documentearth-globe2emaillocation-pinlocationphone

The Story of our Flags

The Australian Aboriginal Flag is a flag that represents Aboriginal Australians. It is one of the official flags of Australia, and holds special legal and political status. It is often flown together with the national flag and with the Torres Strait Islander Flag, which is also an official flag of Australia. On the 14th of July 1995, the Governor General of Australia William Hayden proclaimed both the Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Islander Flag to be 'Flags of Australia'.

The Aboriginal Flag

On the 12th of July 1971, the Australian Aboriginal flag was flown for the first time on National Aborigines Day in Victoria Square, Adelaide, South Australia. Since then, it has become the recognised symbol of unity for all Aboriginal people.

Designed and created by artist and activist, Harold Thomas, a Luritja man from central Australia and a member of the Stolen Generation; created the flag in response to the questions of personal and cultural identity.

Aboriginal Flag

I've got a symbol that represents me and who I am, whether I live in Redfern or Adelaide or Perth, I'm proud of it.

– Harold Thomas

 

The design of the Aboriginal Flag

The design of the Aboriginal flag comes with the following representations:

  • The red represents the land which nourishes the people
  • The yellow represents the life-giving sun
  • The black represents the Aboriginal people of Australia and the pride that comes in being black.

Listen to the Creator

  • Listen to the interview with flag creator Harold Thomas as he recounts how he came to create the Aboriginal Flag (Source: ABC Radio Darwin. Interview with Miranda Tetlow)
  • Here is a short video explaining the origins and meaning of the Aboriginal Flag (Source: SBS On-Demand)

The Torres Strait Islander Flag

At the 6th Torres Strait Cultural Festival on the 29th of May, 1992, the new Torres Strait Islander flag was presented to the people of the Torres Strait Islands. The design of the flag was the winning entry by the late Bernard Namok in a competition held as part of a cultural revival workshop organised by The Islands Coordinating Council in January 1992.

Torres Strait Islander Flag

Bernard's son, Bernard Namok Jr recalls how his father worked on the design of the flag:

I remember my dad sitting up late doing sketches. Night after night the dinner table would be filled with his sketches of the flag.

– Bernard Namok Jr.

 

The design of the Torres Strait Islander Flag

The design of the Torres Strait Islander flag comes with the following representations:

  • The green panels at the top and the bottom of the flag symbolise the land
  • The blue panel in the centre represents the waters of the Torres Strait
  • The thin black stripes between the green and blue panels signify the Torres Strait Islanders themselves
  • The white five-pointed star at the centre of the flag represents the five major island groups, and the white dhari (dancer’s headdress) around it also symbolises the Torres Strait Islands people
  • White symbolises peace, while the star is a symbol for navigation

Activities

  • Listen to the interview with Bernard’s son, Bernard Namok Jr. as he pays tribute to this father.
  • Watch the documentary 'Carry The Flag' - a rich and powerful story of a man whose design created meaning for a people once invisible to people of mainland Australia, the people of the Torres Strait. (Source: SBS On-Demand)

Sources

Video 1 background image Video 1 background image
'Flags of Australia'

On the 14th of July 1995, the Governor General of Australia William Hayden proclaimed both the Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Islander Flag to be 'Flags of Australia'.

Activities for Children

Remember!
Harold Thomas designed and created the Aboriginal Flag in response to questions of personal and cultural identity.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings or printed material. To listen to our Acknowledgement to Country, click here.