Australian flag vs New Zealand’s flag

Australian Flag Vs New Zealand Flag (1)

Being in close proximity, the nations of Australia and New Zealand also seem to be using identical flags: both banners have the British Union Jack and the Southern Cross constellation displayed in the canton and on the hoist side respectively. Yet, the closer inspection does reveal significant differences. Let’s have a more thorough look at them.

The Australian flag

The Australian flag features the British Union Jack in the upper hoist quadrant (a reference to the country’s ties with Great Britain over time), the Commonwealth Star precisely beneath it and the Southern Cross constellation, which occupies the fly side, on a dark blue background. More specifically, the seven-point Commonwealth Star embodies the country’s federal system while standing for the unity of the six states and the territories of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Southern Cross constellation, a timeless symbol dating back to the British settlement and the nation’s tradition, features four big white stars and a smaller one.

The New Zealand flag

Being comparatively simpler, the national flag of New Zealand comprises of the Union Jack (once again, alluding to this country’s ties with Great Britain) in the canton and a congregation of four red stars (occupying the fly side) forming the Southern Cross constellation, on a dark blue background.

Telling them apart

Despite looking so similar, the two flags have discernible differences, which allow for identification. First things first, the Australian flag ensemble features two extra stars: one directly below the Union Jack (the Commonwealth Star) and a smaller one in the Southern Cross constellation. Then, with the exception of that small star, all the Australian flag stars have seven points, whereas the New Zealand’s flag ones have five points. Finally, the Australian flag stars are white, while the ones on the New Zealand flag are red with white contouring.

Which one came out first?

Going through some dates, one may form the impression that the flags of the two nations came out almost simultaneously: Australia’s flag was first used on September 3, 1901, and declared as the official flag in 1954 by decree of the Flags Act. On the other hand, the national flag of New Zealand was given statutory recognition on March 24, 1902; still, that very design had been conceived much earlier, in 1869, for use on colonial ships (see below), rightfully earning this informal award!

Fun Facts

  • Both banners feature the same width-to-length ratio: 1 to 2.
  • In 1901, a flag design competition took place in Australia, and drew immense interest and resulted in over 30,000 proposals being submitted. The winning design was, to a great extent, similar to the flag still fluttering today: at the time, though, the commonwealth star featured six points. Minor alterations were approved by King Edward VII in 1903, whereas the current configuration was unveiled in 1908, when the seven-pointed Commonwealth Star was added to the ensemble. Fast forward to 1954, when the Flags Act passed by the Australian Parliament mandated that the “Stars and Crosses” configuration be the official flag of the nation.
  • The aforementioned Flags Act also lays down the flag’s design specifications in detail while also containing guidelines on how to fly it; for instance, it is advised that the flag be run down at night, or at least be illuminated!
  • There has been a temperate debate in Australia about the appropriateness of the current flag regarding the modern spirit of the nation. Concerns have been raised on whether the flag should bear such a big resemblance to other flags used by British colonies. However, those objections haven’t managed to materialize into something more concrete, leading to the current state of affairs being preserved for the time being.
  • Discussion over potential changes to the flag of New Zealand has also been brought to the table: over the past decades, there have been calls for alterations, mostly revolving around dropping the Union Jack, which has been argued to be at odds with the nation’s sovereignty. A two-phase referendum was in fact held in 2016 on approving the new “silver fern” flag featuring black, white and blue colors (the winning design of the first phase), yet almost 60% of the voters opposed to it.
  • As mentioned above, despite the flag of New Zealand being widely used since 1869 (when the British Empire came up with a design that would be used on the colony’s ships), it was only in 1902 when this particular banner was officially adopted as the state’s emblem.