Explorer Puts His Heart Into North Pole Trek

It was not so much making history as an Australian that gave Peter Bland his greatest sense of achievement in conquering the North Pole, but because he did it with a synthetic heart support system.

Bland reached his final destination -the Magnetic North Pole- two weeks ago, making him the first Australian to trek to both the Magnetic North and South Poles.

“But it was not so much being the first Australian to do it; that was an added bonus, “he said on arriving back in Australia yesterday. “But to me, I’d set a goal as someone diagnosed with a major heart condition and to achieve it is the main thing for me.”

Born with a hole in the heart, Bland, 29, had open heart surgery at eight and last year had major surgery to repair a heart aneurism. He said his cardio-vascular system was less efficient than other people’s because it was synthetic, but in order to overcome this handicap he had trained harder than the five others on the team. During the 28-day trek they pushed ahead at 25 km a day dragging top-heavy sledges that were constantly overturning. With temperatures hovering between -30C and -15C, he conceded there were moments when the going was tough.

At the request of the grandson of legendary Australian Antarctic conqueror Sir Douglas Mawson, Bland carried the same Australian flag on his walk that Mawson had packed. But the 90 years separating the two expeditions made Bland’s trek a hitech exercise compared with Mawson’s expedition.

13 May 1998
Andrea Jackson


West Australian

There is nothing sacred or mysterious about the origins of the Australian flag. Its design was based on the winning entries in a competition in 1901 for which a tobacco company provided part of the prize money. (The first Australian government after Federation had announced the official competition on the 29th of April, 1901.)

The £200 ($400) was shared by five people, including Mrs Annie Dorrington, of Perth, who all independently came up with the same design.

The flag was approved by King Edward V11 in 1903, but underwent a slight change in 1909 when a seventh point was added to the biggest star to symbolise the Territory of Papua – which was then entrusted to the Commonwealth – and all subsequent Territories which might become part of Australia.

History is not without examples of successful changes to flags. The British flag raised in Botany Bay by Capt. James Cook in 1770 was not the same as the Union Jack which now appears on our flag.

Capt. Cook’s flag consisted only of the combined flags of St George and St Andrew. The Union Jack which now appears evolved in 1801 when the red X-shaped cross of St Patrick was added to it to symbolise the integration of Ireland.

In more recent times both Canada and South Africa have adopted new flags which have quickly won the affections of the people and come to represent the new realities and the new spirit of those countries.

So, does all of this amount to a case to replace the Australian flag this century – perhaps with one of the 109 designs now on display at the WA Art Gallery? Definitely not.

In fact, by resurrecting the issue of a new flag on the eve of the Constitutional Convention the Ausflag people have been either very naive, or very mischievous.

The convention is supposed to be about a calm and thoughtful assessment of what sort of country Australia should become. By introducing an emotional subject like the flag at a time like this, Ausflag risks confusing the issue and creating unnecessary division.

As someone who fervently supports the idea of an Australian head of State, I worry that Ausflag’s campaign could become the fear that if we become a republic we will lose our flag.

In spite of its unremarkable origins, the flag has come to hold an important place in the emotions of a great many Australians – and not just those who fought under it or lost loved ones in wars.

Under that flag Australia has developed into one of the fairest and freest countries in the world; it has been a haven for refugees from Europe and Asia and a multicultural model which other countries try to emulate.

The most contentious part of the design is the Union Jack. But to keep it on the flag signifies historical reality, not obeisance to Britain. Even the US State of Hawaii retains the Union Jack on its flag to acknowledge its historical ties with Britain.

Some of the would-be Australian flags on display in the art gallery are quite pretty and would make good corporate logos or badges for sporting teams. But I did not see one that looked capable of inspiring a nation.

In the exercise in limited democracy, Ausflag has invited visitors to the gallery to vote for their first, second and third preference from among the flags on display.

Disappointingly, the ballot paper does not give the option of voting for the existing flag. It suggests an impertinent “we know what’s best for you” attitude.

29 January 1998
Andre Malan


Flagging a New Furphies

I am writing about the inaccurate statements by Mrs. Holmes a Court concerning the Australian National Flag.

In the (November 2) story she says:”But the people who say Australians fought under it (our National Flag) in two world wars and so on should realise that the Blue Ensign was rarely seen before 1955, and our forces only fought under that flag in Vietnam”.

This statement is wrong as an elementary study of history would reveal. The Australian flag was chosen by public competition in 1901.

When the Royal Australian Navy was formed in 1911 it was decreed that the Australian Flag was to be flown from the bows of all naval vessels and as a battle flag during war.

The Sun Herald November 16, 1997
John Vaughan