Australia’s first flag is returned to Melbourne some years after it first fluttered.

Among those present were a sprinkling of legislators, both Federal and State, and a number of clergymen of various denominations. Lady Hopetoun, who was accompanied by Captain Wallington, private secretary to his Excellency the Governor-General, arrived just as the half-hour struck, and was received at the Nicholson street entrance by the Prime Minister (Mr Barton), Sir J. Forrest and Mr. Drake, the Postmaster-General. The committee responsible for the arrangement was represented by Mr J. S. Blackham.

As Lady Hopetoun entered, a huge “Blue Ensign” with the prize design of the Southern Cross and a six-pointed star thereon, was run up to the top of the flagstaff on the dome, and breaking streamed out on the heavy south-westerly breeze, a brave and inspiriting picture.

On entering the rooms reserved for the thousands of designs which go to make up the exhibition, the beholders were almost dazzled by the polychromatic spectacle which greeted their eyes. Every conceivable and inconceivable combination of colors glared from the walls, which were bespread from top to bottom with the artistic, inartistic, and in many instances, weird designs sent in and for a few minutes the effect was overpowering. After making a brief inspection of the principal designs which had been awarded prizes or honorable mentions, Lady Hopetoun seated herself at the prize table.

The Prime Minister rose and said the Countess of Hopetoun had most kindly consented to open the exhibition, but before doing so she wished him to explain how the competition had come about, and how it had resulted. With regards to the flags, he read the following letter from the judges:

Melbourne, 2nd September,

Sir, – Attracted by the loyalty and sentiment of the Australian people, as represented by the 30,000 designs for a national flag, the great majority of which contained the Union Jack and Southern Cross, it was felt that the one additional emblem required was one representing the federation of the six States. That was supplied by various forms, such as colored bars, shields, stars, figures, letters, animals, etc. introduced in various forms, colors and positions on several designs. Having carefully examined every exhibit, with due regard to history, heraldry, blazonry, distinctiveness, utility and cost of making up in bunting, it was apparent that a Commonwealth flag, to be representative should contain:-

  1. The Union Jack on a blue colored ground.
  2. A six-pointed star, representing the six federated States of Australia, immediately underneath the Union Jack, and pointing directly to the centre of the St. George’s Cross, of a size to occupy the major portion of one quarter of the flag.
  3. The Southern Cross in the “fly”, as indicative of the sentiment of the Australian nation.

Such a combination should be easily distinguished as a signal of distress, is original in character, and should be agreeable to the home authorities, as they have already given their sanction to the Southern Cross being shown in some of the State flags, such as New Zealand, Victoria etc. and exception should not be taken to the one star under the Jack.

Many designs, somewhat similar, were rejected as not being in accord with heraldry, borders round the Union Jack, contrary to the heraldry and blazoning of flags, comma, crosses, colored stars, stars too small to be seen at a distance, and otherwise faulty in design.

In conclusion we may state that our task was no easy one, but our desire was to give the people of our new born nation a symbol that would be endearing and lasting in its effect, and with that end in view we hope that we have been successful.

  1. W. Evans
  2. A. Mitchell

After apologizing for the unavoidable absence of the State Premier (Mr Peacock), the Prime Minister added that the flag then floating above the assemblage embodies the design sent in by the competitors, who up to that moment, remained unknown. He then opened the envelopes of the five and read out the name and addresses as follows:

“Simplicity,” Mr Ivor Evans, tent maker, care E. Evans, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne.

“Elpis,” Mr L. Hawkins, “Walmea,” 58 Henry Street, Leichardt, Sydney.

“Zoe,” Mr William Stevens, 29 Upper Vincent Street, Auckland, New Zealand.

“Ahasuerus,” Miss Annie Dorrington, “Winkfield,” Bazaar Terrace, Perth, Western Australia.

“Six-pointed Star,” Mr E. J. Nuttall, 97 Williams Road, Prahran.

As each name was read out cheers greeted it. One enthusiastic individual who was one of the prize winners communicated his good fortune to all and sundry, amid congratulations.

The Prime Minister then read out the names and addresses of the two competitors adjudged to have won the seal competition, the award being a combination of two designs, the observe of one and the reverse of the other having been selected. The names were:

“S.H.D.,” Mr D H. Souter, “Boronia,” Birrell Street, Bondi, Sydney.

“Witchetty Grub,” Mr Blamire Young, Queens Building, Carlton Melbourne.

Both these gentlemen are well known in the art world of Australia.

Mr Barton concluded by informing his hearers that the whole competition had arisen out of desire expressed by Mr Chamberlain, Secretary of State for the Colonies, that the Commonwealth Government should recommend designs for a flag and seal for Australia. (Cheers.)

The Countess of Hopetoun then rose and said: – “Mr Barton, ladies and gentlemen – I have much pleasure in declaring this exhibition open, and heartily congratulate the successful competitors.” On the call of the Prime Minister three hearty cheers were then given for the Earl and Countess of Hopetoun, which Lady Hopetoun acknowledged, and the audience then proceeded to make a more leisurely and more thorough inspection of the exhibits.

The exhibition will remain open for some time, and as it contains a great deal that is novel, humors, entertaining and artistic, it is sure to receive a good deal of support, more particularly as the proceeds of the 6d. admission fee are to go to charities.


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