Australia's National Identity
The Australian Flag is based on the Blue Ensign. It is a plain blue flag with the British Union Jack in the upper corner of the hoist. This symbolises both Australia's colonial background and the present-day membership of the British Commonwealth. Underneath is the seven-pointed Commonwealth star. Each point represents either a state or territory. On the right hand side there are five white stars in the shape of the Southern Cross, the constellation most characteristic of the Australian sky at night.
At the time of Federation in 1901, there was no Australian flag. Because we were then a colony of Britain, we used British flags. The new Government held an international competition which attracted an enormous number of entries, 32,823! From these the present design was chosen - it had been submitted by five different people, including a 14 year old boy, an 18 year old and a New Zealander. King Edward VII approved the design in February 1903. In 1908 the six pointed white star was replaced by a seven pointed star to represent the territories.
3 September each year has been declared Australian National Flag Day (not a public holiday).
Any Australian citizen or organisation may display the Australian National Flag. This may be done between 8am and sunset, or at night if properly illuminated.
The Aboriginal Flag
The Aboriginal Flag was designed by Harold Thomas, an artist and an Aboriginal, in 1971. It has become a symbol for modern Aborigines in their fight for land rights and equality.
Black is for the colour of the people.
First flown in 1972 at the Tent Embassy in Canberra.
The Aboriginal flag is increasingly being flown by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. In 1994 the Government took steps to give the flag legal recognition. After a period of public consultation the Government, in July 1995, decided that the flag should be proclaimed a "Flag of Australia" under section 5 of the Flags Act 1953. The flag was so proclaimed by the Governor General of Australia, William Hayden, on 14 July 1995.
The Eureka Flag
This famous but unofficial Australian flag, is believed to have been designed by a Canadian gold miner, "Lieutenant" Ross. The torn remains of this flag are kept at the Ballarat Fine Art Museum.
It was first used in Victoria in 1854 by a group of rebellious gold-miners. The revolt had its roots in the killing of a miner, James Scobie, by a publican. When an inquest failed to make a finding, despite evidence, the miners pressed for the arrest of the publican but they were taken into custody.
Coupled with general discontent concerning increased prospecting fees, claims of differing amounts for licences paid by those who found gold and those who didn't, corruption amongst the police in their administration of the licence system, it led to a situation in the goldfields where a stockade was built to defy the authorities. A huge bonfire was lit and the miners publicly burned their licences.
It was at this time that the Eureka flag was first raised. They elected Peter Lalor as their leader (he was later to become a respected Victorian Member of Parliament). In the early hours of Sunday, 3 December 1854, the stockade was attacked by 300 soldiers and police. In fifteen minutes thirty miners and six soldiers were killed. As a result of the rebellion, in 1855 most of the original demands were met.
The National Anthem
Australians all let us rejoice, For we are young and free, We've golden soil and wealth for toil; Our home is girt by sea; Our land abounds in nature's gifts Of beauty rich and rare; In history's page, let every stage Advance Australia Fair. Beneath our radiant Southern Cross, We'll toil with hearts and hands; To make this Commonwealth of ours Renowned of all the lands; For those who've come across the seas We've boundless plains to share; With courage let us all combine To Advance Australia Fair. In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair.
The Coat of Arms The present coat of arms was granted in 1912 by King George V. It consists of a shield composed of six parts, each containing a badge for each state. These are surrounded by an ermine border, signifying the federation of the States into the Commonwealth. The shield is supported by two Australian animals, the kangaroo on the left and the emu on the right. They are standing on ornamental rests, behind which are small branches of wattle. The crest consists of the seven-pointed Commonwealth gold star, a symbol of national unity. At the base of the shield is a scroll on which is printed the word "Australia".
Australia's National Colours
Three colour combinations traditionally claim to be Australia's national colours: red, white and blue; blue and gold; and green and gold.
Red, white and blue were featured in the first Coat of Arms of the Commonwealth in 1908 and are the colours of the Australian national flag.
The colours blue and gold have heraldic significance as they are the colours of the crest in Commonwealth Coat of Arms.
Green and gold gained wide popularity and acceptance in sporting events, both here and internationally. They were proclaimed Australia's national colours by the Governor-General on 19 April 1984. Prior to that there were no official colours.
Reach for the stars of the Southern Cross »