How I tried to change the Australian flag at a Rotary Meeting

Reading Peter Fitzsimons’ article today about why we should change the Australian flag reminded me of the failed attempt I made to do this years ago in rural Victoria. If that doesn’t sound futile enough, I also tried to do it at a Rotary meeting in Hamilton.

This occurred at a finalised event to choose the regional Youth of the Year. I had won the Mortlake round of the Youth of the Year competition (Mortlake, Population 1200 or thereabouts)  after out-competing Andrew Delaney and Nicholas Murray at a local Rotary function. The evening consisted of a nice meal, then a prepared five minute speech on a topic of our choice, then the Rotary worthies threw a couple of questions at us and we had to demonstrate our ability to think on our feet and impress them with our eloquence and intelligence.

I was 15 at the time, so it must have been in 1982.  My local town was  around an hour and a half away from Hamilton (population, around 10,000 people). Hamilton claims to be ‘the current wool capital of the world’. Mortlake and Hamilton are both in the Wannon, which used to be Malcolm Fraser’s old Electorate.

Anyway, I won the Mortlake round, got my photo in the Mortlake Dispatch, and was dispatched off to the regional Round of Youth of the Year in Hamilton.

All was going well. I was happy with my prepared speech and I think I was first cab off the rank when the time came us to prove our mettle by answering the ‘random questions’ asked by Rotarians.

And of course, the question was ‘Do you think Australia’s flag should be changed?’

So there in front of 500 people or thereabouts, from probably one of the most conservative cohorts of Australian society of that time (Rotarians, living in Hamilton, the Current Wool Capital of the World), all the doctors, solicitors, wealthy graziers etc etc, I told them what I really, really really thought. Of course the flag should be changed, I said. It’s got a Union Jack in the corner. What relevance does the Union Jack have for lots of Australians these days? High time we got with the program.

Or words to that effect.

I vaguely remember some perturbation and raised eyebrows and then being a bit surprised when the Regional Winner was announced…..not me, strangely enough. And I thought I had spoken so well!

Ha ha. That’s the difference between the naivety of youth and the realism of your later years….when you are young you think that the Truth is the Truth, and people will welcome what you say regardless of their backgrounds or club memberships or voting patterns. I still think the flag should be changed (or at the very least, should be up for review) but know better now than to come out with this at a Rotary function, should I ever find myself in one these days which is unlikely. I’ll bet Peter Fitzsimons is cannier than than that too!

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~ by margoforte12 on January 26, 2013.

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