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Palmerston North school pupils had a taste of the patriotic flag-hoisting ceremonies – once a regular feature of school life until the 1960s – at a historic re-enactment organised by Massey University flag historian Malcolm Mulholland.
Dressed in Victorian garb, Mr Mulholland delivered a lively overview of New Zealand’s flag history at the event. It concluded with the hoisting of five alternative flag designs alongside the English Union Jack and current New Zealand flag outside Fonterra’s Research and Development Centre.
Mr Mulholland wants locals to have the chance to see the five alternative designs that the public will vote on in two referenda later this month and next, after the Palmerston North City Council’s decision not to fly them in the city square.
A senior researcher at Te Pūtahi-a-Toi (the School of Māori Art, Knowledge and Education) and a member of the Flag Consideration Panel, he says it is important for the public to see the flags “in situ, or in reality” before making a decision. “The flag designs look different flying from a flagpole than on paper.”
Also dressed in Victorian-era clothing, pupils from Palmerston North’s oldest schools re-lived the weekly ceremony to hoist the Union Jack and New Zealand flag – familiar to their parents and grandparents – to authentically scratchy recordings of God Save the King and Rule Britannia.
The flag-hoisting ceremonies were intended to foster patriotism to the British Empire "for God, King and Empire," Mr Mulholland explained.
The ceremonies were a response to a convergence of events related to the British Empire at the time: Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee (1897), the Boer War (1899-1902), the Death of Queen Victoria (1901), the New Zealand Tour of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (1901) and the Coronation of King Edward VII (1902).
The New Zealand Ensign Act for the creation of the current flag was passed in 1902 and introduced by Imperialist Liberal Party leader and New Zealand’s longest-serving prime minister ‘King’ Dick Seddon.
Hansard Parliamentary records refer at length to the need to install patriotism amongst the school children, Mr Mulholland says.
“Our flag, designed by a British Naval Lieutenant and approved by a career British diplomat, represents the United Kingdom and the Southern Cross. Our flag is often confused with Australia’s and reinforces the judgement that New Zealand is the ‘Britain of the South Pacific’,” he says.
He explained the meaning behind the five alternative flag designs, and demonstrated the indigenous symbolism of the silver fern – which appears on three of the designs. When Māori traversed the forest they would leave the silver side of the fern facing the moonlight to provide a pathway home.
Primary and secondary school students from Palmerston North Girls and Boys High, Intermediate Normal, College Street and Terrace End were involved in the re-enactment ceremony.
Mr Mulholland was prompted to organise the event to encourage young people to get involved in discussions at home and school in the flag selection issue.
"Voters have to remember that future generations of New Zealanders are going to inherit the verdict they will make regarding what flag will represent our country. I urge voters to talk about what the youth of today think about the current flag and the alternative flag options, and for that conversation to have some bearing on the decision they make on the ballot paper,” he says.
The public will vote in the first postal New Zealand Flag Referendum between November 20th and December 11th, 2015. The second postal referendum will pit the winner of the first referendum with the current New Zealand Flag in March, 2016. The victor of that exercise will be the New Zealand Flag for the future.
Created: 15/11/2015 | Last updated: 18/11/2015
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