The flag is, by right, considered to be one of the country’s main symbols. Australia, being a relatively young country, gained its national symbol in 1901, following the formation of the Australian Federation on January the 1st of that year.
On the 1st of January the unification of Australian colonies came into effect, but the country had no official flag. A competition for the best flag design took place. The judges had 32823 applications to choose from, with the help of seven criteria:
- Federal structure
- Loyalty to the British Empire
- Cost of manufacture
Many portrayed a theme of Australian wildlife on their models. The participants were very creative. For example, one model depicted a kangaroo jumping over the Southern Cross.
In the end, the prize of 1000 pounds was divided amongst five participants, whose applications were all very similar, the differences between them being only marginal. The chosen one had a blue background, and in its top left-hand corner was located the British flag, also known as the Union Jack. Underneath it was the commonwealth star, and the right half of the flag was dominated by five white stars symbolising the Southern Cross.
This model was discussed in the Parliament of Australia. It was only in 1903 that the first Prime Minister of Australia, Edmund Barton, sent the king of Great Britain and Ireland, Edward VII, an image of the flag for confirmation. The king approved, and on the 2nd of June 1904 the parliament passed a resolution for the use of this flag in all purposes, excluding the use of a similar one with a red background to fly on merchant ships. In the future this caused confusion, and for this reason, on the 14th of February 1954, the Queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II approved of the blue version as Australia’s national flag.