some way it was the start of multiculturalism in Australia. It was such an important message of the time on the goldfields, people from all over the world were there, it was a very diverse group of people.
“The flag, which we believe was sewn by at least three women before it went up the flag pole for the first time, represented a new way of looking at the world and a break from British traditions.” Following The Courier’s report this week on an attempt by a far right-wing party to use the flag as its logo, a renewed push is developing to put pressure on politicians to come up with a plan to protect its use.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said there were a number of constitutional and legal issues surrounding the protection of the flag from particular uses. But he also said some of the uses for the flag today were not appropriate.
“The Eureka flag is a flag of freedom and democracy and a flag of sacrifice really when you think about those who stood in defense freedom,” he said
“What the flag has never been for is the hate, bigotry, intolerance and lack of respect that it has been misused for in recent times.”
MANY claim ownership of the Eureka flag and the message that comes with it.
But the protection of the flag and its message is something that is agreed upon on unison.
Val D’Angri, who in the 1970s restored the flag her great-great grandmother helped sew on the Ballarat goldfields, said she wanted to see some kind of an agreement or protection to ensure it wasn’t used as commonly as it was.
“You could still use it but not something where it is just taken and used willy-nilly,” she said. “It is disappointing, they might mean well, but it might be being used disrespectfully.
“I think now it is get used for more things than political, it is getting used for unions and organisations that feel they need to use it to give their organisations some sort of impact.
“I think it is giving the wrong message, especially to the next generation who think you just buy a flag and use it, but do they know what was behind it?
“I think each generation needs to learn the history and that was the history of Ballarat and Victoria.”
Ms D’Angri said she believed that the meaning of the flag had been lost among some as time had gone on.
“The flag as I was working on it, I could see, I could visualise it, in 1954 that the people were not happy with the running of the country,” she said. “They had come all of these thousands of miles to get away from that.
“They wanted a perfect place to live and work, I could see the struggle between the powers to be and themselves. I feel that the people that were wanting the money off them, didn’t realise the difficulty and the work that went into it (gold mining).” Ms D’Angri said she felt like the majority of people did understand the Eureka story but that it needed to be taught more in schools as some aspects seem to have been forgotten over time.
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