Ivor Evans: co-designer of the Australian National Flag

Ivor Evans: co-designer of the Australian National Flag

Government Australian National Flag
Tuesday, 03 September 2019

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

On this day (3 September) in 1901 the Australian National Flag was flown for the first time.

Earlier in 1901, Prime Minister Edmund Barton announced an international competition to design a flag which would represent the newly formed Commonwealth of Australia.

Ivor Evans, a 14 year old boy from Princes Hill State School in Melbourne, took up the challenge.

Ivor, the son of Evan Evans, owner and proprietor of a flag making business, was one of 32,823* entrants who competed for the prizemoney of £200, a handy sum in 1901.

Ivor was declared the winner along with 4** other people whose designs were almost identical. The prize money was shared equally amongst them.

All 5 winners gathered at the Exhibition Building in Melbourne on 3 September to witness the unfurling of the new Australian National Flag.

Matthew Evans, Communications & Promotions officer at Bendigo South East College is Ivor’s great grandson.

‘His design had received high praise from Sir John William Evans (former Premier of Tasmania and no relation),’ Matthew said.

‘Sir John Evans said his was technically correct based on the stars in the southern cross in that they were scaled appropriately in accordance with their distance and location in the sky.’

But why did a 14 year old boy apply himself to the difficult task of designing a national flag?

‘Federation was an exciting time for all in those days,’ Matthew said.

‘There was a great sense of optimism about the future of the nation. Ivor was passionate to participate in anything at the time. In the same period of time, he had won a number of academic awards and achieved a scholarship.’

Ivor’s interest in the flag and the nation it represented, continued throughout his life.

‘After the competition, Ivor had a significant presence on matters regarding the Australian Flag,’ Matthew said.

‘He did various interviews on radio and in the news. He gave his last interview on radio in 1959 before he passed away in 1960.’

Ivor actively engaged in the discussion over the Flags Act of 1953.

In 1901, two versions of the flag were produced, the navy based flag we have now and one with a red background. Over time, the red version (Red Ensign) became most commonly flown around Australia. It wasn’t until the Flags Act 1953 proclaimed the blue ensign as the Australian National Flag and the red ensign as the flag for merchant ships registered in Australia.

Australian National Flag Day is an opportunity for individuals, community organisations, local authorities, businesses and schools to celebrate with pride the anniversary of the Australian National Flag.

It is an opportunity to celebrate the history behind the flag and to remember the 5 people, including one 14 year old boy who shared a vision of how to represent Australia to the world.

For more information, read Ivor’s entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

*Number reported by Ivor in one of his reflections.

** William Stevens (b. 1866, NZ), Leslie John Hawkins (b. 1883, NSW), Egbert John Nuttall (b. 1866, Vic), Annie Whistler Dorrington (b. 1866, England)