The great-grandson of one of the designers of the national flag of Australia is upset at it being “dragged through the mud” by far-right protesters.
Matthew Evans’ great grandfather Ivor William Evans – then 14 years old – was one of five winners of the 1901 Federal Flag Design Competition who all submitted almost identical entries.
Mr Evans, who lives in Bendigo, believes people involved in a far-right rally against perceived problems with “African gangs” in Melbourne at the weekend are bringing the flag and the country into disrepute.
“It always angers me that our national flag is dragged through the mud like this and on other occasions, not just because of my family connection, but as a proud Australian,” he said.
“The role of national flags is to help tell ourselves and the world who we are, and where our place is in the world.”
The first was held at noon by anti-racism campaigners ahead of a right-wing event an hour later organised by United Patriot Front leaders Blair Cottrell and Neil Erikson. Protesters were seen making Nazi salutes with Australian flags visible in the background.
In a letter to the Bendigo Advertiser Mr Evans said it angered him to “see Nazi salutes in front of our national flag, particularly following the atrocities of World War II, and especially the Holocaust”.
“It deeply saddens me when it was done using our national flag as a symbol for their out-of-touch cause,” he said.
“Australians are laid-back as well as hard-working. Australians are caring, considerate, passionate, proud, and are strong in their values, especially the fair go. Australia is not a racist country. We should never let the actions of an extreme group define the majority of Australia.”
Mr Evans said the symbolic items on the flag pointed to optimism. Ivor’s design, like many others, was seen as being representative of Australia's bright future as a nation on the world stage.
“The Southern Cross and the national anthem lyrics (beneath our radiant Southern Cross) talk of optimism and a bright future. This sort of imagery completely devalues it,” he said.
Mr Evans said that we live in an age where identity is important.
“People make associations. When they see people giving Nazi salutes and the Australian flag in the background they think this is Australia. It is not the Australia we should accept,” he said.
“It is deeply regretful that people think it is okay to use the Australian flag in such divisive and discriminatory ways.”
Mr Evans, whose mother is of Papua New Guinean heritage, said that we should consider the national flag’s proud history before doing anything to lessen it’s value.
“From my point of view, I think of Ivor and the other winners but also of the soldiers and Anzacs that fought under it or famous athletes who have won gold medals or The Ashes.,” Mr Evans said.
“Things like that fill me with a sense of pride. To see the flag with idiots doing obscene gestures is not what we should be seeing and not what Australia is about.
“Australia is one of the most successful multicultural and migrant countries in the world. We shouldn’t be using the flag to divide the community. Particularly in going after a minority group.”