Ask LH: Should The Australian Flag Be Banned As A Fashion Item?

Dear Lifehacker, with Australia Day around the corner, lots of people I know will be showing off their Aussie pride by draping the flag over their shoulders, homes and vehicles. However, I read somewhere that this was getting banned, which sounds very un-Australian! Could you give me an insight into the legality of telling someone they can’t wear a flag? If it’s not against the law, shouldn’t I be allowed to do it? Thanks, Proud Flag Waver

Flag picture from Shutterstock

Dear PFW,

There are currently no laws that prohibit the wearing of the Australian flag for style or patriotic purposes. Under the 1953 Flags Act, the Australian National Flag may be flown on every day of the year, provided it is “treated with [the] respect and dignity it deserves as the nation’s most important national symbol.”

Bear in mind that the above ‘dignity’ rule only applies to actual flags. Southern Cross-emblazoned budgie smugglers are A-okay, apparently.

So why has the Australian flag been slapped with numerous bans at public events and venues, especially in apparel form? For this unfortunate state of affairs, we can mostly blame racist Anglo Saxons who have appropriated the flag as their own goonish, anti-social ensign.

This has essentially forced festivals like the Big Day Out to crack down on the practice, despite the knee-jerk public outcry and reputational damage that inevitably follows. In short, they want everyone who attends to feel safe and wanted. Even when flag-wearers aren’t doing anything illegal, the organisers still have the right to send them packing — just like pub owners can refuse service to people dressed in singlets or thongs.

So to answer your question, wearing the Australian flag is not “against the law”. However, event organisers are perfectly within their rights to ban you from a venue if you refuse to follow their house rules. Sometimes, this includes not being allowed to wear the Aussie flag. Tough luck, mate.

In any event, common sense usually prevails in these situations. If you’re waving around a few plastic flags with your family, the security guards are unlikely to bother you. If, on the other hand, you’re being loud, aggressive and drunk in a Southern Cross headband and cape, you’ll be asked to piss off, and rightly so. It’s about the behaviour first and foremost.

We’re also keen to hear what our readers think on this controversial topic. Is it “Un-Australian” to ban wearable Aussie flags, or did the yobbos bring it all on themselves? Let fly in the comments!


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