'Proudly wave the banner high': Origins of the Australian flag

Booklet produced by Evan Evans Pty Ltd
The Australian flag was used on this booklet celebrating 75 years of 'service and progress' by Evan Evans Pty Ltd in 1952. Ivor Evans, the Managing Director, was one of the five winners of the 1901 flag design competition. (NAA: A462, 828/1/7)
Australia’s sons, your flag unfurl,
And proudly wave the banner high,
That every nation may behold
Our glorious banner in the sky.

In 1901, following Federation, the Commonwealth government conducted a competition for the design of an Australian flag. Three elements were important – a Union Jack to represent Great Britain, the Southern Cross for the continent, and a symbol for the unity of the States.

Over 32,000 designs were received from all over the world. Five people, who submitted similar designs, were declared joint winners and the prize money was shared between them.

The winners were Mrs Annie Dorrington of Perth, Mr L Hawkins of Sydney, Mr S Nutall of Melbourne, Mr William Stevens of Auckland, New Zealand, and Ivor Evans, a 14-year-old schoolboy from Melbourne.

By 1952, Ivor Evans was the Managing Director of his family company, Evan Evans Pty Ltd, manufacturers of canvas goods in Melbourne. He had published numerous booklets on flag lore and etiquette and the history of the Australian flag to inform people about its meaning as a national symbol.

Ivor Evans was proud of his association with the origins of the Australian flag and used it on his company correspondence and to celebrate the achievements of his company in the booklet, Celebrating 75 Years of Service and Progress 1877–1952.

The company had made a considerable contribution to the supply of defence equipment during World War II. Ivor Evans had even been appointed the honorary 'Comptroller of Canvasware' for Australia. He corresponded with prime ministers about ideas to promote the flag, and in 1953 wrote to Sir Arthur Fadden suggesting, in a footnote, exemption from sales tax for the Australian flag.

Following renewed interest in the Australian flag during 1951, the jubilee year of Federation, there was some controversy about the origins of the design. However, the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, stated the facts regarding the flag design in question time in the House of Representatives on 25 August 1952, acknowledging all the design winners.

  • read caption below
    Letter from Ivor Evans to Sir Arthur Fadden, 27 July 1953
  • read caption below
    A question about the 1901 Australian flag design competition, 25 August 1952
  • read caption below
    One of three flags designed by 14-year-old A Downer of Sydney, 1901
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017