Indigenous Australian flags
Indigenous Australians have two flags recognising their identity, culture and achievements.
The Australian Aboriginal Flag
The Australian Aboriginal Flag was designed by artist Harold Thomas and first flown at Victoria Square in Adelaide, South Australia, on National Aborigines Day, 12 July 1971. It became the official flag for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra after it was first flown there in 1972. Since then, it has become a widely recognised symbol of the unity and identity of Aboriginal people.
In view of the flag’s wide acceptance and importance in Australian society, the Commonwealth took steps in 1994 to give the flag legal recognition. After a period of public consultation, in July 1995 the Aboriginal flag was proclaimed a ‘Flag of Australia’ under the Flags Act 1953.
In 1997 the Federal Court recognised Harold Thomas as the author of the flag.
Form and symbolism
The Aboriginal flag is divided horizontally into halves. The top half is black and the lower half red. There is a yellow circle in the centre of the flag.
The meanings of the three colours in the flag, as stated by Harold Thomas, are:
- Black – represents the Aboriginal people of Australia
- Yellow circle – represents the Sun, the giver of life and protector
- Red – represents the red earth, the red ochre used in ceremonies and Aboriginal peoples’ spiritual relation to the land
The Aboriginal flag should be flown or displayed with the black at the top and the red at the bottom. Any questions on how and when to display the Australian Aboriginal Flag should be directed to the Commonwealth Flag Officer in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Further information on flags is available on the ‘Its an honour’ website.
The Australian Aboriginal flag is protected under copyright and may be reproduced only in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 or with the permission of Harold Thomas. Contact details are:Mr Harold Thomas
PO Box 41807
Casuarina NT 0810
Permission is not required to fly the Australian Aboriginal Flag.
Purchase of flags
Mr Thomas has awarded a licence for the manufacture and marketing of the Australian Aboriginal Flag to Carroll and Richardson Flags
Torres Strait Islander Flag
The Torres Strait Islander flag was designed by the late Bernard Namok as a symbol of unity and identity for Torres Strait Islanders. Adopted in 1992, it was the winning entry in a design competition run by the Island Coordinating Council, a Queensland statutory body representing the community councils in the Torres Strait.
In the same year it was recognised by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and given equal prominence with the Australian Aboriginal Flag.
In July 1995 the Australian Government recognised it, with the Australian Aboriginal Flag, as an official ‘Flag of Australia’ under the Flags Act 1953.
Form and symbolism
The Torres Strait Islander flag has three horizontal panels, with green at the top and bottom and blue in between. These panels are divided by thin black lines. A white Dhari (traditional headdress) sits in the centre, with a five-pointed white star beneath it.
The meanings of the colours in the flag are:
- Green – represents the land
- Black – represents the Indigenous peoples
- Blue - represents the sea
- White – represents peace
The Dhari represents Torres Strait Islander people and the five-pointed star represents the five island groups within the Torres Strait. The star is also a symbol for seafaring people as it is used in navigation.
Any questions on how and when to display the Torres Strait Islander flag should be directed to the Commonwealth Flag Officer in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The copyright of the Torres Strait Island flag is owned by the Torres Strait Island Regional Council (TSIRC). Its contact details are:
Torres Strait Island Regional Council
PO Box 501
Thursday Island QLD 4875
Telephone: 07 4069 1446
Fax: 07 4069 1868
The TSIRC gives permission for requests to reproduce the Torres Strait Flag subject to the following conditions:
- that, where appropriate, recognition is given to the original designer, the late Mr Bernard Namok
- the original PMS colours are used, and
- that permission must be received in writing from the TSIRC, prior to its use.
Permission is not required to fly the Torres Strait Islander Flag, however, any questions on how and when to display the Torres Strait Islander Flag should be directed to the Torres Strait Island Regional Council.
Further information on flags is available on the ‘Its an honour’ website.