Destroying the Aussie flag the dignified way

The government will re-examine the protocols around disposing of Australian flags when they are too damaged or worn out to fly any more.

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Senator James McGrath said Australians would be asked for their ideas to create specific guidelines on how to retire a dilapidated flag with ‘appropriate dignity and respect’.

“Currently, our flag protocols state that when the material of a flag deteriorates it should be destroyed privately and in a dignified way, however there is often confusion about how best to achieve this,” Mr McGrath said.

“Our national flag is a symbol of great importance to all Australians, so it seems fitting that people have the opportunity to reflect on the significance of our flag in a meaningful way at the end of its service also.”

A Flag Retirement Protocol Consultation Paper, which notes that the national flag should not be flown if it is ‘damaged, faded or dilapidated’, suggests several methods of disposal: cutting the flag into tiny, unrecognisable pieces then binning it.

There are a number of rules around flying the national flag including:

• Raise the flag briskly, lower it ceremoniously
• Do not raise the flag earlier than dawn or lower it later than dusk
• Everybody must be silent and face the flag as it goes up, those in uniform must salute
• Do not fly two flags from the same flagpole
• A flag must be illuminated at night
• Do not fly the flag upside down
• Do not let the flag fall or lie on the ground or be used as a cover – except over a coffin at a funeral

Chair of the Australian National Flag Association, Allan Pidgeon, said the proposed changes would offer the community a more dignified way to retire a national flag.

“The Australian national flag is proudly displayed by many community organisations, schools, clubs and individuals around Australia, as a symbol of great honour and pride,” he said.

“The inclusion of a retirement ceremony in the official flag protocols would ensure the national flag was appropriately decommissioned, whilst providing an opportunity to reflect on the flag, its history and its symbolic importance to our nation.”

You can submit your suggestions around retiring Australian flags here.

The deadline for submissions is the end of February 2017.

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