The Australian Flag

Australia’s National Flag

In 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia was formed.  Until this time, Australia used Britain’s flag, the Union Jack.  A competition was held to find the design for Australia’s own flag.  Five designers shared the prize because they came up with similar ideas for the Australian flag.

In the top left hand corner is the Union Jack.  This shows that Australia is part of the British Commonwealth.  Beneath the Union Jack is a large white star with seven points.  The points represent the six states and the territories.  Originally this star had six points.  The seventh point, for the territories was added in 1908.

On the right hand side are the stars of the Southern Cross. The southern Cross was chosen because it can always be seen in the Australian sky at night.

The Aboriginal Flag

The Aboriginal Flag was designed by Harold Thomas, an artist and an Aboriginal, in 1971. The flag was designed to be an eye-catching rallying symbol for the Aboriginal people and a symbol of their race and identity. The black represents the Aboriginal people, the red the earth and their spiritual relationship to the land, and the yellow the sun, the giver of life.

In the late 1960s, Aborigines stepped up their campaign for indigenous land rights through protest marches, demonstrations, banners and posters. The protests increased in the early 1970s and Harold Thomas noticed they were often outnumbered by non-Aborigines with their own banners and placards. He decided they needed to be more visible and the idea of the flag was born.

The Aboriginal flag was first raised in Victoria Square in Adelaide on National Aboriginal Day in 1971, but was adopted nationally by Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in 1972 after it was flown above the Aboriginal “Tent Embassy” outside of the old Parliament House in Canberra.

The Aboriginal flag is increasingly being flown by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. In view of its increasing importance in Australian society, the Government initiated steps in 1994 to give the flag legal recognition. After a period of public consultation, the Government made its own decision in July 1995 that the flag should be proclaimed a “Flag of Australia” under section 5 of the Flags Act 1953. The flag was so proclaimed by the Governor General of Australia, William Hayden, on 14 July 1995.

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