Before Federation the Australian colonies made use of
the flags of Great Britain - the Union Flag and the British Red, White and Blue
Ensigns. On 1 January 1901 the six colonies united under the name of
"Commonwealth of Australia" and our people became one nation.
Union Flag or Union Jack. This flag was considered the Flag of
the British Empire and was given pride of place in any grouping
of Empire and Commonwealth Flags. Until 1953 the Australian
flags were referred to as Ensigns. The word ensign indicates a
junior ranking or position. The Australian Blue Ensign had a
legal change of name and became
the Australian National Flag in 1951 with legislative backing
coming in 1953.
did we start use it on our flags?
local residents designed this unofficial flag in about 1823/24. It
was based on the British White Ensign and had four eight pointed stars of
the Southern Cross.
It was never officially
recognised although Governor Brisbane is reputed to have used it.
It is referred to as the National Colonial Flag for Australia.
From 1831 on the colour changed to blue, another star was added
and the name was changed to "Australian Federation
Flag". It was in common use till 1901 but remained
It was featured by the political
movement and groups pushing for Federation in the 1880s and 1890s.
recommendation to the Colony of Victoria is indicated in the
following extract from the Naval and Military Gazette, 30th April,
1870. In this Gazette appears to be the first official reference
to the use of the Southern Cross in an Australian flag’s design.
‘The new Victorian
flag has been formally adopted, and the Colony now possesses its
own National Ensign. The inauguration ceremony which took place on
board H.M.V.S. Nelson on February 9th was made the occasion
of a very pleasant trip down the Bay. The new flag which has been
adopted at the suggestion of the Admiralty to distinguish the
vessels of the Victorian Navy consists for vessels in the service
of the Government of the Blue Ensign with
five white stars, representing the constellation of the Southern
Cross in the fly; and for Merchant vessels the Red Ensign with the
same badge in the fly.
||This 1899 souvenir
booklet of the Victorian & Tasmanian Contingents leaving for
the Boer War clearly shows a flag (probably the Victorian Red
Ensign) that , with the addition of the
Federation Star, we would later call the
Australian Red Ensign.
This indicates to me that the
flag design was actually in use well before the "official"
acceptance of the design.
British Transvaal War 1899-1900
Success to 1st Aust Imperial Contingent
1900 medallion appears to carry the Australian Flag (Federation
Star missing or covered) or a design very like it. This is another
indication that the design was in use before it was
Shortly before the opening of the first
Federal Parliament it
was decided to hold a worldwide competition to obtain designs for two
Australian flags - one for official and naval purposes and the other for
the Merchant Navy service. The competition was conducted in conjunction
with a newspaper, The Review of Reviews. On 3 September 1901 the designs
were displayed in the Exhibition Building, Melbourne. Over 30 000
designs were submitted and five were selected as being of equal merit.
The prize of £200 (£75 from the Commonwealth, £75 from The Review of
Reviews and £50 from the Havelock Tobacco Company) was divided among
five persons: Mrs. A. Dorrington or Perth, Mr. E.J. Nuttall of
Melbourne, Mr. Ivor Evans of Melbourne, Mr. Leslie Hawkins of Sydney and
Mr. W. Stevens of Auckland.
On the day the winners were announced by the then
Prime Minister, Mr. E. Barton, a large flag embodying the designs was
flown on the Exhibition Building, Melbourne. Photographs of the day show
it as having a design quite similar to that officially proclaimed later.
Under the Union of the British Blue Ensign was a large white star with
six points representing the six States. In the fly of the flag there
were five white stars representing the Southern Cross.
Australian National Flag Association.
This 1901 version
(ensign) was later approved (with minor changes) in red and blue versions.
The original concept was to represent the relative brightness of
each star in the constellation with the stars of the Southern
Cross having 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5 points. The Commonwealth Star,
symbol of Australian Federation, had six points, representing the
In February 1903 it was announced in the Commonwealth
Gazette that King Edward VII had approved a design for the Flag of
Australia, and also one for the Flag of the Merchant Navy. Both designs
were shown in colour plates in the Gazette.
In 1908 the Government decided that a seven-pointed
star, symbolical of the six States and the Territories, should replace
the large six-pointed star shown in the original designs of the Flag -
to represent the Territories and to conform with the star in the Crest
of the Coat of Arms granted that year.
For many years the Commonwealth Blue Ensign was
regarded as an official flag, and its use on land was restricted to
- The flying of the Blue
on land by
individuals and non-government bodies was discouraged.
|As a result of that
and also the commonly held belief at that time that the Union Jack
was the 'flag of the Empire' most people used the Union Jack for
matters relating to the war effort in both World Wars. They also
took to using the Red Ensign as a
de-facto Civil Flag.
Qld, 1916-08-26. Patriotic carnival procession. This horse-drawn
float was sponsored by G. Horsburgh and Company ltd, and gained
first prize. The placard on the side reads "The flag of
freedom. It is our flag."
Children in costumes of various
countries stand beneath the Union Jack. (donor
Union Jack flag bearing the signatures of members of 2/21st
Battalion, 23rd Brigade, 8th Division, 2nd AIF, with their colour
patch in the centre.
(donor E. Guy)
the Prime Minister, Mr. R.G. Menzies, directed that there should be no
restriction on the flying of the flag.
In February 1947, the Prime Minister, Mr. J.B.
Chifley, issued a press statement encouraging the application of the
directive given earlier by Mr. Menzies that there should be no
restriction on the flying of the Commonwealth Blue Ensign on shore. Its
greater use on public buildings, by schools and private citizens was not
only permitted but would be appreciated provided it was flown in a
manner appropriate to the use of a national emblem. Australian merchant
vessels were to continue to fly the Commonwealth Red Ensign.
Nevertheless, it had not been clearly
any particular flag was the "National Flag" until 1951 when
King George VI approved a recommendation by the Government that the
Commonwealth Blue Ensign be adopted as the Australian National Flag.
The Flags Act 1953 (Act No. 1 of 1954) was passed by
the Commonwealth Parliament in December 1953 proclaiming definitively
the Australian Blue Ensign as the National Flag and the Australian Red
Ensign as the proper colours for merchant ships registered in
Australian. Act No 58 of 1954 corrected a slight error concerning the
outer diameter of the large star in the design of the Australian
National Flag. The correct terms now for these flags are the
"Australian National Flag"
and the "Australian Red
Ensign". Act No. of 1981 removed reference to the Navigation Act
1912 in section 4(1) and moved the description of the Australian Red
Ensign from section 4(2) to a revised First Schedule.
By a Proclamation under section 5 of
the Flags Act 1953 the Governor General appointed the
Australian White Ensign to be
the ensign of the RAN. Until that date the RAN only flew the Australian flag as a battle flag
or the Australian Red Ensign before a ship was commissioned. At all
other times the RAN had to fly the British White Ensign.
By a Proclamation under section 5 of the Flags Act
1953 the Governor-General appointed the Royal Australian Air Force
Ensign to be the ensign of the Royal Australian Air Force. This was
announced in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 89 of 6 May
- Note. The Australian White Ensign
and the Ensign of the RAAF are ensigns (junior flags) to the
Australian National Flag not the Union Jack.
The Australian ARMY does
not have or want it's own flag. It is the protector of the National flag.
It does have a Banner.
some wording from http://www.flagsandpoles.com.au/protocol/flag_Australia_history.asp