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Hey Kids - enjoy reading the first edition of the Waranga News in 2021! In this edition we are taking a look at flags.

A flag is a piece of coloured cloth with a special design that is put on a pole as a symbol.

Flags first appeared more than 2000 years ago in China, and in Europe under the Roman Empire.

There are many types of flags: A national flag is the symbol of a country (nation). For example, the national flag of the United States is the Stars and Stripes; the flag of the United Kingdom is the Union Flag or Union Jack; the national flag of France is the Tricolore and the national flag of Turkey has a crescent and star.

An ensign is a special type of national flag for use on ships. Different kinds of ships often use different kinds of ensigns. For example, warships use a naval ensign that is usually different from the ensigns used by other ships.

A rank flag is used by the head of state, as well as by a senior officer of the navy, army or air force, to show where he or she is. In the past, soldiers carried flags to war. Today these ceremonial flags are used only at military parades.

Some states, cities and towns have their own flags. For example, all states and territories within Australia have their own state flags.

The flag of the state of Victoria is based on the Blue Ensign. It consists of a blue background with the Union Flag in the top pole-side quarter. In the background area there are five white stars representing the Southern Cross. Above the stars is a St Edward’s Crown.

The stars don’t have an identical number of points. The variation in the number of points represents their relative brightness in the constellation.

A signal flag is a flag used by ships to send messages to other ships or to people on land. Every ship keeps many different signal flags for use in different situations. Signal flags are also used for racing.

Flags are sometimes also used to represent a business, a sports team, a school, a political party, or other organisations such as Australian Federal Police.

Vexillology is the term for the study of flags and related emblems. Vexillology seeks to understand and explain the important part played by flags in the modern world.

The word vexillology is derived from the Latin vexillum, a term used by the Romans to refer to fabric hung from a horizontal crossbar on a pole. It is the nearest equivalent in the classical languages to what we call a flag today.

Every country’s flag is – to a certain extent – quadrilateral in shape (whether it is a rectangle or a square) with only one exception – Nepal.

It is shaped like two stacked triangles, representing the Himalaya Mountains and – more recently – the two religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. The sun and moon represent the hope that the country will live as long as these celestial bodies.

There are only three national flags that differ on their front and reverse sides.

They are:

  • Moldova – only the front displays the Coat of Arms.
  • Paraguay – the reverse side contains the treasury seal.
  • Saudi Arabia – has a sword and the Arabic inscription for “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” Since the flag contains sacred writing, the reverse side of the flag is a duplicate of the front and two flags are usually sewn together.

The Australian national flag was first flown in 1901.

The flag has three elements on a blue background: the Union Jack, the Commonwealth Star and the Southern Cross.

The Union Jack in the upper left corner represents the history of British settlement.

Below the Union Jack is a white Commonwealth, or Federation, star. It has seven points representing the unity of the six states and the territories of the Commonwealth of Australia. The star is also featured on the Commonwealth Coat of Arms.

The Southern Cross is shown on the flag in white. It is a constellation of five stars that can only be seen from the southern hemisphere and is a reminder of Australia’s geography.

In 1901 Australia’s first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton, announced an international competition to design a flag for the new Commonwealth of Australia. There were 32,823 entries and five nearly-identical entries were awarded equal first.

The five joint winners came from different parts of the community and they shared a £200 prize. On 3 September 1901, the Prime Minister announced the five joint winners of the competition and the key elements of their designs were used to create the new flag for the Commonwealth of Australia.

The joint winners were: Annie Dorrington who was a well-known artist from Perth; Ivor Evans a 14 year old Melbourne school boy whose father owned a flag making business; Lesley Hawkins an 18 year old from Leichhardt in Sydney who was apprenticed to a Sydney optician at the time; Eggbert Nutall an architect with the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works; and William Stevens, a first officer with the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand.

The flag was flown for the first time on 3 September 1901 at the Exhibition Building in Melbourne, which was then the seat of the Federal Government. In this original design the stars of the Southern Cross had different numbers of points to signify their brightness.

The Australian Aboriginal flag was designed by artist Harold Thomas in 1970. The colours of the flag represent the Aboriginal people of Australia and their connection to the land.

The flag was first raised on National Aborigines Day in Adelaide on 12 July, 1971. The flag has become a symbol of unity and identity for Aboriginal people.

In 1995, the Aboriginal flag was recognised by the Australian Government as an official ‘Flag of Australia’ under the Flags Act 1953. The Aboriginal flag was designed and created by artist Harold Thomas, a Luritja man from central Australia and a member of the Stolen Generations. The flag has become a symbol of Aboriginal Australia and holds special legal and political status worldwide.

The Torres Strait Islander flag was designed by the late Bernard Namok. The colours of the flag represent the Torres Strait Islander people’s connection to the land, sea and sky.

The flag was the winning entry in a design competition in 1992. In 1995, the Torres Strait Islander flag was recognised by the Australian Government as an official ‘Flag of Australia’ under the Flags Act 1953.

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