Australian Aboriginal Flag

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Australian Aboriginal Flag
Australian Aboriginal Flag.svg
Adopted14 July 1995
DesignA horizontal bi-colour of black and red with a yellow disc in the centre.
Designed by Harold Thomas
Marching from Parliament House down King William Street to Victoria Square, Adelaide, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Aboriginal Flag, 8 July 2001. Aboriginal Flag 30th anniversary event, Adelaide.jpg
Marching from Parliament House down King William Street to Victoria Square, Adelaide, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Aboriginal Flag, 8 July 2001.

The Australian Aboriginal Flag 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.

Aboriginal Australians term used to refer to some groups of Indigenous Australians

Aboriginal Australians are the various indigenous peoples of the Australian mainland, Tasmania, and often the Tiwi people. This group contains many distinct peoples that have developed across Australia for over 50,000 years. These peoples have a broadly shared, though complex, genetic history, but it is only in the last two hundred years that they have been defined and started to self identify as a single group. The definition of the term "Aboriginal" has changed over time and place, with the importance of family lineage, self identification and community acceptance all being of varying importance. In the past, Aboriginal Australians lived over large sections of the continental shelf and were isolated on many of the smaller offshore islands when the land was inundated at the start of the inter-glacial. However, they are considered distinct from the Torres Strait Islander people, despite extensive cultural exchange.

Flag of Australia national flag

The flag of Australia is a defaced Blue Ensign: a blue field with the Union Jack in the canton, and a large white seven-pointed star known as the Commonwealth Star in the lower hoist quarter. The fly contains a representation of the Southern Cross constellation, made up of five white stars – one small five-pointed star and four, larger, seven-pointed stars. There are other official flags representing Australia, its people and core functions of government.

Torres Strait Islander Flag

The Torres Strait Islander Flag is an official flag of Australia, and is the flag that represents Torres Strait Islander people. It was designed in 1992 by Bernard Namok. It won a local competition held by the Islands Coordinating Council, and was recognised by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in June 1992.


The Australian Aboriginal Flag was designed in 1971 by Aboriginal artist Harold Thomas, who is descended from the Luritja people of Central Australia and holds intellectual property rights to the flag's design. The flag was originally designed for the land rights movement, and it became a symbol of the Aboriginal people of Australia.

Harold Thomas (activist) Visual artist and activist

Harold Joseph Thomas is an Aboriginal Australian descended from the Luritja people of Central Australia. An artist and land rights activist, he is best known for designing and copyrighting the Australian Aboriginal Flag.

The flag's width is twice its height. [1] It is horizontally divided into a black region (above) and a red region (below). A yellow disc is superimposed over the centre of the flag. [2]


The Government of Australia granted it Flag of Australia status, under the Flags Act 1953, by proclamation on 14 July 1995. [3]

Government of Australia federal democratic administrative authority of Australia

The Government of Australia is the government of the Commonwealth of Australia, a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy. It is also commonly referred to as the Australian Government, the Commonwealth Government, Her Majesty's Government, or the Federal Government.

Flags Act 1953 Act of the Parliament of Australia, currently registered as C2008C00376

The Flags Act 1953 is an act of the Parliament of Australia which defines the official Flag of Australia. Queen Elizabeth II gave Royal Assent on 14 February 1954 after opening the Commonwealth Parliament during her 1954 Royal Tour. It was the first of the few Commonwealth Statutes enacted by the reigning Monarch.

Due to an "administrative oversight", [4] the 1995 proclamation was not lodged so that it would continue in force indefinitely; hence it automatically expired on 1 January 2008. It was therefore almost identically replaced, on 25 January 2008, with effect as from 1 January. [5]

In the 2008 proclamation, the flag "is recognised as the flag of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia and a flag of significance to the Australian nation generally" and appointed "to be the flag of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia and to be known as the Australian Aboriginal Flag". The design is reproduced in Schedule 1 and described in Schedule 2.

Symbolic meaning

The symbolic meaning of the flag colours (as stated by Harold Thomas) is: [6]


A version of the flag using RGB approximations of the official Pantone colours Australian Aboriginal Flag (Pantone).svg
A version of the flag using RGB approximations of the official Pantone colours

The official colour specifications of the Australian Aboriginal Flag are: [7]

Pantone 1795 C (or 179 C [8] )123 CBlack C








CMYK 0%–100%–100%–30%0%–0%–100%–0%0%–0%–0%–100%

In most cases, on-screen or digital reproductions of the flag should use the RGB colours as in the table above. This version of the flag can be seen at the top of this page. When displaying in physical fabric formats, it is much preferred to use the Pantone specifications. When printing on paper, the CMYK colours are superior.


Aboriginal flag flying in Victoria Square, Adelaide (2008); near where the flag was first flown Aboriginal Flag - Victoria Square.jpg
Aboriginal flag flying in Victoria Square, Adelaide (2008); near where the flag was first flown

The flag was first flown on National Aborigines Day in Victoria Square in Adelaide on 12 July 1971. [6] It was also used in Canberra at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy from late 1972. In the early months of the embassy—which was established in February that year—other designs were used, including a black, green and red flag made by supporters of the South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league club, and a flag with a red-black field containing a spear and four crescents in yellow.

Cathy Freeman caused controversy at the 1994 Commonwealth Games by carrying the Aboriginal flag as well as the Australian national flag during her victory lap of the arena, after winning the 200 metres sprint; only the national flag is meant to be displayed. Despite strong criticism from both Games officials and Australian team president Arthur Tunstall, Freeman carried both flags again after winning the 400 metres.

The Australian Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Australian flags being flown outside Parliament House to mark NAIDOC Week Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Australian flags outside the Australian Parliament House in July 2016.jpg
The Australian Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Australian flags being flown outside Parliament House to mark NAIDOC Week

The decision in 1995 by Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags should be given the status of national flags was opposed by the Liberal Opposition at the time, Opposition Leader John Howard stating that "any attempt to give the flags official status under the Flags Act would rightly be seen by many in the community not as an act of reconciliation but as a divisive gesture". [9] Nonetheless, since Howard became Prime Minister in 1996 and under subsequent Labor governments, these flags have remained national flags. However, this decision was differently criticised by the designer of the flag, Harold Thomas, who said that the Aboriginal flag "doesn't need any more recognition". [10]

In 1997, in the case Thomas v Brown and Tennant, [11] the Federal Court of Australia declared that Harold Thomas was the owner of copyright in the design of the Australian Aboriginal flag, and thus the flag has protection under Australian copyright law. [12] [13] Thomas had sought legal recognition of his ownership and compensation following the Federal Government's 1995 proclamation of the design. His claim was contested by two others, George Brown and James Tennant. [14] Thomas awarded rights solely to Carroll & Richardson – Flagworld Pty Ltd and Birubi Art Pty Ltd for the manufacture and marketing of the flag and of products featuring the flag's image. [15] In June 2019, Birubi Art was fined $2.3 million AUD for selling products made in Indonesia as "Aboriginal art". The company had previously started liquidation proceedings. [16] In November 2018, WAM Clothing was granted a license for the use of the flag on clothing, and in June 2019 it was reported that they had demanded that Aboriginal-owned businesses stop selling clothing that featured the flag. [17]

Australian Aboriginal Flag, Invasion Day protest march, Sydney, 2018 Aboriginal Flag, Invasion Day march, Redfern, 26 January 2018.jpg
Australian Aboriginal Flag, Invasion Day protest march, Sydney, 2018

The National Indigenous Advisory Committee campaigned for the Aboriginal flag to be flown at Stadium Australia during the 2000 Summer Olympics. [18] SOCOG announced that the Aboriginal flag would be flown at Olympic venues. [19] The flag has been flown over the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the march for reconciliation of 2000 and many other events, including Australia Day.

On the 30th anniversary of the flag in 2001, thousands of people were involved in a ceremony where the flag was carried from the Parliament of South Australia to Victoria Square. Since 8 July 2002, after recommendations of the Council's Reconciliation Committee, the Aboriginal Flag has been permanently flown in Victoria Square and in front of the Town Hall. [20]


Many buildings in Australia fly the Aboriginal flag as well as the Australian flag, the Melbourne Trades Hall being an example. Various councils in Australian towns fly the Aboriginal flag from the town halls, such as Bendigo (adopted in 2005). [21] The first city council to fly the Aboriginal flag was Newcastle City Council in 1977. [22] And it is used as the team colours of the all-aboriginal AFL team The Fitzroy Stars.

The Aboriginal flag is sometimes substituted for the Union Flag in the canton of Australia's flag in proposed new Australian flag designs. Such flags have been presented in science fiction as futuristic Australian flags, as in the film Event Horizon , where it was worn by Sam Neill. [23] Many Aboriginal people object to this use, including Harold Thomas, who said "Our flag is not a secondary thing. It stands on its own, not to be placed as an adjunct to any other thing. It shouldn't be treated that way." [24]

The Australian Aboriginal Flag is celebrated in the controversial painting The First Supper (1988) by Susan Dorothea White where the central figure is an Aboriginal woman who displays the flag on her T-shirt.

The Australian Aboriginal Flag is the default flag in the web game NationStates .

The sale of condoms in the colours of the Aboriginal flag won a public health award in 2005 for the initiative's success in improving safe sex practices among young Indigenous people. [25]

The flag was to be part of the logo on Google Australia's home page on Australia Day 2010, but the company was forced to modify the design due to Harold Thomas demanding payment if Google were to use it. [26]

The anti-Islamic group Reclaim Australia used the flag at their protests, which was openly condemned by the author Harold Thomas. He said of the use: [27]

They should get permission from Aboriginal communities in general. The flag is our identity and expression of who we are. It’s quite clear we use it freely and willingly and the government recognises the flag. It has its place.

But to utilise it as a banner for anger or for another skewered reason is idiotic.

Aboriginal-designed emojis featuring the flag are to be released via an app, with the permission of Harold Thomas. [28]

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  1. {{Cite web|url= - Sub-national flags|last=|first=|date=10 June 2019|website=World Flag Database
  2. "Australian Aboriginal Flag" (PDF). Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Australian Government. 15 May 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 May 2009. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  3. Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, Special, No. S 259, 14 July 1995. This was a special issue of the Gazette, printed in colour on high quality paper. It may be found at the back of Government Notices issue No. GN 28, 19 July 1995, together with the proclamation (No. S 258) of the Torres Strait Islander Flag.
  4. Perhaps because the special issue is not listed on the front of issue No. GN 28. The Gazette is available online only from 2002.
  5. "Flags Act 1953—Proclamation (Australian Aboriginal Flag)". ComLaw . Retrieved 30 May 2014. The only significant change from 1995 is that "Australian Aboriginal flag" is altered to "Australian Aboriginal Flag".
  6. 1 2 "Indigenous Australian flags". Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 23 June 2015. Also Schedule 2 to each of the proclamations.
  7. Australia. (2002). Style manual for authors, editors and printers. Snooks & Co. (6th ed.). Canberra: John Wiley & Sons Australia. p. 300. ISBN   9780701636487. OCLC   49316140.
  8. Cabinet, Prime Minister and (27 June 2016). "Australian flags". Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  9. From a statement of 4 July 1995, cited on Flags of the World website. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  10. Harold Thomas in Land Rights News, July 1995, p. 3, cited in Aboriginal Tent Embassy: Icon or Eyesore?
  11. Harold Joseph Thomas v David George Brown & James Morrison Vallely Tennant [1997] FCA 215 (9 April 1997) Accessed 14 July 2013.
  12. "Federal Court declares Aboriginal artist owner of copyright in Aboriginal flag" (PDF) (Press release). Australian Copyright Council. 9 April 1997. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 June 2005. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  13. "The Work of the Court". Annual Report 1996-1997. Federal Court of Australia. Archived from the original on 28 March 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  14. Colin Golvan, "A Sorry Tale", from Australian Financial Review 4 July 2008. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  15. "Press release from Carroll and Richardson". Flags of the World . Archived from the original on 16 March 2008. Retrieved 11 March 2008.
  16. Isabella Higgins (26 June 2019). "Federal Court imposes $2.3 million penalty on Birubi Art for selling fake Aboriginal art". ABC News.
  17. Allam, Lorena (11 June 2019). "Company that holds Aboriginal flag rights part-owned by man prosecuted for selling fake art". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  18. "Aboriginal flag to fly?". Cool Running Australia. 25 September 1998. Retrieved 11 March 2008.
  19. "Aboriginal flag to fly at Olympic venues". 21 August 2000. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
  20. "Reconciliation". Archived from the original on 2 September 2006. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
  21. "City of Greater Bendigo – Aboriginal Flag To Permanently Fly From Town Hall". 21 April 2005. Archived from the original on 14 March 2011. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
  22. Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (1994). "Chapter 19. Newcastle: Building a Community". Walking Together: The First Steps. Report of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation to Federal Parliament 1991–94. Australian Government Printing Service. Retrieved 10 March 2008.
  23. "Flag Waived." AusFlag: Article from The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 October 1997. Retrieved 2015-09-15.
  24. Quoted at this Ausflag page
  25. "Aboriginal flag condoms win health award". ABC News. 10 November 2005. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  26. Moses, Asher (26 January 2010). "Oh dear: Google flagged over logo dispute". Archived from the original on 4 July 2010. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
  27. McQuire, Amy (8 April 2015). "Oh dear: Father Of The Aboriginal Flag Slams Reclaim Australia For 'Idiotic' Appropriation". Archived from the original on 27 August 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  28. Taylor, Josh (12 July 2019). "Indigenous emojis featuring Aboriginal flag and boomerang to be released". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2019.

Further reading