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Episode 1

5th February 2013


Flag Debate
Key Learning

Students will learn about the meanings and uses of flags in Australia and investigate why flags are an important part of society.

The Australian Curriculum > History / Historical Knowledge and understanding / Community and Remembrance

Content description

General capabilities


Intercultural understanding

Critical and creative thinking

Cross-curriculum priorities

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures

Days and weeks celebrated or commemorated in Australia (including Australia Day, ANZAC Day, Harmony Week, National Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC week and National Sorry Day) and the importance of symbols and emblems. Code ACHHK063


  • identifying and discussing the historical origins of an important Australian celebration or commemoration

  • generating a list of local, state and national symbols and emblems (for example club emblems, school logos, flags, floral emblems, coat of arms) and discussing their origins and significance

  • examining the symbolism of flags (for example the Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags) and recognising special occasions when they are flown (for example all three flags are flown during NAIDOC week, National Reconciliation Week, National Sorry Day and MABO day)

Focus Questions

  1. Before watching the BtN Flag Debate story, predict what the story is about.

  2. Name the three symbols on the Australian flag?

  3. What country does the Union Jack come from?

  4. Why does Australia have the Union Jack on its flag?

  5. What is the Southern Cross?

  6. Why was an extra point added to the Federation Star symbol?

  7. What sorts of places would you see the Australian flag flying?

  8. Why do some people want to change the Australian flag?

  9. Do you think the Australian flag should be changed? Explain your answer.

  10. What colours and symbols do you think best represent Australia?


What country does this flag represent?

Print a selection of flags from various countries around the world. Ask your students to name what country each flag represents. When you have finished this task use the flags as posters around the classroom. (Alternatively use your classroom interactive whiteboard to refer to a selection of flags online).

After watching the BtN story Flag Debate invite students to participate in a class discussion. Find out what your students know about the Australian flag, what they learnt from the story and what questions they have about the topic. Here are some discussion starters:

  • What elements make up the Australian flag? Ask students to consider symbols and colours used on the flag.

  • Do you know what the symbols on the Australian flag represent?

  • List some places where you would see the Australian flag.

  • What is the purpose of a national flag?

  • What messages do you think the Australian flag conveys?

Exploring symbols

Divide the class into three groups and ask each group to research one of the symbols used on the Australian flag. Ask students to consider the symbols historical origins when conducting their research.

  • Students to investigate the Southern Cross

    • What is its scientific name?

    • When and where is it used?

    • Ask students to identify other constellations in the Australian sky.

  • Students to investigate the Union Jack.

    • Where does it originate?

    • Why is it included on the Australian flag?

    • What other national flags include the Union Jack?

  • Students to investigate the Federation Star.

    • What does it symbolise?

    • Explore why this symbol was changed and when.

Consider completing this activity for other flags like the Aboriginal flag, Torres Strait Islander flag, Eureka Stockade flag and the Olympic flag.

Brainstorm some other symbols that you think represent Australia (for example the colours of green and gold, the opal, the golden wattle, aboriginal dreamtime, the kangaroo and emu).

The flag debate – “The Australian flag should be changed

Before preparing for your classroom debate invite students to participate in a class discussion on whether they think the Australian flag should be changed. Consider creating a SWOT chart on the Australian flag.





Preparing for your class debate

A debate is traditionally held between two teams of three speakers. The speakers are given the same topic. One team is called the ‘Affirmative’ and speaks in support of the topic. The other team is called the ‘Negative’ and speaks against the topic.

Other roles that can be assigned are chairperson, time keeper and the remaining class members can give feedback to the speakers. Discuss with students the length of time each speaker talks for. Students will need sufficient time to research the topic.
Once roles are assigned ask each team to prepare for the debate as per the following:

  • List your arguments and write in point form.

  • Highlight your five best points. These points will be used for the debate.

  • On cue cards, write in point form a beginning (introduction), middle (five best points) and ending for your speech.

  • Practise your speech using your cue cards.

Guide for giving feedback

  • Was the information clear and accurate?

  • Were the arguments logical?

  • Were the counter arguments accurate and relevant?
  • Comments about the presentation style (tone of voice, body language, enthusiastic, convincing).


  • How difficult was it to think of points to support one side of the argument?

  • Do you think you would have done a better job supporting the other side of the argument?

“Should the Australian flag be changed?” Vote in the BtN online poll

Design your own flag – Your say

Ask students to design a new Australian flag. Students will need to consider the 5 basic principles of flag design, as per the following:

  • Keep it simple

  • Use meaningful symbolism

  • Use 2-3 basic colours

  • No lettering

  • Be distinctive

Go to the BtN website and download your own flag template

Submit your designs to BtN or put up around the classroom.

Further Investigation

Australia has a number of official flags. Ask pairs of students to research one of Australia’s official flags and share their findings with the class by creating a poster that features the flag, its history and its symbolism.

8 Related Research Links

ABC News – Does Australian sport need a new flag?
ABC News – Your say: Flying the flag

Australian Governments Civics and Citizenship – Civic Symbols: Introduction,25194.html
Australian Governments Civics and Citizenship – Discovering democracy: A flag for the nation,28879.html
ABC Indigenous – Aboriginal Flag
ABC Indigenous – Torres Strait Islander Flag

©ABC 2013

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