Australian flags include the Aboriginal flag, Torres Strait Island flag and many ensigns used in defence and civilian organisations. Information about the Australian National Flag is also available on this website.
Australian Aboriginal Flag
The Australian Aboriginal Flag was first raised on 12 July 1971 at Victoria Square in Adelaide. It was also used at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra in 1972.
The top half of the flag is black to symbolise Indigenous people. The red in the lower half stands for the earth and the colour of ochre, which has ceremonial significance. The circle of yellow in the centre of the flag represents the sun.
The Australian Aboriginal Flag is displayed at Aboriginal centres and is well recognised as the flag of Aboriginal peoples of Australia. It is flown during NAIDOC Week to celebrate and promote greater understanding of Indigenous peoples and culture and during National Reconciliation Week in recognition of 27 May as the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum which removed from the Constitution clauses that discriminated against Indigenous Australians and 3 June as the anniversary of the High Court decision in the Eddie Mabo land rights case of 1992.
Colour references for the Australian Aboriginal Flag are:
- Red PANTONE® 179
- Yellow PANTONE® 123
Mr Harold Thomas from Northern Australia designed the flag.
The Australian Aboriginal Flag was proclaimed on 14 July 1995.
Permission is not required to fly the Australian Aboriginal Flag.
The Australian Aboriginal Flag is protected by copyright and may only be reproduced in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 or with the permission of Mr Harold Thomas. Contact details are:
Mr Harold Thomas
PO Box 41807
CASUARINA NT 0810
Torres Strait Islander Flag
The Torres Strait Islander Flag was adopted in May 1992 during the Torres Strait Islands Cultural Festival.
The green panels at the top and bottom of the flag represent the land and the central blue panel represents the sea. The black lines dividing the panels represent the Torres Strait Islander people.
The centre of the flag shows a white dhari (dancer’s headdress) and is a symbol for all Torres Strait Islanders.
Underneath the dhari is a white five-pointed star. The star is an important symbol for navigating the sea. The points of the star represent the island groups in the Torres Strait and white symbolises peace.
Colour references for the Torres Strait Islander Flag are:
- Blue PANTONE® 280
- Green PANTONE® 342.
The Torres Strait Islander Flag is flown during NAIDOC Week and Reconciliation Week.
The design of the Torres Strait Islander Flag was the winning entry in a competition organised by the Island Coordinating Council.
The Torres Strait Islander Flag was proclaimed on 14 July 1995.
Permission is not required to fly the Torres Strait Islander Flag.
The Torres Strait Island Regional Council holds copyright in the Torres Strait Islander Flag. Requests for permission to reproduce the Torres Strait Islander Flag should be addressed to the Records Officer of the Island Regional Council. Contact details are:
Torres Strait Island Regional Council
PO Box 7336
Cairns QLD 4870
Tel: 07 4034 5700
Fax: 07 4034 5750
Further information on reproduction requirements are available on the Torres Strait Island Regional Council website.
The flags of the Australian Defence Force and government services have also become known as ensigns.
The Australian Army has no separate ensign but has the ceremonial role of protector of the Australian National Flag.
The Australian Defence Force ensign represents the three services of the Australian Defence Force. The defence force emblem in the centre of the flag is a symbol of the three services. The crossed swords represent the Australian Army, the anchor represents the Royal Australian Navy and the eagle represents the Royal Australian Air Force.
The red stripe on the flag represents the Australian Army, the dark blue stripe represents the Royal Australian Navy and the light blue stripe represents the Royal Australian Air Force.
The Commonwealth Star and the boomerang on the Australian Defence Force ensign represent Australia.
The Australian Defence Force ensign was proclaimed on 12 April 2000.
The Royal Australian Navy adopted the Australian white ensign in 1967. The Australian white ensign is an Australian National Flag with a white background. It is flown from the stern of naval vessels. The Australian National Flag is flown from the bow.
The Royal Australian Air Force ensign was adopted in 1948. It is an Australian National Flag with a light blue background. A leaping red kangaroo was added in 1982. Permission is required to fly or use a Defence Ensign. You should contact the relevant service brand manager to seek permission.
Order of Precedence for Defence Ensigns
The order of precedence for Defence Ensigns is:
- Australian National Flag
- Australian Defence Force ensign
- Australian white ensign
- Royal Australian Air Force ensign
Australian Red Ensign
When the Commonwealth Government announced a competition to design a flag for Australia in 1901, entrants were asked to send a design for two flags – one for official and naval purposes and the other for merchant ships.
The resulting Commonwealth red ensign or merchant flag was identical to the Australian National Flag (or Commonwealth blue ensign as it was then known) except that it had a red background instead of a blue one.
Historically, the Australian red ensign was used on land and at sea and Australians have fought under it during both world wars.
There was considerable confusion in the first half of the 20th century over the appropriate use of the red ensign as opposed to the blue ensign.
This was clarified with the passage of the Flags Act 1953 which proclaimed the blue ensign as the Australian National Flag. The Australian Red Ensign became the official flag to be flown at sea by Australian registered merchant ships.
September 3 each year, as well as being Australia National Flag Day, is also Merchant Navy Day. Organisations and individuals commemorating Merchant Navy Day can choose to fly the Australian Red Ensign. While it is generally only flown at sea, the Australian Red Ensign may be flown on land for ceremonial purposes such as Merchant Navy Day. When the Australian Red Ensign is flown along with the Australian National Flag, the Australian National Flag should be flown in the position of honour.
The Centenary Flag was presented to the Prime Minister on behalf of the people of Australia by the Australian National Flag Association on 3 September 2001 to mark the 100th anniversary of the day the Australian National Flag was first flown.
The Centenary Flag is an Australian National Flag with a white headband incorporating a cardinal red stripe and an inscription.
The Centenary Flag was proclaimed on 13 September 2001.
Other Australian Government flags represent specific government services.
The Australian Federal Police Flag
The Australian Border Force Flag
The Civil Air Ensign