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Indigenous Flags

The Torres Strait Islander Flag

History

The Torres Strait Islander flag was designed by the late Bernard Namok as a symbol of unity and identity for Torres Strait Islanders. Adopted in 1992, it was the winning entry in a design competition run by the Island Coordinating Council (ICC), a Queensland statutory body representing the community councils in the Torres Strait.

In the same year it was recognised by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and given equal prominence with the Australian Aboriginal Flag.

In July 1995 the Australian Government recognised it, with the Australian Aboriginal Flag, as an official ‘Flag of Australia’ under the Flags Act 1953.

Form and Symbolism

The Torres Strait Islander flag has three horizontal panels, with green at the top and bottom and blue in between. These panels are divided by thin black lines. A white dhari (headdress) sits in the centre, with a five-pointed white star beneath it.

The symbolism of the colours is:

  • Green (PMS 342) - the land
  • Blue (PMS 280) - the sea
  • White - peace
  • Black - the indigenous peoples

The dhari represents Torres Strait Islander people and the five-pointed star represents the five island groups within the Torres Strait. The star is also a symbol for seafaring people as it is used in navigation.


The Australian Aboriginal Flag

aboriginal flagHistory

The Australian Aboriginal Flag was designed by artist Harold Thomas and first flown at Victoria Square in Adelaide, SA, on National Aborigines Day, 12 July 1971. It became the official flag for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra after it was first flown there in 1972.

Since then, it has become a widely recognised symbol of the unity and identity of Aboriginal people.

In view of the flag’s wide acceptance and importance in Australian society, the Commonwealth took steps in 1994 to give the flag legal recognition. After a period of public consultation, the Aboriginal flag was proclaimed a ‘Flag of Australia’ under section 5 of the Flags Act 1953 in July 1995.

In 1997 the Federal Court recognised Harold Thomas as the author of the flag.

Form and Symbolism

The Aboriginal flag is divided horizontally into halves. The top half is black and the lower half red. There is a yellow disk in the centre of the flag.

The meaning of the three colours in the flag, as stated by Harold Thomas, is:

  • Black - the Aboriginal people of Australia
  • Red - the red earth, the red ochre used in ceremonies and Aboriginal people’s spiritual relation to the land
  • Yellow disk - the Sun, the giver of life and protector