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Keep It To The Left And Other Easy Tips For Respecting The Australian Flag

Recently, a number of people were upset about Australian flags being burned at a protest in Melbourne, and many people were surprised to learn that burning the Aussie flag is actually legal. Legally, you can do all manner of things with the Australian flag, but if you want to respect this symbol, there are several traditions you should follow.

If you are buying an Australian flag to hang in front of your business, in your yard or at a special event, here are just a few of the respectful practices you should keep in mind:

1. Keep it to the left

When in doubt, always orient your flag to the left. If you are displaying an Australian flag with another flag, it should be to the left of that flag based on the viewer's perception. For example, if you have two flagpoles in front of your shop or on your roof and you want to put the Australian flag on one and your state or territory flag on the other, the Australian flag should be to the left based on the perception of someone approaching your building. It should not hang to the left of someone leaving your building. Similarly, if you are hanging the Australian flag behind a speaker on a stage, you want the flag to the left of the speaker based on the audience's left hand side.

If you are hanging the flag vertically, you still want to remember the "keep it to the left" rule. However, in this case, left refers to the direction the Union Jack embedded in the flag needs to be. If you put the Union Jack portion of the flag to the right of the viewer, it is backwards.

2. Put it centre stage

There is only one basic exception to the "keep it left rule", and that occurs when you have the Australian flag displayed with several other international flags. In a group, the Australian flag should assume center stage, and although it can be hung higher than or at the same level of the other flags, it should never be lower than other international flags.

3. Lower in times of grief

The only time the Australian flag should be relatively low is when you are flying it at half-mast due to grief or tragedy. Flying a flag at half-mast is an international symbol of grief, derived from an old sailing practise. Ideally, you should briskly raise the flag to its maximum height and then slowly pull it down to half mast. It can stay there until nightfall. At that time, it should be lowered completely and taken down.

4. Fly during the day

Flags should never be flown at half-mast during the night, and in most cases, flags should only be flown during the day from sunrise to sunset. If you have illumination for your flag such as spot lights or overhead indoor lights that you plan to keep on, you can keep the flag flying at night as long as it is not at half-mast.

5. Don't use the flag as a cover

If you want to show respect to the flag, you should never use it as a cover. To that end, do not use it to cover a statue before an unveiling, and don't use it as cloth wrapping around a gift.

Just as you should never use the flag to cover anything, you should never cover the flag with anything. That means you shouldn't add embellishments or other symbols to the Australian flag. Similarly, you should never print the flag on napkins or paper plates or anything disposable.