Ballarat council’s plan to approach the Governor-General’s office and request the Eureka flag be proclaimed as a flag of Australia is a step towards the respect it rightly deserves.
However, we need to understand that for our flag of the Southern Cross – commonly known as the Eureka flag – to be recognised as an Australian flag, it requires an amendment to the Commonwealth Flags Act. Hence, bipartisan support in the federal parliament, which has been a stumbling block in the past.
The council, some years ago, sought advice on trademarking the flag. The advice received stated the flag could not come under a trademark or copyright, as it is deemed to belong to all Australians.
There have been many attempts by not only this writer but also our federal MP, Catherine King, and other parliamentarians to gain support for the Eureka flag to be recognised as a national flag.
The main impediment to its recognition has been the division that exists between Labor support and conservative resistance to elevating the Eureka flag to a more prominent position in Australia’s democracy. Its misrepresentation by some groups has led to some misunderstanding regarding its relevance and significance.
I need to ask why the council hasn't sought the support of Eureka patrons Steve Bracks, Rob Knowles and Lucy Turnbull. Yes, Mrs Turnbull is a Eureka patron. Maybe she might be able to a word in the Prime Minister’s ear.
The council should also cast the net wider and enlist the assistance of Ms King, our state politicians, Premier Daniel Andrews and state Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.
Why hasn’t the board of MADE pursued this matter? And why hasn’t there been a revision to the Eureka flag style guide since its restoration?
What about engaging our unions? Trades Hall – the trade union, Committee for Ballarat – the business union, the Australian Industry Group – the industry union, Commerce Ballarat – the commerce union, VECCI – the employers union and so on.
Yes, they are all unions; they represent the interests of their members. So, can I suggest that so called well-informed people stop getting hung up on the word “union”.
The current divide is the belief that the Eureka flag is a union flag; that simply isn’t true. The trade union movement uses the flag because of what it stands for – fairness and a fair go for all. In true terms, isn’t that what we as Australians are also about?
The more concerning issue is about the misuse of the Eureka flag. We should be worried about far right organisations that brandish the flag at their often violent rallies.
Over the years, groups ranging from communists, socialists and trade unions to nationalists, anti-taxation lobbies, neo-Nazis and even the Liberal and Labor parties have used the flag.
Back to the main issue, if only all Australia appreciated the flag of the Southern Cross, our most beautiful flag that so depicts Australia. To my mind, the only flag that is so evocative is Canada's maple leaf.
Once we move beyond past controversies and bring sense to reason, we all should support the protection of the flag under the Flags Act. After all, Eureka is Ballarat’s point of difference. It’s what sets this city apart from other cities and regional centres.
We must unite, be proud and ensure that Ballarat, as the custodian of the Eureka flag and story, does everything in its power to ensure the flag is protected.
Ron Egeberg is a council candidate and a former director of the Eureka Centre.
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