The Australian National Flag
The current national flag of Australia has evolved from its origins in a flag design competition held after the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia.
On 3 September 1901, two designs were announced as the competition winners - a blue flag for use by the government and the same design with a red field for use by merchant ships. Ordinary Australians continued to use the British Union Jack on land. The competition design featured a large six pointed star to represent the Federation of the previous colonies, now states. The stars of the Southern Cross had different numbers of points to indicate the relative brightness of each star.
In 1903 the British Admiralty approved the use of these new flags. The Southern Cross was simplified by using only seven-pointed stars for the four brightest stars and a five-pointed star for Epsilon Crucis.
In 1908 the Australian Government decided to increase the number of points on the large Commonwealth Star to seven in order to represent the Australian territories collectively. The blue version of the Australian National Flag was used by ships owned by the Commonwealth Government and it was flown on government owned buildings. For many years, private citizens were not permitted to use the blue Australian national flag. The red version was used by privately owned ships registered in Australia and as there were no restrictions on its use on land, it was also used by private citizens, often with the British Union Jack on a second flag pole.
In 1941 official restrictions on private use of the blue Australian national flag were removed, but it was not until 1954 and the enactment of the Flags Act that the Australian National Flag was officially designated for use by all Australians.
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