Eight Points on the Commonwealth Star and Northern Territory Statehood

The search continues for the original Australian National Flag flown over the Royal Exhibition Building in 1901. So does the debate among government leaders and media representatives about possible changes to the current design. One sector of the citizenry firmly believes the current flag should “continue to fly proudly even if there is another change to Australia’s territories.”

At the centre of this discussion is the number of points on the large star displayed on the national flag. The original flag had a six-pointed star representing the six founding states of the Commonwealth. A seventh point was added in 1908 to represent the territories and Australian residents who didn’t live in any of the six states. Those who oppose design changes believe that there is “no need to undertake the huge expense and disruption of changing the Australian flag should the Northern Territory become a state.”

Northern Territory

The overall design of the flag has not changed since the original flag was raised in 1901 except for the seventh point on the star mentioned earlier. While the flag was designed to change with the times, some are questioning if the national flag will feature an eight-pointed star if the Northern Territory becomes a state in 2018.

According to the chairman of the Australian National Flag Association, Allan Pidgeon from Brisbane, there are “many practical reasons for maintaining the status quo.” He adds that “an examination of the historical record shows that there is no reason why a change in the status” of the Northern Territory should require flag changes. Mr. Pidgeon also notes the original flag was the first in the world to be selected through open design competition.

When an unsuccessful referendum was held on Northern Territory statehood in 1998, then-Prime Minister John Howard said “well, the Australian flag remains exactly the same” (regardless of the outcome of the vote). Mr. Pidgeon and others believe that there would be “no reason to change the flag should the Northern Territory change its status.” The territory that prompted the additional point on the star many years ago is no longer part of the Commonwealth of Australia. However, there are several other territories including the Northern Territory, Christmas Island, and more.

Expensive Change

Opponents of making changes to the long-standing design cite the expense of replacing all the current flags in Australia. In addition to the change to the flag itself, adding the extra point to the star would mean altering the “national coat of arms, the Defence Force Badge, its flag, and its signage.” Changes would also affect other symbols used by the Commonwealth, including the coin with the arms displayed. Change might also reach to the Northern Territory flag, which has two “devices” with seven points. Mr. Pidgeon asks “Should these be changed to eight points as well?”

Two years ago, there was quite a bit of debate in the media and among Commonwealth officials about the possibility of the change to statehood for the Northern Territory. At that time, several observers of the process noted that three years would hardly be enough to make all the formal changes for the state to exist. That date is now just one year away.