The three flags of Australia

In addition to the Australian national flag, two other flags are officially recognized on the fifth continent: the Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islander flag. Australian schools, councils and cultural institutions typically show these flags in front of their buildings.

The national Australian flag is the best known internationally and was given legal recognition in 1954. According to, five people from the Australian states, Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria designed the flag in 1900. It was first presented in 1901 after the federation of the colonies as the Commonwealth of Australia. However, the design of the flag was changed over the years repeatedly. The Union Jack in the left upper quarter and the blue background of the flag represent the land as part of the British Commonwealth. A white seven-pointed star is in the lower left quarter. The star had originally only six points representing the six states of Australia. The seventh point was later added as a symbol for the territories of the land. The right half of the flag shows the Southern Cross. This constellation of five stars is visible from the southern hemisphere in the night sky.


The Aboriginal flag is also well known because the Olympic champion Cathy Freeman showed this flag after her win in the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada. Harold Thomas from Central Australia designed the Aboriginal flag, which shows a red and black band with a yellow circle in the middle. The red at the bottom represents the Earth and the black above the Australian Aboriginal people. The circle is the sun, the centre or the source of life. Thomas’ creation was first presented on National Aboriginal Day in July 1971 in Adelaide and officially recognized as a flag of Australia in July 1995.

The Torres Strait Islander flag is a newer flag as it was first shown in 1992. It has two small green bands that represent the land and the blue one is the symbol for the sea. The horizontal bands are divided by black lines representing the Torres Strait Islanders. Their traditional headdress, the Dhari, is in the middle of the flag. The white Dhari features the culture of the people and white is also the symbol for peace. The headdress frames a five-pointed white star portraying the five main island groups in the Torres Strait between the northern coast of Queensland (Cape York) and the south coast of Papua New Guinea. Bernard Namok from Thursday Island designed the flag and it was also officially recognized as a flag of Australia in July 1995.

Finally, a quotation from the authors of the book The little Red Yellow Black Book, page 52: “We are proud of our identity as Indigenous people and our flags are a widely recognised symbol of it.”