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Sustainable business charts new path towards reconciliation

Dechlan Brennan -

In the aftermath of another fractious January 26 – which saw rallies throughout the nation juxtaposed with the destruction of statues - one businessman is making a concerted effort to foster reconciliation and harmony.

Sustainable fashion designer, Jay Walton, has started the 3 Flags, 1 Country campaign, which sets out to change both the Australian flag, as well as the date.

Mr Walton says he used to feel a strong connection to the Australian flag, but it's diminished over time because of "everything it represents".

Citing the massacres of Indigenous Australians as well as the beginning of colonisation on January 26, he says a new flag and new national day are imperative.

"As a guy who sits on both sides of this argument, I don't want white Australians to feel like the fun has been ruined by Indigenous Australians simply because the date it's held on causes trauma for anyone with Aboriginal background or compassion for Indigenous affairs," he said.

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A post shared by Re-Loved Apparel (@re_loved_apparel)

Mr Walton said growing up in Old Bar, near Forster in New South Wales, and witnessing "huge tension against Aboriginal Australians", as well the distinct separation of communities in missions, made him start to re-evaluate his views.

"There is no better way to show racism than to put Indigenous people on a mission…It didn't make sense to me, and it made me sad," he said.

Jay was to discover his own Indigenous heritage as an adult, which he described a "huge family secret" as a result of his grandmother being removed from home during the Stolen Generation.

"I only discovered my Indigenous heritage by chance ten years ago via a family member caring for an Aboriginal Elder," he said.

"He revealed he was our great-grandma's cousin. We dug through the archives, and our ancestry was confirmed.

"My great grandparents were the renowned bonesetter, Thomas Mayers, and Aboriginal healer, Mary Ann Perry, from the Worimi Nation who formed the Mayers Clan in NSW's eastern Port Stephens and Great Lakes regions."

Through his business Re-Loved Apparel, Mr Walton has launched the 3 Flags, 1 Country campaign, which he says has come about in part due to witnessing the hysteria around the recent decision by Woolworths to not sell Australia Day attire.

"I don't want to create hate, I just want to create more harmony," he said.

He said the three flags on apparel created conversations, and he'd discussed it with other Indigenous people, who were all supportive of the idea.

However, the bigger picture is a change of the flag and the date.

"I work with the Indigenous community and in sustainability, and aside from bringing attention to racial inclusion, we want people to think about healing our country too," he said.

"Like anyone else, I love a party and think it's important that the country comes together as one for Australia Day; the simplest gesture of respect and compassion to Indigenous Australians – those who are left with a bad taste in their mouth this week and all Australians that don't feel a connection to the Union Jack – would be to change the date and the flag."

Two of Mr Walton's proposed designs for a new Australian flag. (Image: supplied)

Mr Walton has designed flags with the image of the watering hole, as well as the southern cross, whilst removing the Union Jack - a symbol of occupation.

"Most people are ignorant of what the Union Jack represents; this nation was stolen," he said.

"The Union Jack has left a scar for people from most continents.

"This wholistic image of the Australian flag featuring a watering hole represents a meeting place and bringing people together and would be the most powerful act of reconciliation."

Mr Walton agreed a day to celebrate was wonderful, and there were many that didn't create the division, nor the angst, of January 26.

He noted the inability of many to have the uncomfortable conversations left them unable to enjoy the day.

"Let's not just talk about changing the day of Australia day, but include every one in every other day of the year by having a flag that creates connection," he said.

He also highlighted sustainability, wanting to not just bring attention to racial inclusion, but have people thinking about healing Country as well.

Re-Loved has teamed up with the non-profit One Tree Planted; for every 3 flags, 1 country T-shirt, polo or tote bag sold, a tree will be planted.

As a message, Mr Walton only preached unity, arguing change would better facilitate reconciliation rather than holding on to archaic symbols and dates many find hurtful.

"Changing the date AND flag would bring ALL Australians together," he said.

"Let's change both to unite Australia in 2025 and beyond."

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