Recognition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags was recommended in Recognition Rights and Reform. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags were officially proclaimed in the Commonwealth Gazette on 14 July 1995.
For over thirty years, the strength, pride and solidarity of the Aboriginal community has been expressed through one Aboriginal flag. It has been symbolic of the struggle for recognition of Aboriginal rights. In recent years Torres Strait Islander people have adopted their own distinct flag.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flags are proudly flown alongside the national flag at the ACT Legislative Assembly and by many institutions in the ACT. By flying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags, the ACT Government acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first peoples of Australia and demonstrates our commitment to working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT to build strong foundations, resilient families, and to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in the ACT and surrounding region to achieve their personal life goals, whatever they may be.
The Aboriginal Flag
The flag is divided horizontally into equal halves of black (top) and red (bottom), with a yellow circle in the centre.
The black symbolises Aboriginal people, and the yellow is the sun. Red depicts the earth and also represents ochre, which is used by Aboriginal people in ceremonies.
The flag - designed by Harold Thomas – was first flown at Victoria Square, Adelaide, on National Aboriginal Day’ on 12 July 1971. It was later used at the tent Embassy in Canberra in 1972.
Today the flag has been adopted by all Aboriginal groups and is flown or displayed permanently at Aboriginal centres throughout Australia. Aboriginal Flag reproduced by permission of the author Harold Thomas ©1971.
The Torres Strait Islander Flag
The Torres Strait Islander flag – designed by the late Bernard Namok of Thursday Island - stands for the unity and identity of all Torres Strait Islander people.
It features three horizontal coloured stripes, with green at the top and bottom and blue in between – divided by thin black lines.
A white dari (headdress) sits in the centre, with a five pointed star underneath it.
The colour green is for the land, and the dari is a symbol for all Torres Strait Islander people.
The black represents the people and the blue is for the sea.
The five pointed star represents the island groups. The star, used in navigation, is an important symbol for seafaring Torres Strait Islander people.
The colour white of the star represents peace.
The display of the Aboriginal flag together with the Australian national flag by Cathy Freeman at the 1994 Commonwealth Games was a cause of great pride for the Indigenous community. It was also a highly symbolic act supported by the vast majority of Australians.