Australian Aboriginal Flag

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Australian Aboriginal Flag
Australian Aboriginal Flag.svg
Proportion2:3 (here) or 1:2
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/Tarntanyangga, 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/Tarntanyangga, 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 officially proclaimed flags of Australia, [1] 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 officially proclaimed flag. [1]


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.

The flag is horizontally and equally divided into a black region (above) and a red region (below); a yellow disc is superimposed over the centre of the flag. [2] The overall proportions of the flag, as proclaimed, are 2:3; however, the flag is often reproduced in the proportions 1:2 as with the Australian National Flag. [3]


The Government of Australia granted it "Flag of Australia" status, under the Flags Act 1953, by proclamation on 14 July 1995. [1]

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. When displaying in physical fabric formats, it is much preferred to use the Pantone specifications. When printing on paper, the CMYK colours are superior.


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
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 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 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]

The National Indigenous Advisory Committee campaigned for the Aboriginal flag to be flown at Stadium Australia during the 2000 Summer Olympics. [11] The Olympics organisers announced that the Aboriginal flag would be flown at Olympic venues. [12] 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. [13]


Aboriginal flag flying in Victoria Square, Adelaide (2007), near where the flag was first flown Aboriginal Flag - Victoria Square.jpg
Aboriginal flag flying in Victoria Square, Adelaide (2007), near where the flag was first flown

Public buildings and locations

The first city council to fly the Aboriginal flag was Newcastle City Council in 1977. [14] The Melbourne Trades Hall is one of many other buildings throughout Australia that fly the flag. [15]

On 8 July 2002 the Adelaide City Council endorsed the permanent flying of the Aboriginal flag close to the location of its first raising at Victoria Square in 1971 (now dual-named Tarntanyangga), which now flies adjacent to the Australian flag. [16] [17] [18] It has also been flown in front of Adelaide Town Hall since the same date. [13]

Various councils in Australian towns fly the Aboriginal flag from the town halls, such as Bendigo (adopted in 2005). [19]

In April 2021 Regional NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said that he would like to see the flag flown at every New South Wales Police regional police station in the state, expanding from the 12 of the 89 then flying it. [20]

Other authorised uses

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. [21]

Aboriginal-designed emojis titled Indigemojis and including the flag on several designs, were released in December 2019 via an app, [22] with the permission of Harold Thomas. [23]

Proposed, unauthorised and other uses

The Aboriginal flag is sometimes substituted for the Union Flag in the canton of Australia's flag in proposed new Australian flag designs. Harold Thomas said of this idea: "I wouldn′t reject it out of hand, but I could make a decision to say no. 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]

In the science fiction film Event Horizon , actor Sam Neill, himself a New Zealander, designed a flag for use on his sleeve as the way he thought the Australian flag should look in 2047, which incorporated the Aboriginal flag. [25]

The Australian Aboriginal Flag is celebrated in the 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.[ citation needed ]

The Australian Aboriginal Flag is the default flag in the web game NationStates .[ citation needed ]

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 its creator Harold Thomas demanding payment if Google were to use it. [26]

The anti-Islamic group Reclaim Australia used the flag at their protests in 2015, which was condemned by the flag's creator, Harold Thomas, who called it "idiotic". [27]

Copyright in the flag has been subject to controversy, as to original ownership of the copyright and as to current ownership.

In 1997, in the case of Thomas v Brown and Tennant, [28] 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. [29] [30] 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. [31] 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. [32]

In November 2018, Thomas granted WAM Clothing (which is co-owned by Birubi Art owner Ben Wooster) a licence for the use of the flag on clothing. In June 2019, it was reported that WAM Clothing had demanded that Aboriginal-owned businesses stop selling clothing that featured the flag. [33] They also sent notices to the NRL and AFL about their use of the flag on Indigenous round jerseys. [34]

In June 2019, Birubi Art was fined A$2.3 million for selling products made in Indonesia as "Aboriginal art". The company had previously started liquidation proceedings. [35]

In June 2020, after a prominent Aboriginal footballer began selling WAM-licensed teeshirts bearing the flag through his own website, Aboriginal former senator Nova Peris, a leader of a "free the flag" campaign, wrote to the Governor-General, requesting his support for divesting WAM of the copyright. [36]

After consultation with its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council, the AFL did not enter into a commercial agreement with WAM in 2020, in line with general Aboriginal sentiment on the issue. In August 2020, Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Australians, said that he would love to see the flag freely used across Australia, and former AFL player Michael Long said its absence would have a negative effect on the players in the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round. Wyatt encouraged spectators to bring flags to the games, beginning in Darwin on 22 August 2020. [37] [38]

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  1. 1 2 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.
  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. The proclamations and the Flags Act (for the Australian National Flag and the Australian Red Ensign) do not specify overall proportions but show the flags as images.
  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".
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Further reading