The Story Of A Flag

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The Story Of A Flag.


Not just a song, not just a flag.

The year is 1962 and I had designed the first Aboriginal flag"The Corroboree" (Now in the Victorian State Museum - right image). 

It was my first attempt at vexillology. 



It is now 1983.

I go to a Barby at Doug Surman's place and find he looks despondent. 

He explains that someone had hired him to do some music about the Falkland war, and hadn't returned to collect it I asked if I could hear it.

At worst a great pianist he played it for me. 

I was impressed, and asked would he mind if I put a lyric to the music.

He agreed and I did.

The depth and strength of the music l felt was overwhelming, having within it an anthem feel of tremendous strength. Whether I could match it, was another thing It was called "The Australians."

Doug was smiling. 

Perhaps I did alright. 

Still 1983.. We put together our first musical as a team "The Eureka Stockade Opera". A huge spectacular in the Fitzroy Gardens Melbourne, featuring the cream of Australian Talent and a star from the Platters. 

It was the biggest advent of a folk Opera in Australian history. The finale "The Australians." Not only was it an emotional success, people were crying during the finale. 



We leap to late 1987 and all the States in the country were gearing up to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Landing at Sydney Cove, except Victoria which was broke.

I was personally was upset and went to see Doug. "I've got an idea".

Doug looked apprehensive. He'd been there before.

I went on,"I see a giant musical production of the History of Australia free to the people".

"Great" said Doug. You need a lot of money and time. Forget it. Too risky. Any way you haven't got that sort of money.

"Too late" Crawford replied "I've already booked the Sidney Myer Music Bowl." (The biggest live venue in Melbourne).

Having Committed myself l started the search to find money.

His effort showed promise when he found a Government Department called V-Line (Train line Transporters) had money allocated for a promotion, and l talked them into using it for his idea, on the premise that they could sell holiday tickets at the venue of the show.

Their contribution 30,000 dollars.

The show one of the biggest of its type ever was viable with Myself and Dougie again writing over 50 new songs, for a cast of 300 including re enactment groups with three wars, camels, horses, coaches, pomp, ceremony, troops and masses of dancers etc.

The morning of the 26th of January, (Australia Day 1988.) was sunny with a sky of Australian blue.

Their was 65 piece combined orchestra, choir, and 2 conductors, and some hundreds of artists were running through the last number of the day our anthem "The Australians," which had already an interesting Crawford Surman history of its own.

I was sitting in the stalls making last minute notes for the production.

The music swelled "The mighty mountain fill the sky, The rivers fill the sea".

Voices came in the chorus "Forward forever, one Nation, one Land,"Our flag of light unfurled up the sky" We will lead the world" "A cross of stars light up the sky and in our flag they shine".

V-Line as additional help had arranged a giant montage of visions of Australian history, and characters as a backdrop.

Then they brought in two giant Australian flags and put them up on each side of the montage.

The recent history of the two had little in common.

I felt looked puzzled and quickly grabbing a piece of music that had dropped on the ground, drew an idea for a flag and stuffed it in an old bag.

The song reached a climax with the choral and full orchestra in the final statement "We will lead the world".

The intensity of the day and the immensity of the production enveloped me and forgot the moment I think its good" said Doug. Rehearsal was over but history had just begun.

The concert was a huge success, and the sponsor rated it as their most successful promotion.

Time passed and tried 200 designs for a new Australian flag.

None of them sang to me.

Disheartened at the seemingly impossible task, l decided to do one more design I had just started when he ran out of Biro, and looking round saw an old bag sitting on a shelf.

Perhaps there might be a Biro in there l thought.

Looking inside saw a crumpled piece of music and straightened it out in curiosity.


It was the design!



The flag you see to-day.

The music and the memory of the lyric to the song the "Australians." on that Sunday morning in 1988 with incredible clarity.

A cross stars fill up the sky and in our flag they shine" and "our flag of light unfurled" and then the positiveness of that last dramatic line "We will lead the world".

In the year 2,000, the flag was used to promote the Aboriginal sympathy march through the city and gardens, and the flag appeared towards the front of the Sun newspaper.

400,000 Melbournites turned up to be part of it.

A strong message began which seemed to get weaker when it reached Parliament.

And so he dream stays in the "Dreamtime" and has become a nightmare.

There were a hundred flags in the march, and at the end they all formed a tree of peace and many became the property of the Aboriginals Since then there have been a number of appearances at openings, Australia Day Marches, ceremonies and Aboriginal gatherings. The public, apart from hardcore Royalists who seemingly think we should share our flag with some one else, while many already see it as a positive replacement and fits the Prime Ministers vote for change, new beginnings and new thinking Slogans attributed to the flag are "Come Fly with Me", A flag to look up to." "The mate ship banner", "The BIG red" and "Flag of Light." Arguably it the most meaningful flag on Earth.

Leslie Martin has recorded a version of the "Australians" available commercially. The song was originally the finale to Crawford and Surman's giant Folk Opera "The Eureka Stockade" which gained rave reviews on the top of the front page of the Ballarat Courier with heading "90 Minutes of Emotion." and positive reaction all over including the audience crying at the finale song the Australians.including radio Australia who covered the Ballarat production internationally.

For further information see the website and look under the menu tab 'Flags'.

PS. The extravaganza "This is My Country" was presented free to the people at no profit to myself, however its timing came within seconds of me being wiped out financially, but that is another story. In retrospect I cannot figure why did it Probably a sudden burst of Nationalism.

We are fortunate that a reproduction of some of the music of the pertinent musical "This is my Country" featuring the song "The Australians," is available to listen to at the Melbourne City Library Sound archives, COI 143.( A double C.D.) as an important Australian historical event.

The Ballarat production was was broadcast to the world on Radio Australia. A budding journalist, Melissa Jenkins, without hearing the song, dubbed the flag "The flag of light." in a full page colour article, with this name the main heading in the Melbourne University magazine Catalyst 11/1/2001 The form of art used in the design of the flags Roo is adapted from my"Lifeline art in oil series" of the 70's period The message is live the moment, and don't just look at the sky..... fly.

Additional mentions of the flag include. The book at the National Library "55 Flags of Australian History." Sun/Herald. Age. Advertiser. England will see the flag for the first time next month