Flag Retirement Protocol: Consultation Paper

GovernmentAustralian National Flag
Monday, November 28, 2016
Publication author(s):
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Publication abstract:

The Government is interested in community views on changes to flag protocols to include guidance on conducting a retirement ceremony for used Australian National Flags.


The Government is interested in community views on changes to flag protocols to include guidance on conducting a retirement ceremony for used Australian National Flags.

Dignified use of the Australian National Flag

The Australian National Flag is Australia's foremost national symbol and has become an expression of Australian identity and pride. As one of Australia’s most important symbols, the flag should be used with respect and dignity. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet provides flag protocols to assist in dignified use when flying or using the flag. More information on the protocols is available on the Department’s website at http://www.dpmc.gov.au/government/australian-national-flag/australian-national-flag-protocols.

Current protocol for retirement of flags

According to Australian Government flag protocol, the flag should not be flown if it is damaged, faded or dilapidated. When the material of a flag deteriorates it should be destroyed privately and in a dignified way. There is a range of possible ways this can be done but it should always be conducted in a solemn and dignified manner. One approach is cutting the flag into small unrecognisable pieces then putting it in the normal rubbish collection.

Possible ceremonial retirement protocol

Currently the protocol recommends that the flag is retired in a private and dignified manner.

A ceremony would be an optional way to retire an Australian National Flag that is no longer able to be flown because it has become damaged, faded or dilapidated. It would not be a requirement and may not be appropriate or practical in all circumstances.

A draft ceremony outline is included on the next page. The Government is inviting feedback on the outline and any other suggestions on flag retirement protocols.

International practice

In the United States of America, organisations such as the Boy Scouts of America and the American Legion, the nation’s largest wartime veterans’ service organization, provide various examples of how to satisfy the requirement of having a dignified retirement of a flag in the context of a ceremony.

In Canada, veterans organisations, such as the Royal Canadian Legion and The Canadian Heroes Foundation, are the key community groups that provide guidance on how to organise a ceremonial retirement of flags where required.

Providing your views

Please provide your views, including on proposed elements of a flag retirement ceremony, by email to nationalsymbols@pmc.gov.au or by mail to:

National Symbols Officer

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

PO Box 6500

Canberra  ACT  2600

The closing date for feedback is Friday, 3 February 2017.

General outline for a flag retirement ceremony

In some circumstances it may be fitting to hold a ceremony to mark the retirement of a used Australian National Flag. The order of ceremony below is provided as a guide to how such an event could be run.

  • Introduction/Welcome by MC
  • Acknowledgement of Country
  • Comments regarding the history and symbolism of the Australian National Flag (flag to be retired brought to be displayed to those in attendance)
  • Comments regarding retired flag’s history (where flown, how long, memorable events in that time)
  • Speech about retirement of flag (Short Silence while flag is retired)*
  • Australian National Anthem is played
  • Closing Remarks

*The flag can be ceremonially cut into three pieces with solemnity. The parts of the flag can be placed in a suitable receptacle and either escorted from the scene or left until those attending the ceremony depart

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