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City of Melbourne (Victoria, Australia)

Last modified: 2015-06-25 by ian macdonald
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[City of Melbourne flag] image by Eugene Ipavec, 15 Jun 2006

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City of Melbourne Flag

The City of Melbourne flag is a (roughly) a banner of arms. The arms are described at this page on the City of Melbourne website:

"On a silver shield, a red cross (the cross of St George) with a narrow red bar (known as a cotise) is adjacent to, and parallel with, each side of each arm of the cross. On the central part of the cross is a Royal Crown. Also on the shield, in the four quarters, are: a fleece hanging from a red ring; a black bull standing on a hillock; a spouting whale swimming in the sea; and a three-masted ship in full-sail."
At the bottom of the page is a photo of what appears to be the reverse of the flag.
Jonathan Dixon, 28 May 2005

1940-1970 flag

[City of Melbourne flag 1940-70] image by Eugene Ipavec, 15 Jun 2006

I have come across a slightly unusual version of the City of Melbourne flag. Instead of the in the third quarter the whale appears in the second, having switched places with the bull. I suppose this could be a flag based on an earlier version of the arms, but the crown does appear to be St Edward’s crown indicating a post 1953 date.

It is a small car flag and I wonder on whose car it would be displayed?
Mattias Hansson, 2 June 2006

The Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne (Vic., Aust.) does sometimes use a "Car-size" flag when driven to official functions. The difference in location for two of the elements on this flag, as reported, is that this flag was based on the City Arms used between the 30 January 1940 and 18 March 1970. It was decided to swap the Bull and Whale so that the sea symbols would appear on the same (lower level), with the land symbols on the same (upper level).
Ralph Bartlett, 11 June 2006

I am familiar with the old coat of arms, where the whale appears in the top right, as this form appears in many very durable forms around the city on lampposts and such. However this form was eventually pointed out to them as an embarrassment, as the presence of 'water' above the ship made the ship, heraldically, a submarine.

I think you might agree that a three-masted submarine in full sail is a little ridiculous. I don't know that this situation was what motivated the change in 1940, but as it is the only change to the flag I strongly suspect it to be the case.
Karen Groves, 20 October 2013

The two image versions of the City of Melbourne Flag shown here are based upon extensive researching conducted by myself and others, over many years.

The flag itself is based upon the Shield of the City's Coat-of-Arms, first designed as Seal in 1843, but not officially granted as a full Coat-of-Arms, by the College of Arms (London), until the 30 January 1940. The Arms, and therefore the City Flag, were modified on the 18 March 1970, by swapping the positions of the Bull and Whale, so that the two land animals appear on the same horizontal level, with the two sea features appearing below on their own same horizontal level. The reasoning for this change suggested by Karen Groves is a possible "realistic" reason.

I believe that the City of Melbourne Council decided in 1970 not to remove the various renditions of the earlier Coat-of-Arms from around the central city area, as they had become both decorative and historical features of the City's history. As someone who was born and raised in greater Melbourne, and has worked for the last 30 years in the City's central business district, these decorative lamp posts and street power box doors are a lovely feature for both residents and tourists to enjoy.
Ralph Bartlett, 20 October 2013