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Australia’s national flags – the blue ensign, the Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islander flag – are important symbols. They represent connections, pride and much more. All three are usually flown together, symbolising Australia’s shared histories.

Learn more about flags

Australian flag defined

The history of official flags, including the Flags Act, which came into effect in 1954.

Cathy Freeman

The athletic champion carried the Australian and Aboriginal flags at international sporting events.

New flag for an independent nation

For a long time after colonisation, Australia’s national flag was the Union Jack, a legacy of Australia’s enduring relationship with Britain.

Postcard titled
'The Australian flag from Sydney’ postcard, 1905–15

After Federation in 1901, a competition was held to design shipping ensigns for the new nation. The winning design featured the Union Jack, the Southern Cross and a six-pointed star representing the six states.

In 1908, when Australia acquired Papua as an external territory, a seventh point was added to the Federation Star to represent Papua and all subsequent territories.

The blue ensign became the country’s official flag in 1954.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags

Pin featuring the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags. - click to view larger image
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags badge worn by Dr Jackie Huggins AM, 1997

The Aboriginal flag was designed by Luritja man Harold Thomas and first flown in 1971. It represents Aboriginal people (black), the earth (red) and the sun (yellow).

The Torres Strait Islander flag was created by Bernard Namok from Thursday Island in 1992. Its colours denote land (green), sea (blue), people (black) and peace (white). The flag features a dhari (headdress)  and a five pointed star, representing the five major island groups.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags both became official Australian flags in 1995.

In our collection

Pre-federation Australian flag from the Klondike goldfieldsA double sided, hand-painted flag depicting on both sides a kangaroo and an emu either side of a shield, set against a blue background. The shield is broken into four sections showing a sheep, a sailing ship, a sheaf of wheat and a pick and shovel. The stars of the Southern Cross separate the quadrants and a rising sun appears a...
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