The Aboriginal Flag is a symbol that represents all Aboriginal people. It is one of the official flags of Australia, and holds special legal and political status. 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 a recognised symbol 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 Generations, who created the flag in response to the questions of personal and cultural identity.
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 represents the following:
- 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 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.
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 represents the following:
- 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
- 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)
- An overview about the history and symbolic meaning of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flags
- ABC Radio Darwin, written by Miranda Tetlow
- A written overview about the Aboriginal Flag and its symbolic meaning with additional historical references
- An article on Bernard Namok, the creator/designer of the Torres Strait Islander flag
- An article covering the memorial celebrations for Torres Strait Islander flag creator, Bernard Namok
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
- Download and colour your own Aboriginal Flag.
- Download and colour your own Torres Strait Islander Flag.